NOC Presents: A SEA Conversation about ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’

With Raya and the Last Dragon out for about a week now, there are many thoughts and opinions being shared across the Internet about it. While a few of us here at The Nerds of Color have written extensively about Disney’s first Southeast Asian film, I thought it would be appropriate to gather together the Southeast Asian Nerds of Color writers and discuss it. Together with Laura Sirikul, Mike Manalo, and Patrick Michael Strange, in a conversation about as long as Raya and the Last Dragon itself, we go in-depth on everything from the film’s plot, how it tackled the topic of trust, the characters, the majority East Asian cast, the lack of Filipino culture and actors, and more.

WARNING: The following contains major spoilers from Raya and the Last Dragon.

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Disney’s ‘Raya and The Last Dragon’ Announces the Rest of the Cast

During a special presentation with select press last Tuesday, the creative team behind Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon revealed the rest of the ensemble that joins Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina in the first Southeast Asian-inspired fantasy animation set to release this March. Set in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons coexisted in harmony. But when an evil force called the Druun threaten their world, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, the Druun have returned and it is up to Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) to track down the last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), and find the missing pieces to the Dragon Gem to rid their land of evil and unite its divided people.

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Disney’s ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Comes at a Poignant Time for Asian Americans

There’s no question the global pandemic has affected the lives of many within the United States having the highest COVID-19 cases and death rate. The previous administration under President Donald Trump blamed China for the deadly coronavirus, labeling the disease as the “China Virus” and, more broadly, putting targets on the backs of Asian Americans by fellow citizens who are angry by the economic and social impact of the pandemic. Since then, there has been a rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes throughout the U.S. After multiple attacks on the elderly Asian population, the media started to notice, thanks to the help of Asian American advocates and allies pushing for these stories to be shared. Multiple brands, including Disney, Nike, and Apple, began releasing statements condemning the attacks on Asians and where people can donate and show support.

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NOC Review: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is Relevant, Rollicking, and Remarkable

In 1937, Walt Disney debuted something that changed the history of cinema — the release of the first full length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This in turn gave birth to Walt Disney Animation Studios and a long history (at times problematic) of classic stories and adventures involving dragons and princesses that has, for the most part, arguably withstood the test of time from generation to generation. But generations change. Art and time change the world and, in turn, the world and time must also change art.

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Osnat Shurer, Adele Lim, and Fawn Veerasunthorn Keep ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Authentic

Raya and the Last Dragon is being celebrated for being the first Southeast Asian-inspired story produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Set in the fantasy world of Kumandra, where long ago humans and dragons coexisted in harmony. After an evil force called the Druuns threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity with the creation of the Dragon Gem. Raya’s family are the Guardians of the Dragon Gem and must protect the gem at all costs. When conflict arises within the clans, the same evil returns and causes a path for destruction. It is up to Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) to track down the legendary last dragon Sisu (Awkwafina) to restore the fractured land and defeat the evil surrounding it.

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Getting Real with Raya: An Interview with Kelly Marie Tran

Today, I’m beyond thrilled that I get to say that we finally have a Southeast Asian Disney Princess! That’s right! Raya and the Last Dragon is officially hitting cinemas and Disney+ via Premier Access today, and we couldn’t be happier. In fact, if you want to take a look at what we thought of the film, check out our review here.

Having said that, here at The Nerds of Color, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing may talented and wonderful actors of color; each one doing their part to further the cause of shining a light on the underrepresented. However, to me, this 10 minute interview may top them all!

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NOC Review: ‘Us Again’ Charms Right Before ‘Raya’

If you have the great fortune of seeing Raya and the Last Dragon in a safe, socially distant drive-in theater this coming weekend, I’m happy to say you’ll be treated to a neat little short from Walt Disney Feature Animation called Us Again.

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Hard NOC Life 206: ‘Raya’ and the Last ‘WandaVision’

Dominic, Keith , are joined by new recurring co-host (and friend of the NOC) Britney Monae! Together, they break down the series finale of WandaVision, review Disney’s latest animated adventure Raya and the Last Dragon, and more!

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Disney Journeys to a Place Beyond What’s Possible in ‘Strange World’ Trailer

Walt Disney Animation Studios is no stranger to having films about characters going on thrilling adventures into the unknown. Now, we are getting a first look at what’s to come in the first trailer for Strange World, a throwback to the classic pulp magazines of the past which featured stories of explorers to lost worlds and bizarre places.

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Walt Disney Animation Studios Reveals First Look at ‘Strange World’

Walt Disney Animation Studios has taken us to beautiful, even mystical worlds that are far beyond our reach and yet filled with grounded characters. Now they delve into the strange by reuniting a familiar creative team behind one of their most popular films. Today, the studio revealed their first look at Strange World an animated adventure helmed by director Don Hall (Big Hero 6Raya and the Last Dragon) and co-director/writer Qui Nguyen (Raya and the Last Dragon), and produced by Roy Conli (Big Hero 6Tangled).

