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Raya And The Last Dragon Blu-ray Review

“Raya And The Last Dragon” is another Disney winner.

Once upon a time, the evil spirit Drunn petrified people and dragons until the last dragon Sisu managed to banish Druun with the Dragon Gem. The people were saved, but the dragons remained petrified. 500 years later, the Dragon Gem is being protected by one of the 5 Kumandra tribes- Heart (the other 4 being Tail, Talon, Fang and Spine). Raya is being trained by her father to be the next guardian of the Dragon Gem, but things don’t quite go as planned. A feast for the 5 tribes turns into a nightmare after the Fang tribe attempts to steal the Dragon Gem. The gem ends up breaking into pieces which are stolen by other tribes, but worse still, it ends up unleashing the Druun who begins to petrify people (including Raya’s father). The story jumps forward six years where we discover that Raya has found Sisu. Her goal is to find the missing gem pieces to hopefully defeat the Druun and free the petrified people, but that quest is easier said than done. Luckily, Raya finds some allies along the way, but she has to face the Namaari and the Fang tribe who selfishly want the Dragon Gem for themselves.

There aren’t a lot of movies that can be considered events, but a new Disney animated film is always cause for celebration for film fans. There’s so much care and artistry that goes into each and every animated film and that is certainly the case with directors Don hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada’s “Raya And The Last Dragon.”

It feels like everytime a new Disney Princess character is introduced the phrase “A new kind of Disney Princess” is used, but that holds true for Raya as well. She’s a tough, kind hearted, and determined Southeast Asian Disney Princess who is literally trying to help her kingdom, save people and dragons, and defeat evil. There’s no Prince Charming or romance story here. In fact, the movie has a darker edge to it which I appreciated. It separates itself from the other Disney fare. Yes, there’s a happy ending to it all, but it feels earned. Equally appealing is the fact that this story feels all too timely in these divisive times as the themes of greed, family, division, trust and unity are explored throughout the script by Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen. Basically, there’s a lot going on in this movie.

The script isn’t without its flaws though. As you can tell from the plot summary, the overall story is a little overly complicated. It’s not the type of tale you can describe in a single sentence. The plot also becomes a little too familiar once the quest begins as it turns into a land hopping and item collecting adventure. Sure, it holds your interest and you get to meet delightful characters like the scene stealing Noi (AKA Con Baby), but that portion of the story is the least interesting angle of the film. It’s the themes and characters that are the greatest strengths.

You probably don’t need me to tell you, but the voice cast is perfect. Kelly Marie Tran entirely makes Raya her own and gives the character so much life. Daniel Dae Kim (who is having quite the career renaissance) gives a heartfelt performance as Raya’s father Chief Benja. Awkwafina continues her meteoric rise to stardom as the comedic dragon Sisu. Gemma Chan brings a great deal of depth to her conflicted character Namaari.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.39:1 1080p. How does it look? The CGI animation is nothing short of dazzling in hi-def. The CGI animation continues to get better and better with each new Disney release.

Audio Track: 7.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? Expect a layered audio experience. Note perfect.


Extras:
* DVD copy and Digital copy
* 5 deleted scenes with intros by head of story Fawn Veerasunthorn and co-director John Ripa
* “The Story Behind The Storyboard With John Ripa”- Co-director John Ripa discusses the storyboarding process.
* “Fun Facts And Easter Eggs”- The title says it all.
* 2 ½ minutes of voice recording outtakes.
* “We Are Kumandra”- A fascinating featurette on the Southeast Asia Story Trust on this project.
* “Martial Artists”- This extra covers the martial arts featured in the film and the recorded fight choreography used as references for the animators.
* “Raya: Bringing It Home”- A look at the process of making the movie during the pandemic.
* “Taste Of Raya”- A virtual meal with 9 cast and crew members in which they discuss making ‘Raya.’ Arguably the best and most revealing extra here.
* “Us Again”- An animated short film (with an intro) about an elderly couple becoming youthful again. 

May 7, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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