Review: “Raya and the Last Dragon” Blu-Ray Offers Abundance of Bonus Features

Hi everyone!

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon arrives on Blu-ray this Tuesday, May 18th, 2021. We received it to preview and there are quite a few bonus features to go with this stunning film. Here is a look at them (with my thoughts on my favorites) and also my original movie review.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Raya and the Last Dragon Bonus Features:

• An Introduction to Us Again – Director Zach Parrish takes you behind the scenes of the Walt Disney Animation Studios short. This is a really nice (though quick) bonus feature where Parrish talks about how his struggles with aging inspired the short. He is a fan of dancers Keone & Mari Madrid, and we see them as they choreograph dance sequences. I enjoyed seeing Keone & Mari Madrid as they dance in the way we see in Us Again and would loved to have seen more.

Us Again – An elderly man and his young-at-heart wife rekindle their passion for life on one magical night. This is a beautiful, meaningful, jubilant and romantic short. I’ve watched it many times. The dance sequences and colors are dazzling.

• Taste of Raya – Dine along with Kelly Marie Tran and the film’s creative team–virtually–over a Southeast Asian menu inspired by the countries that influenced the film as they discuss their experiences creating the world of Kumandra. I felt like I’d had dinner with Kelly Marie Tran and the filmmakers by the time this 22-minute bonus feature was over. Personally, I’d recommend having a Southeast Asian meal while watching. The conversation is fun and meaningful, as is the choice of dishes they share together virtually (including jackfruit jerky and papaya salad). Food is a major theme in Raya and the Last Dragon and in this bonus feature. The conversation is a good pairing with “Raya: Bringing it Home”.

• Raya: Bringing it Home – When the global pandemic of 2020 hit, production of Raya and the Last Dragon moved to the houses of over 450 people. We open a window into their lives and learn how they overcame massive obstacles to make an animated feature from home.

Raya and the Last Dragon was created from home – and that isn’t just the animators and filmmakers but the cast as well. And just like other Zoom sessions, there are unexpected moments that can and do include animals appearing.

I mentioned there were a lot of bonus features and some do overlap a bit, like there is information about martial arts weapons in two or three of them. But there is also a dedicated bonus feature about martial arts forms and weapons, and also about the Southeast Asia Story Trust and more. I don’t usually find outtakes too interesting but the one on Raya and the Last Dragon is a lot of fun – getting a glimpse behind the scenes while it was being created virtually. I wish there was a commentary available. Raya being a Southeast Asian princess is a theme that runs through most of the bonus features, with discussions about representation.

• Martial Artists – You’ll get a kick out of learning about the martial art forms and weapons used in the film as co-screenwriter Qui Nguyen and visual anthropologist Dr. S. Steve Arounsack share the inspiration behind the film’s action-packed elements.
• We are Kumandra – Meet members of the Southeast Asia Story Trust and discover the cultural influences that inspired the film…and how important this representation in a Disney animated film is to the people of the region.
• Outtakes – Step into the homes and behind the mics of the cast of Raya and the Last Dragon as they experience voice-over sessions in closets and shaky internet connections, which made recording this film unlike any other.
• Fun Facts & Easter Eggs – Take a look at some of the hidden surprises and behind-the-scenes secrets of Raya and the Last Dragon.
• The Story Behind the Storyboard with John Ripa – Co-Director John Ripa invites you to get an inside look at his thought process as he pitches a storyboard sequence from the film and talks about his amazing career with Disney Animation.

• Deleted Scenes
-Introduction – Head of Story Fawn Veerasunthorn introduces deleted scenes from Raya and the Last Dragon.

This is a fantastic set of bonus features!

Here is my original film review:

Raya seeks the help of the legendary dragon, Sisu. Seeing what’s become of Kumandra, Sisu commits to helping Raya fulfill her mission in reuniting the lands. Featuring Kelly Marie Tran as the voice of Raya and Awkwafina as the voice of Sisu, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5, 2021. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

First, the sypnopsis from Disney: “Raya and the Last Dragon” takes us on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.

The trailers for Raya and the Last Dragon do give away the visuals, which are absolutely glorious. I’m hoping to see the film in the theater in a couple of months before its run ends. To watch the movie unfold is such a treat on a television and deserves to be seen in a theater. It is really incredible to me that the film was created out of 400 homes due to the pandemic.

Raya can be seen as a budding warrior from a young age, with her father (bà)/Chief Benja (voiced by Daniel Dae Kim) preferring to not think of the five clans of divided people as enemies. He tells Raya, “If we don’t stop and learn to trust each other again, it’s only a matter of time before we tear each other apart”.  Chief Benja and Raya are guardians of a Dragon Gem that becomes broken and each piece ends up with the various clans. A number of years later, Raya goes on a quest to find those gems and water dragon Sisu.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a female driven action movie with cute sidekicks and a message that feels prescient. It is led by a predominantly Asian-American cast including Kelly Marie Tran as Raya, Awkwafina as quick-witted Sisu, and Gemma Chan as Naamari. These three characters are all strong women in their own right – so different from each other and not always on the same page. Sisu appears both in dragon form and human form. Awkwafina provides a lot of the humor for the film – but she also infuses Sisu with gentle wisdom born from experience as they search for the pieces of the gem . There are moments I thought of Raya like Rey in the Star Wars franchise – in particular as she rides a larger Tuk Tuk through a desert.

Raya and the Last Dragon has more action sequences than I’d have expected, including (but not limited to) sword fighting and hand-to-hand combat. At the same time, there are cute scenes that young children will love – especially Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk), who is part pill-bug (like Tuck and Roll from A Bug’s Life), part armadillo and apparently part pug (though I don’t see that as much). A lot of kids are going to want their own Tuk Tuk plush. There is something for almost everyone in the film and a nice balance is struck.

Young Raya looks up to her beloved father Benja, Chief of the Heart Lands. Benja, the legendary Guardian of the Dragon Gem, is an idealistic and bold visionary who seeks to reunite the fractured kingdom of Kumandra and restore harmony. Featuring Daniel Dae Kim as the voice of Chief Benja, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5, 2021. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

There may be moments that are scary for very young children. Raya and the Last Dragon is rated PG.

Raya and the Last Dragon in the end is a film about trust. And about friendship as well. Raya’s journey doesn’t only include Sisu and Tuk Tuk but she acquires a team along the way including ruffian Tong (voiced by Benedict Wong) who reminds me of Hook Hand in Tangled and the Ongis (Part monkey, part catfish).

Raya and the Last Dragon is directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a gorgeous, action-packed film. Mousesteps grade – A.