Trust is the continual theme of Raya and the Last Dragon. You can trust Disney+ on this one, even at the cost of $29.99. The artwork alone, almost makes it worth the price. The final scenes border on the spectacular. As the last dragons of Kumanda disappeared, the lands that remain are part of its being. Raya and the Last Dragon takes us to the the land of the Fang, the Spine, the Tail, the Talon, and of course, the Heart. Five hundred years ago, the dragons combined their magic to defeat the Druun, at the cost of their own lives.
The dragons saved humanity, but not the jealousy over possession of the magic orb. Does possession give Heart the advantage of prosperity? Will these disparate bands ever trust each other to bring back the Kumandra of old? The studio that brought you Moana and Frozen creates a world just as mystical. But first, one must survive the destruction of the Druun, who lay waste and turn humans into stone. With a nod to Pixar, Disney is Carley Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.” I give Raya and the Last Dragon 4.0 Gavels and it receives a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 7.7/10 IMDb score.
Convinced by her father (Chief Benja) that Heart must take the first step to re-build trust among the tribes, little Raya befriends Numaari. Betrayed, the orb breaks and the Druun return after 500 years. Benja and many, many others are turned to stone. Six years later, Raya is still searching for the mythical dragon Sisu to try to rectify her mistake. What she finds is not what she suspects. And, Numaari has not forgotten about Raya.
After a turn in the last two Star Wars movies and a voice in The Croods: A New Age, Kelly Marie Tran voices Raya. Like only Eddie Murphy could be Mushu in the original Mulan, who else but Awkwafina (Jumanji, Crazy Rich Asians) could voice Sisu? Rounding out the trio of major voices is Gemma Chan (Captain Marvel, Mary Queen of Scots) as Numaari.
One can quibble that the storyline is a tad predictable, but don’t the good guys always win in a Disney film? Why should Raya and the Last Dragon be any different? Tuk Tuk, Boun, Little Noi, and friends are all adorable, not to mention Sisu. Kids love dragons and kids will love Sisu.
“Disney’s gorgeously animated, entertainingly told fantasia Raya and the Last Dragon is a visual feast.” Washington Post
“A gorgeous piece of work that features elaborate and ambitious world-building, stunning visuals and an A-team of impressive voice actors. It’s a film with plenty of plot and character plates to spin, but the results are both impressive and exciting.” The Wrap
Interesting that The Post uses the word “fantasia” because Disney’s Fantasia (1940) popped into my head as I watched Sisu dance among the clouds. It’s not quite that earth shattering, but pretty darn good.