The directors of animated film Raya And The Last Dragon said centring their movie around Disney’s first South-East Asian heroine brought with it a “responsibility to do it right”.
The film, which features an all-Asian or Asian American voice cast including Kelly Marie Tran – who voices the title character, Raya – as well as Sandra Oh, Gemma Chan and Awkwafina, follows a young woman who must track down a legendary last dragon to restore her fractured land and its divided people.
Set in the fictional realm known as Kumandra, directors Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada said they still felt an obligation to represent the region’s 11 countries and 673 million people.
Hall told the PA news agency: “It was definitely something that was top of mind and something that we focused on quite a bit.
“Going back to the beginnings of it, we hadn’t really explored – at least to my knowledge – South-East Asia as a cast of characters or even as a region, so that that was very exciting and enticing.
“Obviously, it came with responsibility to do it right, and that required multiple research trips to the various regions because it is not just one country, it’s many, and many different cultures, and we were really immersing ourselves and our crew in many different cultures.
“We were also consulting our South-East Asian story trust, which was this sort of an Avengers-like team brought together to help this movie out from all kinds of different backgrounds, from musicians to anthropologists and cultural anthropologists and dancers, so it was a wonderful collaboration which really helped us put this film up on screen and do it the right way.”
Lopez Estrada added it was “essential” that Asian stars were cast in the voice roles, adding: “It was like every single person embodied the movie and the characters in a really, really inspiring way.
“The way that they used their role in the movie to advocate for their communities and what it represents to each of them, how they connected to the characters, it was really special.
“I think it just meant so much to each of them to be a part of this and to be bringing this story to life. I think it was a real treat to see the life that they breathe into the movie.”
Raya And The Last Dragon is available now on DVD and Blu-ray and is available to all Disney+ subscribers for no additional cost.