The World of Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon Looks Like Southeast Asian Wakanda
Disney has just dropped the full trailer of its much-awaited film Raya and the Last Dragon, an animated fantasy film that follows a warrior princess looking for the last dragon. The official trailer gave us an eyeful of the world Disney has built around this story, and we spotted countless hat tips to Southeast Asian cultures.
Asian representation is finally getting its screen time in Hollywood, but it’s important to note that not all Asian cultures have been represented equally. East Asian cultures like Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cultures, have been featured more in films, television, and even comics. But it looks like it’s time for Southeast Asian cultures (Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, and Timor-Leste) to shine.
The Southeast Asian influences in the trailer are apparent—we spotted floating markets from Vietnam, gold temples from Thailand, and rice terraces from the Philippines. There are even scenes injecting Filipino martial arts like Arnis into the epic fight scenes. Add some magic, dragons, and a warrior princess or two and you’ve got a Southeast Asian Wakanda—Kumandra—a fantasy world merging the best of our cultures into a dream world, free of colonization and foreign invasions. Yup, this is definitely fantasy.
Despite all the diversity and representation we’re seeing in the trailer, not everyone is happy. Some have criticized the film for casting voice actors with East Asian heritage instead of Southeast Asian heritage. The main character, Raya, is voiced by someone of Southeast Asian roots—Kelly Marie Tran, whose parents are Vietnamese refugees from the Vietnam war. However, most of the other voice actors are of Chinese and Korean heritage, something that viewers aren’t happy about.
Let’s see if that Disney’s casting issue is enough to take away from the amount of detail given to the Southeast Asian-inspired clothing, fighting, lore, and more. Raya and The Last Dragon will be released in March, 2021, in Philippine cinemas.
Until then, enjoy these stunning stills of the upcoming movie: