What Culture Is Raya Based On

Raya and the Last Dragon’s Many Cultural Influences Make for a Distinct World

Despite the fact that Raya and the Last Dragon’s fictional world is set 500 years after the presumed death of the last dragon, the film represents a bold new step for Disney animation in terms of setting and authentic cultural inspiration. “Raya and the Last Dragon” is a Disney animation film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. However, with the addition of Southeast Asian Raya and Polynesian “Princess” Moana to the Disney Princess roster, the company appears to be acknowledging the vast array of real-life cultures from which they might (responsibly) take inspiration for its princesses.

Where Does Raya and the Last Dragon Take Place?

According to the official synopsis, Raya and the Last Dragon takes place in Kumandra, which, if the dragons didn’t give it away, is a fictional fantasy realm. Of all, much like withHow to Train Your Dragon (which has both Scottish and Norwegian inspirations), this does not rule out the possibility that Kumandra is based on a genuine place—or, in this instance, a series of real-life locales. The creators took inspiration for the film from the cultures of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Malaysia, among other places.

The United States has a significant Southeast Asian American community, many of whom came to the country in the 1970s as refugees fleeing a war and humanitarian catastrophe in which the United States had played a prominent role—the conflict known as the Vietnam War—and found safety in the country.

As a result, Kumandra is not based on a specific country in Southeast Asia, but rather draws from many of the region’s distinct cultures to create a fictional world based on them.

Southeast Asia is a diversified area with a wide range of cultural traditions.

According to Polygon, Malyasian-born American playwright Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians) responded to the criticism of the pan-Southeast Asian representation by saying, “We have so many distinct individuals in this culture area.” It’s extremely tempting to see those distinctions as something that separate us rather than as things that bring us together.

“It’s also our language of love and our language of community.” As you can see from the screenwriter quotations above, Disney made significant steps to guarantee that Southeast Asian American viewpoints were represented prominently in the production of Raya.

Thai artist Fawn Veerasunthorn served as the film’s Head of Story, and she was also a member of the “Southeast Asia Story Trust,” which was established by Disney and brought together Southeast Asian choreographers, musicians, linguists, architects, cultural experts, martial artists, and anthropologists to consult on the project.

To gather information for the film, the Southeast Asia Story Trust embarked on a research tour of the area, which took them to places such as Indonesia and Malaysia as well as Thailand and Cambodia. They also visited Laos and Singapore as part of their preparations.

What Race and Ethnicity is Raya?

Despite the fact that race is only a social construct, it is one that America still utilizes to identify and debate the many distinct groups and identities that make up this country and the globe at large. Because Raya is from a fictional realm, the concepts of race and ethnicity do not transfer exactly one-to-one, yet she is commonly considered to be of Southeast Asian descent. Kelly Marie Tran, a Vietnamese-American actress, provides the voice of Raya. “It means a lot to me,” Tran said of her involvement in the film, which was published by Den of Geek.

  • As well as to feel that we are contributing to a more inclusive narrative when it comes to what people think of when they think of the term “princess,” or when they think of the word hero, or when they think of the word warrior, among other things.
  • I believe that the younger version of myself would be quite pleased with where I am now and what I am attempting.
  • has received some criticism for the lack of Southeast Asian representation in its voice cast, which is primarily comprised of people of East Asian descent.
  • Due to the scarcity of parts for Southeast Asian American performers, many members of the community and those outside the community were upset to learn that the majority of the main voice roles in Rayago went to actors of Chinese and Korean heritage.

The Cultural Inspiration Behind Dragon Sisu

Dragons are associated with a variety of cultural meanings in different regions of the world. Dragons are associated with conquest in the Western world; they are seen as something to be tamed and/or vanquished. Dragons are not regarded as a creature to be defeated, but rather as a strong and beneficent force in creation mythology, and they are frequently shown as symbols of good fortune, power, and strength in East Asia. The authors of Raya and the Last Dragon took inspiration for the dragon character Sisu from Southeast Asian dragon legend, notably the Nga, while developing the character.

