I was honored to sit in this exclusive Raya and the Last Dragon Interview with the actors and filmmakers as the Raya and the Last Dragon Cast Responds to Asian Injustice. #DisneyRaya #RayaandtheLastDragon
Raya and the Last Dragon Cast Responds to Asian Injustice
The first Southeast Asian (SEA) Disney animated film. The second Asian Disney Princess. A strong, empowered Asian movie released during a time of increased anti-Asian violence and injustice.
Coincidence? I think not.
The timely release of Disney’s newest animated film Raya and the Last Dragon is serving a strong message in 2021. Empowered females NOT in the need of rescuing, representation on and off the screen, and a cast not afraid to tackle the issues of today. This Raya and the Last Dragon cast interview is unlike any other interview I have had the privilege of being a part of. Speaking up and speaking out, I sat down with the stars of Disney’s newest film and how Raya is going to change the conversation around Asian perception now and in the future.
Scroll down and find out why these actors and crew members are so passionate about Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon movie, the messaging, and the hope that the world needs in 2021.
Full Raya and the Last Dragon Cast Interview Video
Let me start by saying that there was so much to take in this interview. 14 little zoom screens, 1 hour, and a lot of passionate people. This epic zoom interview with the cast and crew of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon was full of behind-the-scenes information, filming details, and hilarious moments (I see you Benedict Wong in your Tong gear and Daniel Dae Kim on your couch in Hawaii!).
While I am focusing on the Raya and the Last Dragon cast response to recent current events (see below), there was so much more heart and soul to this film that will make you appreciate how much work (including 400 people at home during a pandemic) went into bringing Raya to life. Be sure to click above to watch the full Raya and the Last Dragon Interview Video and get the full scoop on everything about this new animated film.
Raya and the Last Dragon Cast Interview Participants:
- Jeannie Mai (Moderator)
- Kelly Marie Tran (voice of “Raya”)
- Awkwafina (voice of “Sisu”)
- Gemma Chan (voice of “Namaari”)
- Daniel Dae Kim (voice of “Chief Benja”)
- Sandra Oh (voice of “Virana”)
- Benedict Wong (voice of “Tong”)
- Izaac Wang (voice of “Boun”)
- Thalia Tran (voice of “Little Noi”)
- Don Hall (Director)
- Carlos Lopez Estrada (Director)
- Osnat Shurer (Producer)
- Qui Nguyen (Writer)
- Adele Lim (Writer)
Why Raya and the Last Dragon Is the Movie We Need in 2021
I cannot express enough of how the timeliness of this film release comes with a sprinkle of Disney magic. It’s as if the world knew how much we need this spark, this positive energy, this message in 2021. The filmmakers not only acknowledged but truly felt the weight of the world’s emotional journey through this unprecedented season of our lives.
Carlos Lopez Estrada
The most powerful thing that film can accomplish is it can give someone an opportunity to experience life through someone else’s eyes, someone who gives you a perspective that you wouldn’t have. “Raya” does that in a way that’s very optimistic, very hopeful. And through it, we get to learn about cultures that were not our own people, that were not our own problems, and [bring] us together in a beautiful way. If we’re able to bring a little bit of that light and a little bit of that empathy to people, we would.
When we’re young and as children we don’t inherently hate each other. It’s something that is learned. I think that’s something to take from the movie that those things can be learned, but they can be unlearned as well.
I feel like our world is complex, and the problems of the world are only going to start to begin to be solved if we all work together. The lack of trust and the division is a huge problem. But again, you can also understand why the people of Fang, are trying to protect themselves. You can understand why we have elements in society that want protect their own self-interests, and I think these are really complex themes to explore in a family film. And I applaud the storytellers for tackling this. And I think it couldn’t come at a more timely moment for where we are and the position we’re in the world right now.
Director Don Hall
We were very aware of how this film, which was meant to be timeless, was unbelievably timely. It emboldened us to continue forward because we felt like we had something to say. If this film can just teach one person to be brave enough to trust somebody, then we feel like we’ve done what we set out to do.
Writer Adele Lim
Kumandra is an entirely, fantastical, fictional land, but it was very important to the filmmakers that the troubles that land faces and the journey that Raya goes on, the struggles she faces, are rooted very much in the real world; the problems that we’re facing in terms of division. But it was particularly important that the way Raya goes about trying to solve this is also reflected in reality.
