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Carlos López Estrada, Don Hall
Kelly Marie Chan, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan
Writing Credits:
Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim

In a realm known as Kumandra, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon.

Box Office:
$100 million.
Opening Weekend
$8,502,498 on 2045 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English Dolby Atmos
English Descriptive Audio 2.0
Spanish Dolby+ 7.1
French Dolby+ 7.1
Japanese Dolby+ 7.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/19/2021

Us Again Short
• “Taste of Raya” Featurette
• “Bringing It All Back Home” Featurette
• “Martial Artists” Featurette
• “We Are Kumandra” Featurette
• “The Story Behind the Storyboard” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Sneak Peeks
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Raya and the Last Dragon [4K UHD] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 1, 2021)

On March 6, 2020, Disney released Pixar’s Onward - and then the COVID-19 shutdowns hit. The movie clearly suffered at the box office, as theaters largely closed within 10 days of its debut.

Almost exactly a year later, Disney put Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters. This became the studio’s first animated feature to make it to the big screen, as they opted to limit November 2020’s Pixar flick Soul to streaming only.

Disney hedged their bets with Raya, as it became available via streaming at the same time it reached movie theaters, but it still felt good to see Disney animation at multiplexes again. I don’t really understand why Disney didn’t do this kind of “hybrid” release for Soul and 2020’s Mulan as well.

During ancient times in the Asian territory of Kumandra, a plague of evil spirits called the Druun ravaged the land. The Druun turned all the living beings it touched to stone, but the realm’s dragons sacrificed themselves so their magic could ward off the sinister elements and restore life.

The dragons placed their power in a special orb, one that a mix of Kumandran tribes craved. Due to their fighting, they split the nation into five different territories, though the orb remained under the protection of the leaders of the Heart clan.

500 years later, Heart chief Benga (voiced by Daniel Dae Kim) attempts to unite the varying tribes, but Fang leader Virana (Sandra Oh) uses her daughter Namaari (Jona Xiao) to trick Benga’s daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and obtain the orb. Along the way, the magical object gets busted into five pieces, and each tribe makes off with a section.

This also reawakens the Druun, and they return with a vengeance. Among the causalities, Benga finds himself turned to stone.

Six years later, Raya proceeds on a quest to get all the chunks of the orb and use it to rid the world of the Druun – and bring back dear old dad, of course. Along the way, she manages to gain the powers of Sisu (Awkwafina), the “last dragon” who finalized the original plan.

With Sisu by her side – in human form due to her shapeshifting skills - Raya pursues her goals. They obtain unlikely allies and expected foes as they try to restore unity and life – with an inevitable confrontation against old foe Namaari (Gemma Chan).

I try my best to restrict my synopses to two paragraphs, but some movies make that more difficult than others. Sure, I could’ve limited Dragon to the TV Guide “young girl goes on a quest to obtain a magical object and defeat evil” blurb, but that seems insufficient for all the dimensions of Dragon.

Though now that I think of it, the simple overview might turn into enough, for despite all its characters and machinations, Dragon does come with a pretty rudimentary plot. In a divided land, one warrior attempts to bring peace – kinda sums it up, doesn’t it?

In terms of originality, Dragon falters, as shows a slew of references. Oh my, one could go a little batty if one played a game of “spot the influence” during a screening of Dragon!

Indeed, Dragon barely attempts to obscure these nods and/or lifts from prior films. For instance, it makes its Indiana Jones orientation abundantly early in the film,

From there, additional connections fly hot and heavy. The general spirit of Dragon will likely feel reminiscent of 1998’s original Mulan, and a slew of other obvious influences crop up along the way. Heck, we even get a sly nod to Apocalypse Now!

While the prevalence of these references ensure Dragon lacks great originality, they don’t limit the movie’s entertainment factor. Even with all these allusions, we get a very enjoyable ride from Dragon.

Though it takes a while for the movie to get into a groove. Perhaps because it relies on so much exposition in the first act, Dragon doesn’t really ignite until Raya finds Sisu.

Some of that occurs because Dragon can finally shed all the story basics and get down to the main plot, but it also happens because Awkwafina offers such a delightful presence. She makes Sisu funny, charming and lovable all at the same time, and she brings real gusto to a film that could’ve become leaden.

As good as Awkwafina is, she doesn’t carry the movie on her own – Sisu’s introduction just represents the point at which the main narrative kicks into gear and starts to become fun. From there, Dragon follows a plot that seems episodic but packed with enough creativity to succeed.

In particular, the escapades of Raya and company delight, especially as our lead picks up more comrades along the way. Each offers his/her own charms, and these scenes and characters make Dragon a consistently lively ride.

Does all this lead down a fairly predictable path toward a fairly predictable finale? Sure – you won’t find any real surprises here.

Nonetheless, Dragon boasts more than enough entertainment value for me to forget about any derivative elements. Exciting, funny and charming, this turns into one of Disney’s better efforts in recent memory.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Raya and the Last Dragon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. No notable problems appeared here, but the image fell a bit short of greatness.

Most of the time, sharpness was strong, as the vast majority of the flick showed tight, accurate delineation. However, some wider shots could be a smidgen soft, so the presentation lacked the rock-solid accuracy I expect from computer animated movies.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed no edge haloes. Source flaws also remained absent.