“The difference between an Eastern or Chinese dragon and the Nga is that a Chinese dragon is centered on luck and strength,” scriptwriter Qui Nguyent told Polygon.

It’s only that teeny-tiny bit of a distinction.

Get the best of Den of Geek sent to your email every weekday morning! Which aspects of Raya and the Last Dragon’s setting and environment did you find the most appealing? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Disney’s ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Is Based on Southeast Asian Culture

The first official look for Disney’s new animated film Raya and the Last Dragon has been released today. This new Disney picture, which is being developed by the same company that brought you Moana and Frozen, follows Raya, who was raised to protect the dragon jewel and is now on a mission to find the final dragon in an attempt to bring peace to her divided people. However, even though the picture isn’t planned to enter cinemas until March 2021, people who have seen the first teaser are already anticipating its release.

The film is largely influenced by Southeast Asian traditions, and, like with Moana, many people are curious as to how correctly the film will capture the culture of the people it is supposed to represent in its final cut.

The answer is yes.

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‘Raya and the Last Dragon’s Kumandra is based on multiple Southeast Asian countries.

Raya and the Last Dragon takes set in the imaginary country of Kumandra, although it is actually inspired by the cultures of a number of Southeast Asian nations, particularly Thailand. According to The Hollywood Reporter, while working on the film, the filmmakers traveled to a number of nations in the area to gather research, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines, among others. Regional study, on the other hand, constituted only a minor fraction of the overall research conducted for the animated picture.

According to the publication, while completing their research, the filmmakers tried their hand at a variety of martial arts styles.

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Viewers have high hopes for the film.

Despite the fact that the first trailer has only been out for a short period of time, fans are already incredibly enthusiastic about the film, and many are hoping that it will deliver the representation they have been demanding from Disney for quite some time. Many individuals in the initial wave of comments are enthusiastic about Raya’s use of Arnis as a weapon, in addition to the fact that the majority of the characters in the film are people of color. The rest of the article is below the advertisement.

Kelley Marie Tran, a Vietnamese-American actress (you may recognize her as Rose Tico from the new Star Warsmovies), also lends her voice as Raya in the animated film.

In addition to hiring Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen to write the story for the picture, Disney also hired Michael Bay to direct the film.

Adele was born in Malaysia and previously worked as a co-writer on the film Crazy Rich Asians, which she also directed. Qui is a Vietnamese-American playwright whose prior work on The Society andDispatches From Elsewhere earned him a co-writing role in this production of The Society.

“Raya & The Last Dragon” Introduces Disney’s First Southeast Asian Princess With Great Care

There’s a lot riding on Disney’s newest animated picture, Raya and the Last Dragon, which marks the studio’s first appearance of a princess from a Southeast Asian country. Nevertheless, how is a single princess to symbolize a whole spreading part of the world? Raya and the Last Dragon was inspired by the countries, customs, and traditions of Southeast Asian (SEA) countries, all with the intention of making the most representative and authentic film that could be made. And it was no small accomplishment.

HowRayaRepresents Southeast Asian Countries

When developing the concept for Raya and the Last Dragon, the producers chose to adopt a comprehensive approach, which necessitated the foundation of what Disney dubbed the Southeast Asia Story Trust. The SEA Story Trust, which was led by producer Osnat Shurer, was a group of consultants from several Southeast Asian nations, including anthropologists, linguists, dancers, musicians, and others. ‘We were looking for underlying characteristics, not only aesthetically, but also philosophically,’ Shurer said at a January press conference.

  • As well, they organized a number of group study excursions, which brought the filmmakers behind Raya to places such as Laos.
  • Thailand.
  • Cambodia.
  • Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) is an 18-year-old girl who embarks on a mission to find the last dragon, Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina), in order to save her people from a terrible evil that turns humans into stone.
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In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Shurer said that one of the things that moved him and made the team want to set the film’s inspiration in Southeast Asia was the sense of community they encountered there, the importance of the word “we,” and the importance of the word “we” over the word “I.”