It is not an easy thing. It is not just an easy byword that we’re just going to say the word “trust” and magically hope it comes together. It is something that you keep doing, even though you lose everything that’s important to you, even though you were betrayed, even though your heart is broken. We have to keep reaching out, because it is the only way we are going to be able to move forward in this world together.
Raya and the Last Dragon Cast Speak Up About Asian Injustice
For me, it was towards the end of the interview when the moderator spoke up about the recent injustices/violence towards Asian people. I was beyond impressed with the actors and the filmmakers that they not only embraced the opportunity to speak up for the Asian community, but had SO many inspiring words to say. The response was overwhelming in how much these talented people give hope to all of us during this time. And it starts with trust.
Writer Qui Nguyen
I don’t think we had any idea of how the world would become by the time this movie came out, especially when it comes to the injustices to the Asian American community right now. There have been times where in the last 365 days there’s been a lot of negative imagery and words said about Asians.
It’s hard not to appreciate that this movie is coming out and giving a counterpoint, telling a positive story that just celebrates Asian American skin, Asian American lives, and Asian American people. And so, I think step one is representation and really being out there, both behind and in front of the camera, with the stories we tell and then just being out there, so we can acknowledge that this world is all of us, not just any one of us.
Daniel Dae Kim
We can’t undervalue the power of the fact that this is a Disney movie and the people that will be watching this movie by and large are families, parents with their children. [They’re] seeing this kind of representation, and understanding what is possible.
It’s exposure that brings understanding and that understanding is what changes perception. What this movie does on the scale of those things cannot be underestimated.
Producer Osnet Shurer
With everything that’s been happening in this last year, the violence towards Asian Americans, words have power and words have the power to paint people in a different light. They have the power to bring us together. So hopefully, this movie is our word, and our message to the world of “let’s pull together.”
I was extremely moved by the theme of the story, which, ultimately is about trust and how I am struggling with that. Art is here to pose questions, and to potentially suggest possibility. And I think, even if we start with that question to see in one’s self, “Who do I trust? How am I not trusting? Can I trust?” We cannot go on as a society, the world cannot continue, without this openheartedness. And the truth [the characters learn] is that you have to be willing to have your heart broken again and again and again just to keep it open.
Hate is not finished by hate. It is only won over by love. So, we have to each, individually, and then hopefully as a community and then societally move towards that way because all of us are in the same boat. It’s a beautiful opportunity, 2020, in all its destructiveness, in all its change, if one can see it as an opportunity that somehow [it] has also broken all our hearts open.
It was the first time we’d actually sat and watched the film entirely, all the way through. My son turned around and gave me a big hug and said, “I trust you, Daddy.”
This is it. We need this [movie] to unite. We are living through the remnants of this kind of hate that has permeated through the world. And it’s very timely with our beautiful film showing us that love can really lead the way.
Kelly Marie Tran
There’s a moment for me specifically with Raya when she gets to feel justifiably and absolutely unapologetically angry. For me, seeing a young woman in a movie like this, just get to feel that righteous anger and then recognizing that the thing that pulls her out of it is seeing her friends and how they’re helping other people, just feels so real to me.
Seeing these attacks happening over and over and over consistently, you get to that place sometimes where you feel, “Oh, this is a very broken world and I’m feeling a lot of things right now.” And recognizing, for me, that moment felt so grounded in reality because you can’t just say “Trust, unity, yay! It’s going to be fine.” Acknowledging that there’s a lot of pain that happens there, and recognizing that the only way to really get through is to look for the bits of hope in your community.
We’re talking about everything that’s going on at the moment and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with hopelessness and anger, but where I get my hope from is that if you look for the helpers, there are helpers.
We’ve all got our part to play. So, us, the storytellers, we put out our film, which I hope has a message that resonates. And then we also have amazing people within our communities who are doing that work today.
Follow Raya and the Last Dragon on social:
- Website: https://movies.disney.com/raya-and-the-last-dragon/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rayaandthelastdragon
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/DisneyRaya
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/disneyraya/
Raya and the Last Dragon is now playing in theaters everywhere and streaming via Disney+ with Premier Access.