Raya and the Last Dragon, Disney + ‘s humble and tender journey through Asia

CRITICAL – Pandemic obliges, this initiatory fable arrives directly on the platform Friday. French screenwriters and voices, including Géraldine Nakache, tell the Figaro why this unexpectedly simple tale touched them and what changes in representation.

Pixar’s success would almost make us forget that Disney also continues to produce animated films. Before going out in theaters, Raya and the last dragon was yet another victim of the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of theaters. This exotic initiatory fable therefore lands this Friday directly on Disney +. A humble and tender tale, almost naive in reverse to the unleashing of hits from the Snow Queen or abstract paintings from its second part. This simplicity and accessibility to the youngest, which we had lost the habit of, will perhaps make some say that this odyssey lacks panache or constitutes a minor Disney. But this story of filial love and this journey through the Asian imagination conceal very beautiful paintings, in particular a final dance of dragons all in color and weightlessness.

For the voices of its characters in their original version, Disney has summoned the Hollywood elite of talents of Asian origin: Sandra Oh, Daniel Dae Kim, Awkwafina for the supercharged Sisu and the revelation of Star Wars, Kelly Marie Tran. On the French voice side, Frédéric Chau (Baya, Raya’s father), Geraldine Nakache (Sisu) and singer Angunn (chef Virana) lent themselves with passion and curiosity to the dubbing exercise.

Long ago, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save the people of Kumandra from an evil shadow, called The Druun, which, like the jellyfish, turns everything it touches into stone. The magic of the creatures nestled in a protective orb. Unfortunately this victory was not enough to maintain the unity of the kingdom which broke up into five territories distributed along a nourishing river. Daughter of the chief of one of these tribes, Raya is training to become the guardian of this talisman stone. But with the return of the Druun, his mission will become much more perilous.

Tap into the legend of the naga

Raya and her improbable steed Tuk Tuk set out in search of the last dragon and cross hostile desert expanses, perfect metaphors for our months of confinement. Except that the savior of the world does not have the head of the job. A punk with a neon blue mane, Sisu talks way too much and can’t seem to stay focused for more than a few seconds. She and Raya drag in their wake a cook whose recipes make you very hungry and sly and irresistible baby pickpockets.

It is a journey through the culture and flavors of the Orient, from Malaysia to Vietnam, via China, in which screenwriters Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen take us by putting in the spotlight the myth of the protective dragons in a thousand leagues from the fierce fire-eaters exalted by Game Of Thrones that populate Western legends. “Water dragons, naga, have the gift of Transfiguration. They symbolize harmony and life, they are not monsters at all»Underline in Figaro the duo, “It was important to emphasize the strength of unity at a time when our country, the United States and the world are divided.“. “When you travel to Asia, as we did to prepare this film, what strikes you, regardless of community or religion, is this awareness of the common good”, notes the tandem, very aware that their epic participates as Minari and Crazy Rich Asians better representation of talents from Southeast Asia.

I’ve been working in Hollywood for twenty years, but it’s only since Crazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon that I can evoke the traditions of my childhood. For too long, I felt like no one was seeing us. I hope Raya will give confidence to the children who will finally contemplate a heroine in their image and see that their references an integral part of pop culture», Admits Adele Lim, delighted to have been able to refine every detail, from the shape and color of the fruit to the links between generations, between parents and children, to this balance between individual ambition and a desire to share.

In the new tradition of warrior princesses

Archaeologists and linguists have been invited to advise designers to bring as much authenticity as possible to this phantasmagoria. Even on the smallest details, like how to take off your shoes before entering a temple.

In the galaxy of fierce heroines who do not need charming princes and whom Disney has been promoting for a decade, Raya, a lone warrior, is a worthy heir to Mulan, whose Asian roots she shares, and of Merida the flamboyant Scottish archer of Rebel. Unlike those predecessors, Raya doesn’t have to prove her abilities. But, she must learn to open up and trust others. Raya and the last dragon exalts his trio of heroines Sisu, Raya and Namaari, opponent in spite of herself of Raya. “A Disney film about female and platonic friendship is paradoxically still rare. Namaari and Raya are two sides of the same coin. Born leaders who fascinate each other and look at each other with suspicion», Preaches Adele Lim.


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