The Real Inspiration Behind The Last Dragon, Sisu

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures, used with permission. Rayais Sisu, the final dragon, who was inspired by the Naga, is perhaps the closest thing there is to a distinct Southeast Asian mythology in existence. A semi-divine entity that may take the appearance of humans or serpents, the Naga occurs in many Southeast Asian traditions as semi-divine beings. The Naga are mentioned in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and they are thought to have resided around the Mekong River, which runs through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

“The Naga are the guardians of the watery world, which they safeguard.

When we travel to temples or somewhere that has anything to do with water, you’ll notice emblems of the Naga, who is considered a water protector “As Steve Arounsack, a Lao visual anthropologist who participated as a consultant on the film, said to The Huffington Post,

RayaIsn’t Based On A Legend — But It’s Inspired By Real Women

No specific tradition or myth is used to tell the story of Raya and the Last Dragon. It is a completely original story. However, according to co-screenwriter Adele Lim, who is Malaysian, Raya is evocative of the Southeast Asian women with whom she grew up in Malaysia. According to Lim, “there is a long tradition of strong female leaders and fighters in the region, and I myself came from a family of very remarkable women who inspire me every day, while also scaring me a little bit,” she added.

The Real Cultural References Throughout Kumandra

As for particular cultural allusions, Raya and the Last Dragonis replete with them; nevertheless, they are not all drawn from the same source culture. “I frequently compare it to something like Excalibur,” Qui Nguyen, one of the film’s co-writers, said in an interview with /Film. There are a lot of European things that they’re drawing inspiration from, and it’s not just about Britain, Ireland, or anything like that; it’s more of a melting pot of European stories.” Because Raya is such a melting pot of Southeast Asian cultures, Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese heritage, expressed optimism that Southeast Asians of diverse ethnic backgrounds may be able to recognize some true characteristics in the film.

  1. For all of us, it was like a slew of cultural Easter eggs that we could point out and say, “Hey, you found your culture in this movie,” according to Nguyen, who spoke to NBC News.
  2. ” Then there are all of the martial arts that can be found in Raya, which were mostly drawn from Muay Thai, traditional Indonesian wrestling, Pencack silat (which can be found in Indonesia and Malaysia), and Arnis, a Filipino martial art.
  3. The majority of the other key cast members, including Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, and Sandra Oh, are of East Asian heritage, with the exception of Tran, who portrays Raya and is of Vietnamese descent.
  4. If you look at the lesser supporting roles, we have quite a few Southeast Asian specific performers that are ideal for the roles,”RayadirectorEstrada said when questioned explicitly about this criticism.
  5. The actress Nguyen stated in a separate interview with NBC that the whole ensemble, which included Southeast Asians and East Asians, felt a “deep, deep connection” to the film.

Another issue raised by the scriptwriter was that having an A-list voice cast would also assist to increase the film’s popularity. “I believe that it will aid in garnering the attention that this film, this narrative, and this message deserve,” says the director.

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is a sumptuous fantasy — but it makes a mess of Southeast Asian culture

Raya and the Last Dragon, the latest princess film from Disney, is a rich, gorgeously animated, lovable, and intriguing narrative that will captivate audiences. There are dark, complex themes in this comedy that is wonderfully written. There are memorable characters, a pair of gloriously fierce young girl competitors, as well as some of the most openly political statements that Disney has pushed in decades. Apart from that, it is a fantasy journey that will offer long-awaited treasure to Disney fans: Raya, the first Southeast Asian Disney princess to grace the big screen.

