Last week Disney released it’s new film Raya and the Last Dragon on its streaming service Disney+ and it’s gotten positive feedback for the most part (more on that later). The film is about a girl, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), who searches for a dragon named Sisu (Awkwafina) to help her restore the dragon gem which stops the evil Druun from turning the people of Kumandra to stone. It’s a lovely story that emphasizes friendship and the power that can come from trusting one another.
Not to mention that this is not just another ordinary princess story that Disney turned loose (because it felt like it had been enough time since Moana), Raya and the Last Dragon has a lot to offer family audiences in the midst of pandemic fatigue. This film is vibrantly East Asian and proud. The worldbuilding incorporates traditional cuisine and customs, while also creating something entirely new and concrete. Each of the Kingdoms in Kumandra is distinct and charming in their own way with color palettes and clothing choices that echo the themes of each place. Moreover, the main characters of this story are definitely empowering for young girls who want to be strong like Raya or zany like Sisu.
Raya and the Last Dragon also follows the lead of Frozen and Moana with the fact that there is no romantic interest relevant to the main storyline of the film. While Frozen was about the love between sisters and Moana was about a collective being bettered by an individual’s independence, this film is about the bonds of true friendship. It emphasizes the importance of being the first person to take the leap of faith.
Moving on to the reasons this film was a little lackluster. While this film captures a story that is inspired by East Asian culture and has a diverse cast, many fans are not impressed by how expensive it is to rent. The film is not available to audiences unless they pay an extra $30 dollars on top of the Disney+ subscription. It’s a ridiculous price for a movie on a streaming service, especially since the movie will most likely be added to the normal streaming service without a fee in the next few months.
Additionally, audiences that live in East Asia are incredibly upset right now because they don’t have Disney+ there and even in countries like Indonesia that have Disney+ hotstar, Raya and the Last Dragon has not been made available yet. Again, while this may not be entirely in Disney’s control, what’s the point of making a film dedicated to East Asian traditions and themes and not trying to make it more accessible there?
These issues with accessibility are somewhat annoying, but they bring up an interesting point – how worth it is it to see this movie early? Viewers shouldn’t have to spend an extra $30 to see a movie online, in general, but for this movie specifically. While Raya and the Last Dragon was sweet and had a good message, it didn’t go above and beyond in terms of style and skill. If audiences are desperate for something new in animation or need to distract their kids for an afternoon, sure, it’s worth the purchase. If you’re an adult that’s on the fence, I suggest waiting a few months or even going to see the film in theaters, because it’s probably cheaper.
‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is available to rent with premier access on Disney+.
By Kyra Matus