In a rare bright spot for 2020, news broke on Friday that Star Wars alumna Kelly Marie Tran will voice the lead character in the new CGI film from Disney Animation Studios, Raya and the Last Dragon.
Tran, who played engineer Rose Tico in both The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, will portray the first Disney princess from Southeast Asia. In a statement to Entertainment Weekly, filmmakers Don Hall (Big Hero 6; Moana) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting) compliment Tran for her skills in bringing this character to life. They “praise Tran’s comedy and ad-lib skills — which she says she honed at various improv schools throughout her career — but it was the level of emotion she brought to the role that really surprised them.”
Hall stated in the same EW piece that “she [Kelly Marie Tran] is Raya — just her buoyancy and her positivity, but yet there’s a strength as well to Kelly and the character.”
Raya tells the story of a chieftain’s daughter, who with the help of her animal companion Tuk Tuk, must leave their kingdom in search of the last dragon, who is currently trapped within a human form.
Set to premiere on March 12, 2021, Raya and the Last Dragon is a film that has been built in the middle of a global pandemic, with writers, animators, cast, crew, and directors separated and unable to work side by side. The creative teams had to build a film without a set or an office to collaborate in, and have by all accounts done a masterful job at it.
“I don’t know if Disney has ever made a movie that reflects so much what is happening with the world outside,” López Estrada said to EW. “Even though our team has been working on this movie for years and years and years, it’s going to feel like an idea that we had maybe a month ago because it talks so much about the themes and the questions and the hope that’s happening today and also the lack of hope, and this wrestling with all these really, really important emotions that are happening right now.”
Quotes and information: Yang, Rachel. “Get a first look at Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon starring Kelly Marie Tran.” Entertainment Weekly Online. https://ew.com/movies/raya-last-dragon-first-look-kelly-marie-tran/ (retrieved August 27 2020).