Because the film’s authors, Qui Nguyen (The Society) and Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians), are both Vietnamese-Americans and Malaysian-Americans, and extensive research has gone into Raya to ensure that the picture seems authentic to Southeast Asian audiences, the film has been dubbed “Raya.” In Raya, the dragons are mostly pulled from mythology and legends from Southeast Asia, while the sights and locations are mostly inspired by the region’s actual topography.

  • However, the film’s production team has received negative feedback from Southeast Asian audiences for hiring East Asian actors in many of the film’s most significant parts rather than Southeast Asian actors in the film’s most important roles.
  • They are Chinese and Korean American, Korean American, and British Chinese, to name a few variations on the theme.
  • However, there is another concern with the usage of East Asian actors: A combination of traditions from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and a half-dozen other countries has left Raya and the Last Dragon seeming jumbled and disrespectful.
  • Fans of other animated stories, such as The Lion King and The Dark Crystal, may believe that Raya has copied 80 percent of its rhythms from other animated stories.

Raya is the story of a society struggling to reunify and a girl struggling to trust in the wake of betrayal

Raya as a child with her father, just before things turn sour. Walt Disney Studios is a company that produces films and television shows. Raya (pronounced “RYE-ah”) is a fantasy novel set in a fictitious world named Kumandra, which is a fusion of Southeast Asian cultures and civilizations. On a global scale, the region comprises of over a dozen nations, including portions of India and the South Pacific, which together span hundreds of kilometers and contain a diverse range of languages, cultures, and island formations.

  • That is, until the land was invaded by a strange monster species known as the Druun, which turns everything they come into contact with into stone.
  • Essentially, they serve as a purple-cloud plot device for everything that happens afterward — several centuries of geopolitical strife and conflict.
  • The tribes of Kumandra come to blows because they lack the protection of dragon power to keep them safe.
  • Raya is still a young girl, making her an easy target for Namaari, the daughter of the Fang chief who has come to pay a visit.
  • But when Raya entrusts Namaari with a sensitive information, she is duped by the witch, setting off a chain of events that results in the unexpected return of the Druun.
  • As the planet’s ecological balance begins to deteriorate, the divisions among the remaining tribes become even more pronounced.
  • The dragons of this universe are inspired by the benevolent magical dragons of Vietnamese folklore, with a design that is based on the thenaga folklore of Thailand and other countries, among other sources.

Sisu, as voiced by Awkwafina, is a delightful addition to the Disney canon of magical sidekicks; she’s wisecracking but earnest, rambunctious but wise, and her loving nature serves as an excellent foil for Raya, who is vulnerable but much tougher as a result of Namaari’s influence.

Raya and Sisu are determined to bring the tribes back together as Raya’s father always intended.

Inevitably, this road trip brings them many new acquaintances as well as adversaries.

However, if you’re feeling the Airbender -ness of it all, you’ve probably guessed that Namaari may turn out to be the reluctant ally Raya has needed all along.

It’s a film that you’ll want to watch over and over again, and the story will hold up reasonably well on repeated viewings as well.

In addition to paying homage to the grand tradition of movie musicals, fromSingin’ in the RaintoLa La Land, the film’s story of an elderly couple rekindling their relationship through their shared love of dance feels like an accidental anthem for a vibrant city whose nightlife scenes have been completely shuttered due to the quarantine period.

But even if you do not, Us Again’s dazzling seven minutes alone are worth the nearly $30 add-on streaming fee for Raya.

For the majority of Disney fans, the main attraction will be well worth the price of admission. In spite of this, the blended version of Southeast Asia on display in Rayamay cause viewers to be conflicted about the way the film flattens all of Southeast Asia into the land of Kumandra.

Raya treats Southeast Asian cultures like a buffet

In Raya’s divided homeland, each of the five tribes has its own distinct topography and what appears to be an approximation of a different civilization, which are both distinct from one another. In contrast to Airbendermap, which remains the best example of this type of exercise in US animation, these four tribes of Airbendermap are not recognizably linked to cultures in our own world — at least not in the way that the four tribes of Airbendermap are identifiably linked to Inuit, Chinese, Tibetan, and Japanese cultures (to use what appears to be the most successful example of this type of exercise in US animation).

