There seems to be some confusion around the talent behind Raya and the Last Dragon, currently streaming on Disney+ Premier Access. Some Twitter users and even reviewers are mistakenly thinking Betty White voices a character in the new Disney film.
Betty does share a birthday with Raya portrayer Kelly Marie Tran — they were both born on Jan. 17, albeit 67 years apart — but that seems to be the Golden Girls alum’s only connection to the movie!
Viewers might be thinking Lucille Soong’s voice is Betty White’s in 'Raya and the Last Dragon.'
The IMDb credits for Raya and the Last Dragon show that Betty isn’t involved, but another seasoned actress is: Lucille Soong. In the film, Lucille voices Dang Hu, Dang Hai’s mother and the Talon chief.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the actress, Lucille has a six-decade filmography to her name. Most notably, she starred as Grandma Huang on the ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat for the duration of its six-season run, but you may have also caught her in the TV shows Desperate Housewives and Huff and the movies Sky High and Freaky Friday.
The ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ cast is stacked with talent.
Aside from Lucille and Kelly — who played Rose Tico in the Star Wars films — the rest of the Raya and the Last Dragon cast includes Crazy Rich Asians actress Awkwafina as Sisu, Good Boys star Izaac Wang as Boun, Humansstar Gemma Chan as Namaari, Lost alum Daniel Dae Kim as Benja, Doctor Strange actor Benedict Wong as Tong, Hightown star Jona Xiao as young Namaari, Killing Eve star Sandra Oh as Virana, and Council of Dads actress Thalia Tran as Little Noi.
The voice cast’s relative dearth of Southeast Asian talent sparked controversy.
As Distractify previously covered, the setting of Raya and the Last Dragon takes its inspiration from a variety of Southeast Asian cultures, but Twitter users have decried how many of the voice actors are of East Asian descent, not Southeast Asian descent.
“A friendly reminder that actual Southeast Asians are not thrilled for Raya and the Last Dragon,” one person tweeted, per CNN. “They basically put the whole region in a blender and hired so little Southeast Asian actors for the roles. It sucks. It feels like Disney didn’t care to respect us.”
Another person wrote, “I am actually very conflicted about the new Raya and the Last Dragon casting. I love all those cast members. But basically everyone, except [Kelly], is East Asian. Imagine how big it would be they actually cast Southeast Asian actors. Southeast Asian actors are sorely lacking in Hollywood.”
Co-director Carlos López Estrada touched on the backlash in an interview with /Film, saying in part, “We actually have quite a few minor supporting roles [with] Southeast Asian-specific actors that are perfect for the roles, but I think what we’re most excited is that we were able to find, across our cast, we were able to find the perfect people for each role.”