Review: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ fires up children’s imagination

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is just one of the latest family-friendly films produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios. The computer-animated fantasy action-adventure film is about a heroic dragon who is humanity’s last hope for peace.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” made its debut simultaneously on Disney+ Premier Access and in theatres on March 5, 2021.

BAXTER — You can add dragons to the endangered species list but not if Raya has her way.

From the studio behind the Polynesian-inspired “Moana” and the Danish fairy tale-based “Frozen” comes “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

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The feature film was released last month by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures in theaters like the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Pequot Lakes and simultaneously on Disney+ with Premier Access.

The titular young heroine of “Raya and the Last Dragon” seeks for six years to find Sisu, the last dragon that used a powerful gem to banish the Druun, evil spirits that attack and petrify the fictitious but prosperous land of Kumandra and its people and dragons.


The La Machine Dragon in Ottawa 2017 peers down while fog or smoke fills the air. Photo by Laith Abushaar on

The dragons and the people lived harmoniously long before the Druun threatened Kumandra, but the dragons, including the water dragon Sisu, sacrificed themselves heroically to save humanity.

Five centuries later, Raya has to summon Sisu, who reveals she only used her sibling dragons’ powers to come to the aid of the Kumandra people, so they have to team up to recover the gem.

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Along the way, the pair explore the tribal lands of a now divided population located along a giant, dragon-shaped river: Fang, Heart, Spine, Talon and Tail.

The tribal lands of Kumandra have been at war with each other for as long as Raya can remember, but she believes Sisu can restore order and peace.

Along Raya and Sisu’s journey to recover and unite the fractured gem that may hold the key to banishing the Druun once and for all — and return the petrified people back to the land of the living — the duo reluctantly teams up with others with specialized skills or unique abilities.


The movie’s themes of trust and teamwork will appeal to parents looking for a couple of hours of entertainment that goes beyond the film’s vibrant images and child-appealing slapstick humor.


The motion picture is, however, rated PG, so there are ample scenes of physics-defying physical comedy for younger audiences, including swordplay, martial arts and even a fearless “con baby” who leads a team of thieving acrobatic monkeys that aid Raya and Sisu.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran as the warrior on a quest and Awkwafina as the “magical, mythical, self-deprecating dragon” Sisu. The film features a predominantly Asian American cast.

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Raya is Disney’s first Southeast Asian princess from the legendary “House of Mouse” known for other cinematic Disney princesses such as Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Rapunzel and others.

The 59th film produced by the Disney studio was directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, and co-directed by Paul Briggs and John Ripa. Hall’s previous directorial efforts include “Winnie the Pooh” from 2011 and “Big Hero 6” from 2014.

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A pandemic-related message appears towards the end of the credits that reads: “The making of this movie from over 400 individual homes was completely unprecedented, and relied entirely on the talent, ingenuity, and dedication of everyone at Walt Disney Animation Studios.”

A full view of a dragon at a light show lights up the night. Photo by Ilse Orsel on

The movie holds an impressive 94% approval rating among critics and a 88% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.


FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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