My confusion about what signifiers I was supposed to notice throughout my viewing of Raya persisted throughout the entire experience; at first, I assumed Raya’s tribe, Heart, was meant to be modeled on Thailand.

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Moreover, as a result of Hollywood’s desire for diversity, a greater appreciation for the value of cultural sensitivity has emerged, and Disney’s enormous impact means that its films are subjected to intense examination.

Maori writer Morgan Godfery said that the filmmakers “cut out digestible bits of exotica while refusing to keep faith with authentic Polynesian history and myths.” Perhaps as a result of the response, Raya’s creative team appears to have avoided engaging with any existing mythology at all, with the exception of the dragon notion.

He is credited with coming up with the tale concepts that Rayais was built on in this instance.

Respect and investigation are required at a bare minimum, and Raya’s production did an excellent job of the latter in its execution.

Aiming for cultural sensitivity in their representation, they established the Raya Southeast Asia Story Trust, which was comprised of a diverse group of experts including, according to Looper, “a textile expert, linguists (who gave their approval to every name in the film), and a visual anthropologist.” Nonetheless, it appears that much of this meticulous attention was paid only to aesthetics, rather than to crucial elements of the plot or worldbuilding in order to get the desired effect.

The production team includes numerous East Asian and Southeast Asian creators, including writers, animators, technical effects crew, and producers, but most of the final decision-making authority rested with directors Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting) and their co-directors, Paul Briggs (Big Hero 6) and John Ripa (Blindspotting), who worked together on the film (Moana).

  • That all of that well-intentioned research appears to have been done with the intentional goal of flattening Southeast Asia’s variety, reducing a dazzling array of unique civilizations into five tribes, is the most serious flaw in the entire project.
  • On multiple occasions, the aesthetics of the film will remind audiences more of Korea and China, and even more distant regions such as Samoa and Central America, than they would of Southeast Asia, according to the director.
  • A broad approach would seem like a safer bet after the disaster that was 2020’s terribleMulanremake, in which the film’s East Asian cultural signifiers were placed on display but were horribly mismanaged, but this is not necessarily the case.
  • Raya herself is a beautiful protagonist, and she’s undoubtedly one of my favorite Disney princesses by a long shot, despite the fact that she’s been unfairly compared to the Airbender franchise’s hot-blooded hero, Korra, in recent years (they even bear astrikingvisual resemblance).
  • She and Namaari have a gripping rivalry that is punctuated by action-packed battle sequences.
  • When I got near the conclusion, though, I started to notice how many stolen tropes the picture had, and it started to grate on me.
  • How many are from Bradford, or how many are from the six other persons who all share narrative credits with Nguyen and Lim, the majority of whom are non-Hispanic white men?

The credits rolled, and as they did, I found myself looking through the extensive list of English names linked with the score’s development, wondering how they might sound to someone from Southeast Asia.

In it, Jhené Aiko, an artist of partly Japanese origin, abandons the use of lyrics and instead sings the phrase “Kumandra, Kumandra” over and over again, as if only mentioning the film’s locale would be sufficient to provide us with any necessary clarification.

The generic characteristics of Raya provide the picture an overall hazy feel.

Its lack of clarity is a detriment to its effectiveness.

If there are greater objections to be raised about this film, it is possible that the individuals who are best positioned to raise them will not be able to view it.

It seemed evident that fans deserved a better film that more thoroughly and explicitly celebrated their cultures, rather than merely taking their gorgeous landscapes for an ordinary fantasy plot, and that they got what they got.

