Disney’s next major animated film Raya and the Last Dragon sounded promising. The film is currently set to release on March 12th, 2021. It will explore the kingdom of Kumandra. The visuals will take inspiration from Southeast Asia. Awkwafina is set to star as Sisu, a dragon trapped in a human body. They will set out to restore her powers and dragon-form. It sounds like an intriguing premise. The Asian-inspiration also could offer some unique visuals.
Looks like a lot has happened since the original announcement. Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada have taken over directing duties. Paul Briggs and Dean Wellins remained listed as co-directors. She Kills Monsters‘ Qui Nguyen has been added as a screenwriter alongside Adele Lin. Not only that but Star Wars’ Kelly Marie Tran has officially replaced Cassie Steele as the voice of Raya. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ CCO Jennifer Lee offered the following statement to these changes.
As filmmakers, Don and Carlos bring a combination of animation know-how and emotional storytelling to Raya and the Last Dragon, bringing our fantasy adventure to surprising, original, and dynamic heights. They both saw the potential for this film and had a strong vision for the story, especially for our lead character, played by the wonderfully talented Kelly Marie Tran. And no small feat, directors Don and Carlos, writers Qui and Adele, and the entire crew of 400 Disney Animation artists are making this film together, while separated and working from home
Disney also shared a first good look at Raja and her companion Tuk Tuk fully rendered.
These changes aren’t unusual for animated pictures. Also, they were hit by the pandemic just as production was starting. A lot of their work is being done remotely. It is uncertain how involved the original directors still will be. With the March release date, they have quite a lot of work ahead of them. Especially if they make quite a few changes. This will be Disney Animation’s first Southeast Asian inspired story. The addition of Tran also makes her their first Southeast Asian lead and cannot wait to see what she brings to the role.