'Raya and the Last Dragon': AAPI Heritage Month Must-See Movies

On this day during AAPI Heritage Month, we're recommending the recent Disney animated fantasy, "Raya and the Last Dragon."

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Raya and the Last Dragon AAPI Heritage Month

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

In a landmark Disney picture for AAPI representation, "Raya and the Last Dragon" tells a fantastical, heartfelt story set in the fictional land Kumandra, inspired by Southeast Asia.

The Movie

The animated film takes place in Kumandra, which had been terrorized by evil spirits known as the Drunn. That battle was won when the last dragon, Sisu, was able to focus her magic into a gem which banished the Drunn.

The people of Kumandra thrived once again, but the guardian dragons did not return. Hundreds of years later, disaster returns when the gem is broken into pieces that are each taken by the different tribes.

The Drunn return to destroy everyone. It's up to Raya, daughter of the Chief of the Heart tribe, and her ragtag group of friends, to reunite the pieces of the stone. They're helped once more by Sisu the dragon. They're also opposed by Namaari, daughter of the Chief of the Fang tribe. To restore mankind, they'll have to find a way to work together.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The AAPI Connection

The film has been criticized by some for not being fully cast with actors of Southeast Asian descent. It is, though, a cast comprised almost entirely with Asian and AAPI actors. Kelly Marie Tran (of "Star Wars" fame) is the voice of Raya. Akwafina voices Sisu. Upcoming "Eternals" star Gemma Chan voices Namaari. AAPI activist Daniel Dae Kim is the voice of Raya's father, Chief Benja. Bendict Wong and Sandra Oh are also prominent cast members. As a classic type of animated Disney adventure, it's an achievement worth celebrating.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Why You Should See It

"Raya and the Last Dragon" is a rousing AAPI, original Disney family film that is critically and commercially acclaimed. The film made over $100 million worldwide in theaters during the pandemic. As of May 18, 2021, it's also available on DVD, Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray, and digital format.

Did You Know

The role of Raya was originally to be voiced by Cassie Steele as a "stoic loner" type. However, the filmmakers decided that Raya should have more of a "lightness and buoyancy" similar to the Star-Lord character in "Guardians of the Galaxy." At that point, Kelly Marie Tran was re-cast as Raya. By all accounts, she succeeds in the role. As well, the actress has expressed interest to return to the role in future movies.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

About the Author

Chuck Walton

Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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