RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON, Disney is struggling

Two years after the second installment of Frozen, Disney signs its return with an epic tinged with Asian influences. A princess adventure that reveals the breathlessness of one of the biggest studios, at the time of their 59th animation classic.

Long ago, humans and dragons lived in harmony in the kingdom of Kumandra. 500 years after its devastating stint there, an evil force that turns humans to stone reappears. Raya, an orphan warrior sets out in search of the last living dragon capable of restoring harmony and life to the Kingdom.

At the time of the countless suites and remakes that feed streaming platforms and theatrical releases, Disney wants to surf on novelty. The producers Carlos López Estrada and Don Hall talk about “Unexpected movie”, of “Breath of fresh air in the genre” when they approach their film RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON. Regrettably, it is the opposite. Overview of the 5 lands of Kumandra.

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Credit: Walt Disney Company

Raya gets lost where Frozen 2 (2019) had been able to offer a breath of freshness, mature and visual. Indiscreet, the plot of the latest Disney Studios film is based on the now too classic pattern of animated films of recent years. A character – often young – living in a magical universe, imposes himself personally, a dangerous quest in search of a mystical and legendary object. And the demand that Walt Disney Pictures has developed among the public is outdone in the face of these duplicates. Indeed, one can easily quote in this vein Vaiana (2016) and the miraculous hook or more recently Ian and his Phoenix Germ in last year’s Pixar co-creation: Forward. Where have been the prodigious emotions provoked by the ingenuity of Bear Brothers (2003) or Tarzan (1999)? In no case in RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON looking for pieces of mystical stones.

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Credit: Walt Disney Company

The universe of RAYA yet has a wide range of possibilities within its visual core. The fictional kingdom of Kumandra instantly fits into Asian culture and her love for dragons. Long represented in animated cinema – wonderfully at Dreamworks in the saga Dragons (2010-19), recklessly in Dragon hunters (2008) and majestically for Ghibli in Spirited away (2001) – this fantastic creature is central to the dreams of children and adults drawn to fantasy. Disney Studios had previously approached the subject with Peter and Elliott the Dragon (1977), the mythical transformation of Maleficent or already within Asian beliefs with the flamboyant Mushu. It is in the personality of Sisu, the dragon of RAYA, that lies the unique interest of the film. Immersed – in reference to its aquatic peculiarity – in the modern world, the blue fire creature of the animated classic projects a new vision of magical creatures. She expresses herself in a contemporary language, names references known to all and takes the appearance of a teenager who by metaphor, discovers her body. Thus allowing each age to find a bit of magic unique to Disney Studios.

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Credit: Walt Disney Company

Princess Raya from Dragonheart, one of the Five Lands of the Kingdom, does not compete in the same category of praise. Adventurous type, dubious mix of Mulan and Vaiana, sorely lacking in personality. The ellipse that separates her from her childhood causes pain in the image that this character gives off. His only thought? Find his father prisoner in a body of rock. No friends except a faithful animal with the curious airs of giant woodlouse and pangolin. Raya is a prisoner of history, locked in a warrior body since birth.

Some will speak of relentlessness, others of dedication and hope, but what is certain is that Disney had enough to give birth to a first openly lesbian character and that he sadly missed out on it. After the unfounded rumors about Elsa (Snow Queen), studios with big ears let perceive in RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON, a semblance of unwillingness. The budding friendship between Namaari and Raya is haunted by a slightly visible and painless specter of love. End credits in support. Love or friendship, what’s the difference? Nothing important of course, but the opening of a door was nevertheless envisaged. Maybe this is what makes Raya a princess with no real emotions. Failed essay, poorly written character, no one will really know.

While Encanto, the next animated film by Disney should be released in November, it is legitimate to wonder in which direction the famous studios are heading. Are we heading towards continually remixed Indiana Joneses or can we still expect masterpieces like the cask? Drunk (2020) with Pixar. RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON It is, unfortunately, only a slight distracting parenthesis for those fond of dragons.


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Original title : Raya and The Last Dragon
Production : Carlos López Estrada, Don Hall
Casting: Emilie Rault, Géraldine Nakache, Frédéric Chau
Release date (France): April 14, 2021
Duration: 1h 30min
Gender: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure • Nationality: American

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