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Gold House and CAPE Unveil the 2022 Gold List in Time for Awards Season

It’s officially Awards Season in Hollywood, and Gold House and CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) are launching the 2022 Gold List to highlight outstanding work by Asian filmmakers and talent. Think of the Gold List as an elaborate “For Your Consideration” campaign to get the Academy to recognize some of the amazing work by Asian and Asian American directors, writers, and actors in 2021.

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NOC Interview: ‘Selma’ Star Corey Reynolds Talks SYFY’s ‘Resident Alien’ and More

SYFY’s comedy-drama series Resident Alien has been a hit with fans of the graphic novel, and newcomers to the series as well, sitting pretty on Rotten Tomatoes at 93% as of writing this. Corey Reynolds (Selma, Straight Outta Compton), who plays Sheriff Mike Thompson in the series, said that the personalities of fellow castmates Alan Tudyk (Devil May Care and Raya and the Last Dragon) and Sara Tomko (3022 and Sneaky Pete), and series creator Chris Sheridan (Family Guy), are what most likely led to its positive reception.

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Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’ to Debut Exclusively on Disney+

There was plenty of excitement surrounding Domee Shi‘s Turning Red as it would have marked the turn of a Pixar film to be released in a theater. It was also the studio’s first film to be directed by a woman. However, because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, Turning Red will make its debut on Disney+ on March 11, 2021, instead of the traditional theatrical release like initially planned.

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‘Us Again’ Director, Zach Parrish and Choreographers, Keone and Mari Madrid

Hello everyone! Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of participating in an amazing virtual conference to celebrate the release of Disney’s ‘Us Again‘ as it arrived on Disney+! The conference was hosted and led by superstar dancer & choreographer, Derek Hough, whom we came to find out was a big fan of the short film as well! We gained some insight into what exactly it took to put this short film together and afterwards received the opportunity to speak with some of the amazing talents as well! So, here we go! Here’s my conversation with Director, Zach Parrish and Choreographers, Keone and Mari Madrid along with some information they shared during the Conference!

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‘Us Again’ Composer, Pinar Toprak and Producer, Brad Simonsen

Hello everyone! Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of participating in an amazing virtual conference to celebrate the release of Disney’s Us Again as it arrived on Disney+! The conference was hosted and led by superstar dancer & choreographer, Derek Hough, whom we came to find out was a big fan of the short film as well! We gained some insight into what exactly it took to put this short film together and afterwards received the opportunity to speak with some of the amazing talents as well! So, here we go! Here’s my conversation with Composer, Pinar Toprak and Producer, Brad Simonsen along with some information they shared during the Conference!

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How Colombian Culture, Music, and Dance Tell a Magical Story in ‘Encanto’

Making an animated film at Walt Disney Animation Studios is a tremendous undertaking. It takes years of development, not to mention countless rewrites to perfect the script, numerous in-house screenings, and so much more. Encanto, Disney’s 60th animated feature, brings music and dance together to tell the story of Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), a Colombian teenager facing the fact that she is the only one who doesn’t have any magical abilities in her family. But when she discovers that magic is in danger, she sets off on a journey to save it.

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Everything We Learned from the D23 Expo Disney Studios Presentation

The second day of D23 Expo kicked off with the Disney Studios presentation with new films coming from the studios of Disney, Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. Alan Horn, chief creative officer and co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios hosted the showcase and brought on Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige, Disney live action’s Sean Bailey, Pixar’s Pete Docter, and Disney Animation’s Jennifer Lee.

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‘Encanto’ Directors and Writers Find Magical Realism in Colombian Culture

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Encanto is an animated musical that celebrates Lantine and Latinx culture, specifically everything Colombia offers. The film follows Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), the only child not blessed with a magical gift. As she struggles to find her place within her multigenerational enchanted family, she finds out that the magic that has helped them and the town is in danger of disappearing. So she sets off on an adventure to prevent that from happening.

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Manila to the Moon: An Interview with ‘Blush’ Director Joe Mateo

Imagine if you will that you’re a minority in the entertainment industry. Picture yourself working proudly on some of the best, most well known animated projects of all time, and then — BAM! — a studio asks you to tell your own story. What would be the story you’d want to tell? For Filipino animator, Joe Mateo (a 25-year veteran artist and animator who worked on Zootopia, Big Hero 6, and many other classic Disney Animated works), that dream came true.

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Disney’s Short ‘Us Again’ is More Than Just Dancing

Director Zach Parrish knew he wanted to tell another story for Walt Disney Animation Studios. After the success of his Short Circuit film Puddles, Parrish wanted to touch on something that he was struggling with — aging.

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NOC Review: ‘Encanto’ is Mostly Enchanting

First of all, score one for Walt Disney Animation for putting out two releases in one year that celebrate different stories from different cultures! With the terrific Raya and the Last Dragon earlier this year, and now the charming Encanto, it’s refreshing to see that the House of Mouse has been more proactive in telling stories that aren’t just rooted in Western European fairy tales. I think Moana really opened the door for this, and as far as our site is concerned, we couldn’t be happier.

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