Watch Kids' Reviews of
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

What to know:
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
Recommended age 10-18
114 minutes
FeatureFilm
WALT DISNEY ANIMATED STUDIOS
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In terms of world-building, Raya and the Last Dragon is probably one of Disney's best. This animated film has a fascinating setting and mythology; however the story falters a little.

This film takes place in Kumandra, a world comprising five divided nations. When an evil force known as The Druun sends Kumandra into a state of despair, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) sets out on a journey to find the last dragon, and defeat The Druun for good.

First, the animation in this film is strong and very realistic; perhaps a little too realistic to the point where some shots look like photographs. This might be a pet peeve of mine, because I don't like ultra-realistic animation. Sure, it is impressive, technologically speaking, but I find stylized animation to be much more striking and memorable. Aside from that, it's very beautiful. I really like the colors, and how each location is so visually distinct.

Raya and the Last Dragon feels a lot more dramatic and serious in tone than most other Disney films. On the one hand, I really enjoy this as I believe we need more serious kids' movies. However, I'm assuming the producers were concerned about this film being "too dark for kids" because there is a lot of really unfunny comedy in the beginning. This comedy mostly comes from Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon. And while I'm usually a fan of Awkwafina and her comedic timing, she's just not given any good material here. The jokes don't fit with the setting or tone, and they really bog down Sisu's first few scenes. Yet once the comedy slows down, she becomes a more dramatic character which I enjoyed.

I have a few concerns with the themes of Raya and the Last Dragon. The message that, instead of being divided, we need to come together and stand united is fine. However the execution of that message is a bit questionable. No spoilers, but let's just say a certain character really deserved some repercussions for all the problems they caused. I do understand that the moral is that we should learn to trust each other, but I feel like that message is used as an excuse to not properly redeem a character.

I give Raya and The Last Dragon 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. It comes out on March 5, 2021 in theaters and on Disney+ with Premiere Access.

By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

A groundbreaking film for representation, storytelling, and world-building, Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon is a must-watch for viewers of all ages. This is Disney's first film with a Southeast Asian female lead - YAY!

Raya and the Last Dragon is an absolutely enrapturing film! The film is set in the realm of Kumandra, where humans and dragons used to live together until a force called the Druun attacked, a miserable, swirly, "mindless" plague "born of human discord" (much like any modern issue). The Druun turns humans into stone and breaks Kumandra into warring factions. The dragon-protectors, who were the leaders of the dragons in ancient Kumandra, all added bits of their powers to a single, Infinity Stone-esque blue gem, which, thanks to the actions of Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), princess of the land of Heart, is scattered in pieces across all the realms. Six years later, we catch up with Raya (whose father has been turned into stone) and her crew of interesting companions on her mission to retrieve all of the gemstones. Her most significant companion is the sassy dragon-protector Sisu (Awkwafina). Sisu grows closer to Raya throughout the film, becoming her BFF, confidant, life coach, comic relief, sounding board, and more. Raya has to face off against her frenemy Namaari (Gemma Chan), who goes way back in Raya's life, and there are deep fractures in their relationship.

Raya and the Last Dragon has a sufficiently intricate world inspired by various Southeast Asian cultures, and its beauty lies in that characterization: simple yet imaginative. The animation is... okay. It's certainly up to Disney standard but nothing extremely new in the wheelhouse for this project. Tuktuk, Raya's interesting armadillo-like vehicle of choice, is probably the most inventive creation of animation in the film. Yes, that's including the dragons. I was hoping for a little less Mushu and more Hookfang; Sisu and her dragon siblings look pretty meek and kind of like characters we've seen before. As far as the voice acting goes, Awkwafina's portrayal of Sisu steals the show; it almost makes up for the animation! Her sarcastic humor, smooth delivery, and superb comic timing all work perfectly for the role. As for Raya, and the power and individuality with which Kelly Marie Tran dealt with the role also are wondrous.

Raya and the Last Dragon teaches teamwork and perseverance. There's some action, violence, and certain thematic elements to watch out for, but, overall, a lovely family watch!

I give Raya and the Last Dragon 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. Raya and the Last Dragon is out now on Disney+ and in theatres! Go watch it!

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Trust me; you don't want to miss Raya and the Last Dragon from Walt Disney Animation Studios. This movie is a sweeping adventure of magical proportions and an emotional journey that touches your heart as you join the characters on their quest.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a story of a legendary kingdom known as Kumandra, where people and dragons live peacefully until an evil force overcomes them. The dragons sacrifice themselves to save humanity and the kingdom is divided. Raya's family protects the legacy of the mystical dragon gem and, when evil returns Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is called upon to search for the last dragon Sisu (Awkwafina). There is treachery and mistrust between the fractured kingdoms and they must learn to trust each other again to unite and conquer evil.

Awkwafina plays the dragon Sisu and her eccentric personality provides a great deal of humor and playfulness, as well as emotion, in the story. A powerful performance is given by Kelly Marie Tran as Raya and, her breadth of character, adds to the intensity of emotion and majesty in the film. The music is dramatic and drives the epic feel of the story with an original score written by James Newton Howard.

The making of this movie came about from over 400 individual homes of talented artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios and was a completely unprecedented production experience based on story ideas by Bradley Raymond. The film is directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Carlos Lopez Estrada (Blindspotting) and is visually as magical as you would expect. Larry Wu (Big Hero 6, Frozen II), as Head of Environments created sumptuously detailed background for the five various kingdoms, which I loved!

The message of this film is that combined trust and faith empowers people. It is only through the teamwork of Raya's unlikely companions that band together to defeat evil and the kingdoms are united once again. Raya learns that she must take the first step in some situations, even before she may be ready. Forgiveness and redemption are also a theme in this story.

I rate Raya and the Last Dragon 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 15, plus adults. Raya and the Last Dragon opens in theaters and on Disney+ for Premiere Access March 5, 2021. Don't miss this heartwarming story and adventure!

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

see youth comments
Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. However, when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned, and it's up to a lone warrior to track down the last dragon and stop the Druun for good.
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