With 2010’s Tangled, Disney Animation Studios launched what has now been deemed as the “Disney Revival Era”, an era that has brought great modern animated films like Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Moana. With this new era, Disney has revitalized itself as an animation powerhouse, turning out one great movie after another while also pushing their animation style and giving us great stories.
With their latest film, Raya and the Last Dragon, Disney has another hit on their hands. This is a gorgeously animated, exciting, powerful film that ranks up with the best of the Revival Era.
Long ago in the fantastical world of Kumundra, humans and dragons existed together in harmony. But when evil monsters known as the Drunn threatened Kumundra, nearly all the dragons sacrificed themselves to save the humans from the Drunn, though the sacrifice caused the humans to split apart and for five separate, feuding lands. Now, 500 years later, the humans are still feuding and the Drunn have come back. It is up to a lone warrior named Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) to find the mysterious last dragon and defeat the Drunn.
Raya and the Last Dragon is an epic adventure film that brings us into a whole new world unlike anything we’ve ever seen from Disney. We are taken on Raya’s journey to capture the pieces of the Spirit of Sisu, a magical orb that was broken and into five pieces, each piece being at one of the Kumundra lands. This orb is the key to defeating the Drunn and saving humanity. You can’t help but be in awe of every land. Each one has its own color, music, mood, and life to it. It keeps the adventure from ever ending and adds to the overall beauty of the film. Raya also features thrilling fight scenes, something Disney has never been known for, along with exciting action scenes. This movie is non-stop excitement from minute one.
I was most struck by the messaging of the film as it felt very relevant for today’s world. Raya and the Last Dragon starts with Kumundra being a broken land when they once all lived in harmony. Raya’s dad tries his best to bring everyone together, but it doesn’t go as plan and sends Raya on her journey to search for the last dragon and get the Spirit of Sisu in hopes it will bring the land back together again. But Raya’s journey ends up being about unity and trust, as Raya must learn to trust strangers and enemies in order to do what is best not for her land, but for all of Kumundra. There are also really sweet elements about family and friendship that tie the film together nicely.
What’s most unfortunate about Raya and the Last Dragon is that this movie is coming out as COVID-19 still looms over most of the world. The film is being released in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service, where I imagine most people will end up watching it, as most of the world is not yet comfortable going to a movie theater yet, even though a large bunch of them are open now. Raya and the Last Dragon is a movie that begs to be seen on the big screen in order for us as viewers to fully appreciate the jaw-dropping animation and action. Completely understandable why people won’t see it the way it should, just a shame.
With its stunning animation, relevant messages, a terrific voice-cast, and the best action sequences in a Disney movie since Big Hero 6, Raya and the Last Dragon is another stellar film from Disney Animation Studios.
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