Coming to Disney Plus and selected global theatres this March 2021 is Disney's 13th princess movie that has been much anticipated by fans, cinephiles, and history buffs alike. Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) follows the journey of a lone warrior named Raya who tracks down the last living dragon to save the world from the evil forces that had decimated most of the dragons centuries ago.
American actress of Vietnamese descent Kelly Marie Tran (The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker) gives voice to the new Disney princess, together with Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) who was cast as Sisu, the mythical last dragon in the world of Kumandra. The film is written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada and produced by Osnat Shurer and Peter del Vecho.
Being the first Disney princess film to make use of elements from this corner of the globe, we took a closer look at the references that were shown in the previous trailers released by Disney.
First off, the name. Raya may not be a common name for girls from Southeast Asia but it has deep Indo-Malay roots. In Indonesia and Malaysia, raya pertains to grandness or greatness. We often hear it also following the word hari which then altogether means "a great feast" or "celebration". This may also be loosely linked to the Sanskrit word rajan and its Hindi counterpart rajah, titles given to princes and kings.
This title was commonly used across the ancient Majapahit empire, which stretched from Sumatra to New Guinea. Today, it consists present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, southern Thailand, East Timor, Brunei, and southwestern Philippines. It was one of the last major Hindu empires and like the fantasy world of Kumandra.