The new trailer for Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon was released on Jan. 26, 2021, and the hype only continues to build. Raya and the Last Dragon tells the story of Raya, a warrior tasked with bringing harmony to a world fraught with tension and void of dragons. 500 years after monsters known as the Druun threaten the land, they have returned, and she must unite the world to save it. But fans are curious to know: What is Raya and the Last Dragon based on?
'Raya and the Last Dragon' took inspiration from a multitude of cultures and pop culture influences.
As has been mentioned, Raya and the Last Dragon takes inspiration heavily from Southeast Asian culture, with producer Osnat Shurer overseeing a group known as the Southeast Asia Story Trust filled with anthropologists, architects, dancers, linguists, and musicians. This group made two trips pre-COVID to Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
In an interview with IndieWire, Osnat says, "We looked for underlying elements, visually, but also thematically... like community, the commitment to taking care of each other. Visually, the martial arts styles are based on very specific Southeast Asian styles [Pencak silat, Arnis and Muay Thai, overseen by expert Nguyen]; the textiles in each land are slightly different; the prints are different; the importance of the river — it’s alive."
The fantasy world of Kumandra is also intricate and detailed as the real-life countries that were put into shaping it: Heart, Raya’s home, filled with magic through a crystal containing the last source of dragon power; Fang, a thriving land surrounded by water; Spine, an insular and remote land marked by xenophobia; Talon, the crossroads and a bustling marketplace; and Tail, a remote desert that is becoming more isolated as water recedes.
Additionally, when asked about the project, Don Hall said the themes he wanted to project into the film were themes of adventure, unity and trust, recalling pop culture icons Indiana Jones and Seven Samurai. “Every day, it seemed to gain more and more relevance to what was happening to the outside world. We’re very happy that the film is coming out now.”
Who is involved with 'Raya and the Last Dragon'?
The all-star cast and crew of Raya and the Last Dragon are sure not to disappoint. Director Don Hall (Big Hero 6) collaborates with Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting), screenwriter Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians), and playwright and screenwriter Qui Nguyen (Vietgone) for a deep dive into Disney’s first Southeast Asia-themed animated feature. Voice talents include Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians), Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), and more.
While there has been some dissent regarding non-Southeast Asian actors portraying Southeast Asian characters, others have applauded Raya and the Last Dragon for including specific nods to Southeast Asian cultures that haven't previously been seen on-screen. We'll just have to wait and see how the film turns out on March 5, 2021.