raya and the last dragon cut storylines

Raya and the Last Dragon has been available to Disney+ subscribers (for a fee) for the past two months now, but the Disney fantasy epic finally gets a home video and physical release release this month.

Ahead of the Blu-ray and Digital release, /Film spoke to Raya and the Last Dragon co-director Carlos Lopez Estrada, producer Osnat Shurer, and Head of Story Fawn Veerasunthron about which storylines they cut from the movie, LGBTQ representation, and hot the hotness of Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) sent the crew into a bit of a frenzy. Read our interview below.

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raya and the last dragon trailer

Walt Disney Animation released a new Raya and the Last Dragon trailer during tonight’s Super Bowl, giving audiences another look at the studio’s newest animated fantasy adventure story. Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) stars as Raya, a lone warrior who goes on a quest to find a mythical dragon who will supposedly be able to reunite the lands, which have been at odds for years. Check out the trailer below. Read More »

Summertime trailer

Poetry received a high profile boost recently thanks to Amanda Gorman’s fiery, powerful poem she delivered at Joe Biden’s inauguration. So perhaps now is a good time to release the trailer for Summertime, a new film from Blindspotting director Carlos López Estrada. Sort of an anthology movie, the film follows 25 young people as they criss-cross their way across Los Angeles on a hot summer day. Check out the trailer below.
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raya and the last dragon women

The term “strong female character” is bandied about in Hollywood so much that it’s lost much of its meaning. It’s become a buzz word to describe physically strong and usually stoic female characters — not the emotionally nuanced and complex characters that should be the first thing to come to mind. But the largest flaw with the concept of the “strong female character” is usually that there’s only one of them in a major feature film, as if that’s enough to fill the quota. But Raya and the Last Dragon bucks that trend by giving you not just one “strong female character,” but three.

In Raya and the Last Dragon, Kelly-Marie Tran‘s titular lone warrior soon learns that she’s not alone, no matter how she would prefer to work. After gaining a new unlikely friend in Awkwafina‘s dragon Sisu, Raya quickly accumulates a group of allies — but you can’t have a team without a good enemy. That enemy is Namaari, voiced by Gemma Chan, a former friend turned foe who forms the third part of this all-female trio of lead characters.

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raya and the last dragon trust

Raya and the Last Dragon came together under unusual circumstances. Completed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the team of hundreds of animators, directors, writers, and actors had to work on the Disney fantasy-adventure epic from home and had to trust in one another — a bond that would spill over into the film itself. Raya and the Last Dragon is about “learning to trust” in others, directors Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada said during the early press day for Raya and the Last Dragon. And that couldn’t be more fitting, considering the unusual way it (almost miraculously) came together.

Animators had to work on scenes while balancing pets and kids on their knees, voice actors had to install recording studios out of their closets, and the directors and writers had to gather this all together while building a rich, culturally-authentic world with the film’s team of consultants, including the Southeast Asia Story Trust.

“It’s a story about trust, and it’s a story about people doing what’s needed to come together,” producer Osnat Shurer said during the press day Q&A.

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raya and the last dragon directors

Raya and the Last Dragon is being billed as Disney’s next big leap in representation, as it takes place in a fantasy world heavily inspired by Southeast Asia and featuring the House of Mouse’s first Southeast Asian princess. But where do the lines of authenticity starts to blur? Raya and the Last Dragon is set in the fictional world of Kumandra, inspired by a number of Southeast Asian countries and dozens of cultures. It’s the same route that Disney took with Moana, a film generally inspired by Polynesian cultures. And the Raya and the Last Dragon team hope to pull off the same homage to a rich and diverse region with a Southeast Asian writing team, featuring Malaysian writer Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asiansand Vietnamese writer Qui Nguyen (Vietgone), and a team of consultants and experts that make up the film’s Southeast Asian Story Trust.

“The way we approach [the film] is in terms of celebrating and lifting, [and] being really inspired by [Southeast Asian cultures],” director Carlos López Estrada told /Film in an interview on a Raya and the Last Dragon press day.

“I often equate it to like Excalibur,” added Nguyen. “Like to the Arthurian legend or like Game of Thrones where they’re pulling it from a lot of European things, not specifically Britain or Ireland or anything like that, it’s kind of a melting pot of European stories. It was such a pleasure to be able to create our own legend, our own fantasy, our own hero, based on cultures of a certain land and the whole movie, the theme of it, is about different people coming together.”

Read our full interview with Estrada, Nguyen, and director Don Hall below.

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raya and the last dragon avatar the last airbender

To fans of a certain beloved Nickelodeon animated series, Raya and the Last Dragon may look oddly familiar. A younger version of the Disney film’s main character Raya (voiced by Kelly-Marie Tran) bears an uncanny resemblance to the character of Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender, right down to the hairstyle and blue tunic. Her adorable Pill bug-esque sidekick wouldn’t look out of place in the world of that show, either. And similarly to the four nations of the Nickelodeon series, Raya‘s fictional world of Kumandra is divided into five lands: Fang, Heart, Talon, Spine, and Tail.

And the folks who made the movie are more than happy to embrace the comparison.

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robin hood remake

Disney’s latest “live-action” remake of one of its animated classics is heading straight to Disney+. Disney has set a remake of Robin Hood, the 1973 animated film which imagined Robin Hood as a suave fox and awakened the inner furry in audiences everywhere. The same anthropomorphic charms will be recreated in the Robin Hood remake, which will be a live-action/CG hybrid also starring anthropomorphic animals. To add to this strange hodgepodge of choices is the hiring of Blindspotting director Carlos Lopez Estrada to helm the remake.

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Summertime review

Carlos Lopez Estrada returns to the Sundance Film Festival two years after directing his feature debut, Blindspotting, a love letter to Oakland which included a few scenes of its lead characters freestyle rapping their emotions aloud to each other. In Summertime, his spiritual follow-up, Estrada turns his lens on Los Angeles and makes lyricism the movie’s dominant form of communication. Written by and starring 25 diverse Los Angeles poets, Summertime is a shaggy, criss-crossing saga of young people in L.A. exploring fame, rejection, ambition, and self-reflection – oh, and one of the characters really, really wants a cheeseburger. Picture a DVD of Richard Linklater’s Slacker being passed around as a totem in a slam poetry class, and that gets close to approximating the experience of watching this film.

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disney animation diversity

Walt Disney Animation is making diversity its priority with its next four projects. Four directors of color are helming the next Disney animated movies, which includes Blindspotting director Carlos Lopez Estrada. Estrada is joining Suzi Yoonessi (Unlovable, Dear Lemon Lima) and Disney veterans Josie Trinidad and Marc Smith to develop new animated movies for theatrical release.

The Disney animation diversity initiative comes as Disney Animation’s chief creative officer Jennifer Lee works to expand the studio’s commitment to inclusion.

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