Crazy Rich Asians team reunite to produce Raya and the Last Dragon for Disney


Disney have certainly been busy working on a brand new slate of films. Following on from the announcement of a few original productions this weekend at the D23 Expo, including the unlikely musical Soul, another newly-released feature from the megacorp is Raya and the Last Dragon. Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim is working on the script and the project will reportedly star Awkwafina, adding to her Disney credits.

Sharing the news on Twitter, Disney revealed key concept art, a sneak peek of footage (which, if not quite animated, at least teases us with a sound bite) and details of some of the people involved, including the aforementioned Adele Lim, Awkwafina, and Cassie Steele.

Raya and the Last Dragon will follow Raya, a warrior from the fantasy kingdom of Kumandra. Producer Osnat Shurer, whose previous work includes Moana, describes Kumandra as “a reimagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization that venerated the mythical dragons for their power and their wisdom”. Five clans make up the land of the dragon, which leaves Raya determined to find the last dragon.

Raya teams up with a crew of misfits in her adventure to find the prized mythical creature, endeavouring to bring light and unity back to their world. The fantasy-action adventure covers themes of community and hope, ‘inspired by the beautiful and diverse cultures of Southeast Asia’.

While we seem to have had our fair share of the winged creatures in the form of the uber-successful How To Train Your Dragon franchise (and even in the upcoming Mulan adaptation), Raya looks similar to the vein of Brave and is perhaps the most anime-like of the Disney portfolio so far — I can’t help but see similarities to Princess Mononoke. 

During the panel on Saturday, the production team answered questions about the upcoming film. Cassie Steele is set to play the protagonist Raya and Awkwafina plays the dragon, named Sisu. “She’s not like any other dragon that you’ve seen before; she’s a water dragon,” said the actress, revealing a little about the direction the character could take. Disney revealed details from the expo on Twitter. 

Raya and the Last Dragon’s production can be traced back to 2017, around the same time that Disney proposed and then shelved the possibility of Gigantic.  Ed Catmull, the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios president, said at the time: “We are focusing our energies on another project that has been in the works.” 

Disney definitely have an impressive slate when it comes to animated originals. Their newly-announced project Soul, as well as titles like Onwards, starring Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, are examples of how the studio is attempting to churn out new theatrical releases. My view is that they’re attempting to balance some of the inevitable profits they draw in from Disney+ streaming service which, as we’re well aware, is set to launch on November 12. 

Raya and the Last Dragon is set for a theatrical release on Nov. 25, 2020. We’ve got a bit of a wait before then, but between Disney+ and the originals announced this weekend, there’s plenty to keep us busy in the meantime.

Disney [via Twitter]

Sian Francis Cox
Sian is Flixist’s UK Editor and has written for sites including Escapist Magazine, Destructoid, and Film Enthusiast.