5 Ways ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Embraces Southeast Asian Culture

This warrior, who is clad with an Indonesian Kris-shaped curving sword and who is clad in a Filipino salakot on her head, is on a quest to restore peace in the dragon-shaped magical land of Kumandra, and she’ll need your help. What is her name? Raya. Raya, the eponymous character of Disney’s newest animated film, “Raya and the Last Dragon,” is also the first Southeast Asian princess to appear in a Disney film (voiced by Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran). The film’s production team went on their own journey, traveling across Southeast Asia (SEA) in search of Kumandra’s inspiration.

As producerOsnat Shurin stated in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “the significance of ‘we’ over ‘I'” enables the celebration of many SEA cultures to be done in a group setting rather than individually.

While watching “Raya and the Last Dragon,” make an effort to catch these cultural pearls that screenwriter Qui Nguyen recommends should be on the lookout for!

Southeast Asian Martial Arts

She is a warrior who wears a Filipino-style salakot on her head and wields a curved sword fashioned like an Indonesian Kris, and she is on a quest to restore peace in the dragon-shaped, mythical land of Kumandra. Can you tell me more about her? Raya. “Raya and the Last Dragon” is the title character of Disney’s newest animated film, as well as the first Southeast Asian princess to appear in a Disney film (voiced by Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran). The film’s production team went on their own journey, traveling across Southeast Asia (SEA) in search of Kumandra’s inspiration.

As producerOsnat Shurin stated in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “the significance of ‘we’ over ‘I'” enables the celebration of many SEA cultures to be done in a group rather than individually.

While watching “Raya and the Last Dragon,” make an effort to observe the cultural jewels that scriptwriter Qui Nguyen has scattered throughout the film.

Mythical SEA-Inspired Characters

Linguists from the crew’s Southeast Asian Narrative Trust gave their approval to each and every name that appeared in the story, each of which had a cultural meaning. Raya is Malay for “festivity,” and it means “celebration” in English. In Southern Thailand, it can also be translated as “one who leads.” Screenwriters Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim found inspiration for Raya from female Vietnamese fighters such as the Trung sisters when writing the screenplay. Nguyen was also inspired by his own mother, who he considered a role model.

“It was critical for us to convey the true essence of Southeast Asia to those outside the region.” ‘Sisu’ is a water dragon, spoken by Awkwafina, who is inspired by the Nga, a serpent-like creature that is claimed to lurk in the Mekong River and is portrayed by the actress.

And who could forget Tuk Tuk, Raya’s pillbug-pug-armadillo companion, who was named after the brilliantly colorful rickshaws that can be seen in Cambodia? courtesy of GIPHY

Respectful Hand Greetings

In order to welcome one another, Kumandrans construct a gem-shaped shape in the air with their hands and hoist it to their foreheads. “That’s a creative take on the typical welcomes you’ll see all over the region, where you have clasped hands,” visual anthropologist Steve Arounsack told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s a creative take on the regular greetings you’ll see all over the region, where you have clasped hands.” The higher your hands are raised, the greater the amount of respect you demonstrate towards others.

courtesy of GIPHY

Food, Food, Food

“It is also our language of love and our language of community,” screenwriter Adele Limsaid say in an interview with Polygon magazine. She is not exaggerating! “Raya and the Last Dragon” includes a broad variety of Southeast Asian fruits and delicacies, including longan, mangosteen, rice, jackfruit, palm sugar, dragonfruit, shrimp paste, Vietnamese bánh tét, and durian (the world’s smeltiest fruit, but one that must be tried!). During the film, the too relevant glorification of mangoes drew the attention of my ears.

My own favorite uses for it are in ice candy and as an ice cream topping in Halo-Halo, another delicious Filipino iconic dessert!

Locations in Kumandra

Throughout the video, audiences will be taken on a journey across the different landscapes of Kumandra’s five regions. Rice terraces, SEA-style houses, and traditional paper lanterns are just a few of the sights we observe. The land of Fang, as well as its architecture, was inspired by several of the locations visited by the Disney team on their research tours, notably the Angkor Wattemple in Cambodia. Furthermore, floating marketplaces in Laos, Thailand, and Indonesia served as inspiration for the creation of Talon.

