Raya and the Last Dragon Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Raya and the Last Dragon

Genre cartoon
Directed by Don Hall, Carlos Lopez Estrada
Cast: Kelly Mary Tran (Raya), Aquafina (Sisu Dragon), Gemma Chan (Namaari), Daniel Dae Kim (Benja), Benedict Wong (Tong), Sandra Oh (Virana), Alan Tudyk (Tuk Tuk) and others.
Студии Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
Release year 2021
Site IMDb

Raya and the Last Dragon is unique not only for its plot, but also for the production conditions in which the entire creative team of the cartoon found itself because of the pandemic. As it turns out, this is the first animated film from Disney created remotely.

According to Den of Geek, in March 2020, studio employees took corporate computers home, hoping that they would return to the office in a couple of weeks. However, a few months later, company representatives realized that they would have to adapt to the new realities of the pandemic, in which animators, writers, directors, and even voice actors worked from home (on the Walt Disney Animation Studios YouTube channel, the animation producer says that home studios sound recordings had to be equipped directly in the dressing rooms).

The only luck was that the preparation for the creation of the story began much earlier, so the production team managed to analyze the material that was necessary to recreate the features of Asian culture. To do this, they visited Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, collecting references from the local color. Based on what he saw, a fantasy world called Kumandra appeared, in which the events of the cartoon take place.


Raya and the Last Dragon begins with a brief backstory that introduces viewers to the lands of Kumandra. They belonged to people who existed in perfect harmony with magic and dragons. When dark forces began to attack the world, the dragons saved it, leaving protection to humanity in the form of a magic stone. Without appreciating the sacrifice, people divided into clans and became enemies, wanting to be the only owners of invincible power. Raya, the daughter of one of the leaders, was supposed to become the keeper of the stone, but because of the insidious deceit, she lost both him and her father. Now Raya travels through dangerous and deserted lands, hoping to find the last dragon, thanks to which she will be able to save the world from the evil that has returned to Kumandra. The search for the heroine was successful, but instead of the majestic creature of Paradise, she sees in front of her a talkative and too trusting dragon, in which there is not a drop of power.


Of course, the cartoon gradually reveals to us new characters that we meet on the way of the main character, and eventually become her allies. This is a team that no one would entrust with the most important mission to save humanity – if only because it brought together children, petty criminals and a surprisingly cute animal resembling a giant armadillo. But thanks to the general excitement and enthusiasm, it is they who manage to do desperate things that turn into a big and rather exciting adventure that is never interrupted by songs performed by the main characters (which in other Disney cartoons was an integral part of the plot, and in Frozen it was completely became one of the main focuses.


Instead, the Raya and the Last Dragon cartoon has quite a few scenes in which the main character demonstrates excellent martial arts. She boldly starts a fight with an old enemy (another heroine acting as a non-standard villain), which turns into an exciting animated action. This is the result of the idea of ​​the scriptwriters, who involved consultants in various types of martial arts from Southeast Asia. Thanks to this cooperation, Raya skillfully handles fighting sticks and demonstrates the Filipino hand-to-hand combat technique (eskrima), shows elements of Thai boxing (muay thai) and fencing in Thai style (krabi-krabong). In each of these episodes, thoughtful choreography is visible, which is reminiscent of staging fights in feature films.


Although Raya and the Last Dragon is different from other Walt Disney Pictures cartoons, it still enters the finish line, which teaches the characters a valuable life lesson. Here it is a thought about how important it is to unite and be able to show trust in each other – which is not always true in relation to the main character who has experienced cruel betrayal because of her gullibility. But in the end, friendship and the realization that unity is more important than the thirst for power wins.


Raya and the Last Dragon is a visually striking spectacle that has a large amount of colorful detail that changes depending on the terrain. The animation adequately shows the picturesque tropical landscapes and atmospherically reproduces the trading city on the water, illuminated by hundreds of colorful lanterns. The detailing in the depiction of the characters is also memorable, especially the work of the animators on the dragon’s hair and the flowing hair of the main character.

The cartoon does not strive to be serious in everything, like a full-length adventure movie. It has jokes, most of which are performed by a dragon, and funny chases. Alas, it lacks a little bit of the fun and really funny ease that Pixar animation taught us to have.


But in general, “Ray and the Last Dragon” is a worthy and rather spectacular cartoon, the details of which are interesting to consider in IMAX (by the way, a pleasant bonus awaits viewers in cinemas – a touching short film Us Again is shown before the start of the screening). This animation changes the usual Disney concept, getting rid of love lines and musical numbers in favor of action scenes, and this is an interesting solution for a new original story.

Pros: original story with features of Asian culture; martial arts protagonist; rejection of musical numbers; detailed animation Cons: there are funny moments in the cartoon, but there is no enthusiasm in them, as in the plots of Pixar; the script gets too carried away with the topic of trust Conclusion:

Disney has succeeded in creating a breathtaking animated film that resembles action-adventure movies, where there is room for magic and dragons.

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