With its variety of settings, Dragon boasted a broad palette, though it often leaned toward teal. Still, we got variety, and the hues looked bright and dynamic throughout the film, and the disc’s HDR added oomph and power to the tones.

Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows seemed very good. HDR gave whites and contrast extra dimensionality. This was a very good transfer, but it just didn’t dazzle.

As for the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, it also worked well. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, most of the material stayed in the ambient realm, as the elements usually supported the settings in a general way.

Some action scenes managed to add activity from the sides and surrounds, and the entire track offered a good sense of place. The action sequences used all the channels in a satisfying manner and created a broad, involving sense of the material.

Audio quality was solid. Music sounded dynamic and full, and effects followed suit, as those elements appeared tight and accurate.

Speech came across as natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. All in all, this was a very nice soundtrack.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? The Atmos track added a bit of breadth and dimensionality to the audio.

As for visuals, the 4K UHD showed slightly stronger definition along with superior colors and blacks. The 4K UHD didn’t blow away the Blu-ray, but it became the more satisfying rendition of the film.

No extras appear on the 4K disc itself, but the included Blu-ray copy comes with some materials, and we start with Us Again, a short that ran in front of theatrical screenings of Raya. In this six-minute, 49-second film, an elderly couple gets to revisit their youth via a magical rainstorm.

I admit I thought Again seemed contrived and not especially charming when I saw it theatrically, and that view doesn’t change at home. It come with some cute moments but tries a little too hard to pull heartstrings.

We can view Again with or without a one-minute, 21-second Introduction from writer/director Zach A. Parrish. He discusses the film’s origins/influences and aspects of the story and choreography. Parrish gives us a pretty tight piece.

A featurette called Taste of Raya runs 22 minutes, nine seconds. It involves a Zoom discussion among directors Carlos Lopez Estrada and Don Hall, co-directors Paul Briggs and John Ripa, producer Osnat Shurer, writers Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen, head of story Fawn Veerasunthorn and actor Kelly Marie Tran.

While the participants share a virtual meal, they talk about story/characters as well as the movie’s inspirations, cultural elements, and related domains. We get a mix of decent notes about the film, but the “dining together” gimmick seems pointless, and too much of “Taste” digs into happy talk.

Bringing It All Back Home goes for 14 minutes, 35 seconds and involves Shurer, Estrada, Veerasunthorn, Briggs, Ripa, Hall, Lim, Nguyen, Tran, associate producer Nathan Curtis, editorial production supervisor James Romo, production coordinator Nora Rogers, head of animation Malcon Pierce, director of cinematography – lighting Adolph Lusinsky, head of animation Amy Smeed, head of post production Berenice Robinson, technology manager Meghan Gillet, editor Fabienne Rawley, visual effects supervisor Kyle Odermatt, senior technical support engineer Jessica Kain, production office manager Elise Aliberti, and supervising animator Andrew Feliciano.

“Back” examines the impact of the COVID pandemic on the production and the way the filmmakers needed to make the film from their homes. Inevitably, we get some happy talk, but “Back” provides a decent view of the movie’s unusual challenges.

With Martial Artists, we find a five-minute, 49-second piece that brings notes from Nguyen and Southeast Asia Story Trust anthropologist Dr. S. Steve Arounsack. They tell us about the fighting styles, weapons and choreography featured in the film. This becomes a short but tight examination of the subject matter.

We Are Kumandra spans nine minutes, nine seconds and involves Arounsack, Shurer, Southeast Asia Story Trust linguist Dr. Juliana Wijaya, Southeast Asia Story Trust archaeologist Dr. Chen Chanratana, Southeast Asia Story Trust architect Nathakrit “Tatan” Sunthareerat, Southeast Asia Story Trust curator Rebecca C. Hall, Southeast Asia Story Trust cultural consultant Jes Vu, and Southeast Asia Story Trust’s Emiko Saraswait Susilo and I Dewa Putu Berata Cudamani,

“We” discusses the creation of Kumandra and the cultural factors that influenced it. This turns into another reasonably effective reel.

A collection of Outtakes lasts two minutes, 23 seconds and shows the actors in their home recording studios. It’s too cutesy, but I like the glimpse of the unusual circumstances.

Under Fun Facts and Easter Eggs, we locate a four-minute, 16-second segment that gives us a look at “hidden secrets” found in the movie. It provides a mostly fun look at influences and connections.

The Story Behind the Storyboard goes for five minutes, two seconds and presents remarks from Ripa. He offers a brief tutorial on storyboarding and guides us through one of the film’s specific sequences. Ripa offers some useful insights.

Five Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 19 minutes, a total that includes introductions from Veerasunthorn and Ripa. In these sequences, we get some alternate action scenes and different depictions of characters. None of them seem particularly substantial, but they can be fun to see.

As for the intros, they give us basics about the scenes and not much more. We don’t learn much about why the sequences failed to make the film.

The Blu-ray opens with an ad for Luca. No trailer for Dragon appears here.

A fun mix of action, drama and comedy, Raya and the Last Dragon becomes a pretty solid animated effort. It starts a little slowly but once it gets into a groove, it delights. The 4K UHD brings very good picture and audio along with a decent set of bonus materials. Dragon stands as an enjoyable tale.

To rate this film visit the prior review of RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main