Bangkok’s Damnoen Saduak floating market is a popular tourist destination.

‘Raya and the Last Dragon,’ which is now showing on Disney + Premier Access and in select cinemas, is now available to watch.

Raya and the Last Dragon Sparks Celebration and Calls for More Representation

With the release of Raya and the Last Dragon, Disney’s latest animated feature film, many in the Asian and Asian-American communities have reason to rejoice. In terms of Southeast Asian representation in Hollywood, the film is a watershed moment: Raya is Disney’s first Southeast Asian princess, and she is voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, who was the first Southeast Asian actor to lead an animated feature from the studio, marking a watershed moment in the region’s representation in Hollywood. It is set in the fictional continent of Kumandra, which Disney claims was inspired by the civilizations of Southeast Asia.

Qui Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American screenwriter, and Malaysian screenwriter Adele Lim, who is best known for co-writing the film Crazy Rich Asians, collaborated on the script for the film, which will be released on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5 and in select theaters on the same date, respectively.

  1. However, in Hollywood, taking a step forward is rarely straightforward.
  2. However, aside from Tran, the film also has a number of other Southeast Asian voice actors (most notably, the teen actresses Izaac Wang and Thalia Tran, who portray the characters Boun and Noi, respectively), although East Asian actors make up the vast bulk of the top-billed cast.
  3. Some people flocked to Twitter on the day the whole cast was unveiled to voice their dissatisfaction with the show.
  4. “Additional Voices,” which in this film include Filipino-American actors such as Vincent Rodriguez III (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Liza Del Mundo (W.I.T.C.H.

Sandy, who was also upset that the film did not depict a subject that was distinct to a certain nation, wrote, “This movie represents no one in particular.” According to Sandy, who talked to TIME ahead of the film’s premiere, the disappointment is compounded by the fact that Disney UK had produced a video advertisement in November 2020 that piqued her interest in what was possible in the film.

  • Carols, or star-shaped lanterns, which are a famous Christmastime adornment in the Philippines, were produced by the characters, and they also performedmano, which is a gesture that honors the elderly.
  • She is not alone in her immediate reaction to the situation.
  • Fans’ dissatisfaction has been exacerbated by the fact that they cannot access Disney+ in parts of Southeast Asia.
  • Also launching theatrically are nations such as Thailand and Malaysia, where AndRaya and the Last Dragon is currently showing.

Despite this, the lack of the streaming platform from a number of the nations that served as inspiration for the film has sparked debate regarding who the film is meant for. DISNEY—All Rights Reserved. 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

How the film was made

Disney went to considerable lengths, both literally and figuratively, in order to undertake research for the film Raya and the Last Dragon. In preparation for the pandemic, members of the production crew visited to countries such as Laos; Indonesia; Thailand; Vietnam; Cambodia; Malaysia; and Singapore to study about their respective cultures. The Southeast Asia Story Trust, which is comparable to the Oceanic Trust forMoana, was also established by the studio. In addition to Steve Arounsack, a Lao visual anthropologist, the Trust has a diverse collection of experts who have backgrounds in everything from music and dancing to architecture and martial arts.

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“It was interesting to have Fawn, myself, Adele, members of our animation and narrative teams, and other guests to arm wrestle a little bit about what we can celebrate in our own cultures.

Every one of us was proposing a different dish, so when you were able to get one tiny dish in there that was instantly identifiable, it meant the world to us.” He expresses his delight at a scene in which Raya makes an offering of bánh tét, a sticky rice cake traditionally eaten during Vietnamese New Year’s celebrations and which is also Nguyen’s favorite meal and one that reminds him of his homeland of Vietnam.

To put it another way, Nugyen thinks the technique taken by the team in constructing the imaginary realm of Kumandra may be compared to the creation of fantasy worlds that are inspired by pan-European influences on a bigger scale.

