Raya and the Last Dragon: a stellar new Disney film to represent strong, female Asians

Rachel Ducran, Staff Writer

In 2021 thus far, Disney has unveiled a slew of new media for its adoring audiences. One of the most noteworthy uncoverings, however, happens to be the reveal of a brand new Disney princess role model: Raya.


Raya is the main protagonist in the brand-new film, “Raya and the Last Dragon”, which was due to be released in theaters on March 5, 2021. Its intended audience is marked with a PG label, but people of all ages will thoroughly enjoy this masterfully-animated work.


First, an applaudable factor regarding the movie’s content is that Raya is a Southeast Asian princess. This means that she stands as a beacon of hope for Asians alike, and as an Asian myself, it sure feels good to be appreciated! 


Many significant elements of Asian culture are thrown into the mix during this movie, but general aspects integral to the plot include the focus on Asian fashion such as straw hats and robes, and also dragons and their religious standing both in the real world and in the movie. Exploring the culture of the people was so entertaining while watching, and it really gave me the urge to explore more on Asian culture. The foreign pride in this film stands out positively now more than ever amidst the presently-harsh political climate of this world.


This character also aids in abolishing the damsel-in-distress nature of Disney princesses. Although this attitude has been on the way down in their films for quite some time, it’s certainly pleasant to see feminine characters (many of them) take on hefty challenges and solve impressive mysteries ages old.


However, while the women are put in substantially powerful roles in the movie, they aren’t without their ghosts— which is a realistic trait that can be appreciated. Raya’s inner turmoil regarding trust descends from the very first impactful scene of the movie, and this character trait continues to evolve into something beautiful. Raya is not unemotional, and I adore how they showed that from the very beginning. Her trust issues are realistic and don’t feel forced or unnatural. This movie truly helps to prove that even when you’re plagued by your personal struggles and doubts, you can move past them, and even use them to better life for yourself and others.


Initially, one may think that the moral to this animated film is a bit flat. However, in context, everything pulls together into one coherent masterpiece— even touching on some worthwhile topics and issues within. 


So, does the general plot follow that of a typical Disney movie? Or in other words… is it painfully predictable?


I’d have to say no.


While a parental figure is lost in some way, which seems to be the signature staple of Disney royalty, little of this movie’s plot corresponds to a true Disney princess film. Personally, I prefer it this way— it takes after Moana in that Raya’s depicted as a true hero, even as her struggles to cope with her identity and faults from the past.


This movie does an excellent job of balancing core plot points with corny jokes, and also Asia’s values and cultural elements. The female lead is strong, beautiful and motivated, but she isn’t without her normal human traits. I truly feel that it’s worth a watch.


The film is now in theaters, and it is also available for premium viewing on Disney+ for $29.99.