Raya and the Last Dragon

4 May 2021 / by Scarlett van Mels

Raya and the Last Dragon is a 2020 animated fantasy film directed by Carlos López Estrada and Don Hall. In Kumandra, humans were united and dragons co-existed. This peace got disrupted when evil spirits called Druuns attacked the land, turning everything and everyone to stone. To protect the nation, the remaining dragon created a gem that warded off the Druuns. The people were saved, but the dragons remained as stone. Now, hundreds of years later, the gem has been broken, and the Druuns are back. It’s up to Raya to find the last dragon and repair the gem before all mankind is gone forever. 

As a young adult, Raya sets off to find the last remaining dragon in hopes of repairing the gem. She succeeds in finding her, but Sisu, the dragon, is not incredibly bright and does not have seemingly practical magical abilities. Even so, she is the only hope for saving the world, and throughout the journey, she proves herself useful. They travel to all the regions to collect the gem pieces, picking up various individuals along the way. These mismatches of characters work as a team to try and save the world. Throughout Raya and her company’s journey, the audience is taken on a journey of their own, an emotional one, from humorous scenes to sorrowful ones.

Image courtesy: Disney

Visually the film is perfect in every aspect. The breathtaking colours and intricate details never fail to captivate. Every character and landmark is very well thought out, shown through the contrast through the regions, from bustling nightlife to a barren desert. Even the minute details in the pets mirroring the warmth, sternness, or goofiness of their owners. At points where the story was slow-paced, the visual components always made up for it. 

Raya and the Last Dragon is a heart wrenching movie that communicates the inequalities of the real world. The film shows that although someone may not be as skilled as someone else or as talented, they still have their strengths that can be contributed. The message is meaningful, but there were too many ideas that the screenwriters, Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen, were trying to incorporate, that at times got lost in translation. For a Disney movie, the themes could be distressing for the young audience. I would recommend it for young teenagers who still enjoy watching animated films. Overall, it is a film I would recommend watching at least once, if not for the story, then for the beautifully designed artwork.

Image courtesy: Disney