Even as it was first announced in 2020, Raya and the Last Dragon instantly became the buzz around town.
Why? Well, for one, it's a Disney princess movie, and as we all well know, Disney princess movies are exciting. Perhaps not since Moana has that love for Disney been so uproariously felt. But more than that, Raya and the Last Dragon seemed a huge win for Asian representation. For the first time in forever, Southeast Asian people were being handed over to the spotlight.
There was a mishmash of various cultures among our Asean neighbours—a sidekick named Tuktuk, a battle with arnis sticks—and so many more. These multifarious details all came together to celebrate a wide, often-overlooked region so close to home; and the fact that Raya had brown, beautifully morena skin was, in itself, something to speak of.
Raya and the Last Dragon begins by introducing us to Kumandra, Raya's home. In the past, Kumandra had been a united land; but with the arrival of the Druuns (who turned people to stone), chaos and separation had ensued. Fortunately, a race of dragons were able to sacrifice themselves and manifest a sacred gem to keep the Druuns at bay. At the start of the film, viewers are introduced to Raya and her father as caretakers of this sacred gem, kept safe in their land at Heart.
Though leaders from the other areas of Kumandra—Tail, Talon, Spine, and Fang—show hostility towards Raya and her father's kingdom at Heart, Raya's father invites them to his land in an attempt to make peace. Chaos ensues as Namaari, a princess from Fang, tricks Raya and nearly manages to steal the gem. Instead, in the heat of the moment, the gem breaks, and each kingdom manages to grab a piece. With its powers weakening, the Druuns wake from their slumber and overtake Kumandra. Raya's father is turned to stone and now our namesake heroine goes in search for Sisu, the last dragon, in order to vanquish the Druuns and bring her father back to life.