“The simple thing we might have done was to state that this area in Kumandra represented Thailand, this land represented Vietnam, and this land represented Malaysia,” Nguyen explains.

When it came to the visual development, there was a lot of discussion about identifying specific elements that could be found throughout a number of nations in Southeast Asia, says Lim.

The significance of representation in casting

Others in the Southeast Asian community had reactions similar to Sandy’s when they saw the predominantly East Asian cast for the first time on television. “It was definitely a mixture of enthusiasm, followed by fear and disappointment,” Carolina recalls of her initial reaction to the situation. A co-founder and artistic leader of The Sng Collective, a group devoted to elevating voices from the Vietnamese diaspora, he is also the group’s co-producing creative leader. Disney, in the opinion of the author, is a powerful enough brand that it does not need to rely on big-name performers to launch a successful movie.

  • Sandy cites the studio’s hiring of Auli’i Cravalho, a native Hawaiian who made her voice-acting debut asMoana in 2016, as an example of how Disney has launched successful films with unknown newcomers in the past.
  • This became particularly relevant when Cassie Steele, a Filipino-Canadian actress who was originally cast in the role of Raya, was replaced by Kelly Marie Tran in August 2020.
  • A “surprising” aspect of the film, according to Sirikul, was the fact that “no one of Filipino origin” was included in the major cast, despite the fact that the country is a part of Southeast Asia.
  • DISNEY—Disney in the year 2021.
  • According to Katie Do, even if the voice actors in an animated film are less obviously apparent than the performers in a live-action film, they have just as much potential to portray aspects of their personalities.
  • “I’m willing to guess that listening to Vietnamese, which is a tonal language, has impacted the way I talk.” As she points out, identifying with an actor in a film does not always need that the actor’s face be visible on the screen.

(The group was also a member of the Southeast Asia Story Trust, which had a similar mission.) According to him, “it’s even more crucial for youngsters, as they’re growing up and trying to reinforce their own confidence and sense of their own position in the world, for them to perceive the world as it should be—that is, truly” Do asserts that the performers themselves are not to blame for the miscasting of the film.

‘As a former Asian actress and writer, I know how difficult it is for Asian actors and Asian American actors to get into the industry, so I can’t really be furious with these East Asian actors for recognizing an opportunity and wanting to be a part of it,’ she explains.

According to David Huynh, co-founder of The Sng Collective as well as co-producing creative leader, “each employment is a way towards long-term sustainability in each artist’s professional life.” Why aren’t there more Southeast Asian artists there at those tables, participating in those talks, when this one job may catapult them to a higher level of success?

Specificity in storytelling

Raya and the Last Dragon (Raya and the Last Dragon) is a visual feast of cultural allusions derived from the whole region of Southeast Asia. However, there is a cost associated with casting a broader net. During a conversation on the sort of nuanced storytelling that he wants, Jonathan Castanien (another co-founder and co-producing creative leader at The Sng Collective) adds, “When we say ‘Asian,’ it’s a large gathering of people, of cultures, of history, of language.” According to him, “when we’re clustered together like that, it’s difficult to hit anything.” In addition to helping with representation, I believe that digging down into specifics will result in more richer tales and give us more to be thankful for.

The Gold House’s Chen adds that when it comes to how Southeast Asia has been depicted onscreen throughout history, “the main flaw with a lot of this portrayal is portraying the region as a monolith.” As an illustration, he cites Lee Isaac Chung’sMinarias as an example of a contemporary film that successfully portrayed a distinct tale in a universal manner.

  • “It was a very immigrant experience,” Chen explains further.
  • Currently, “a lot ofCrazy Rich Asians, Bling Empire, and House of Ho” are being shown, according to Asian CineVision’s Katie Do.
  • “I believe it heightens the model minority myth,” Do says of the popular narrative that emphasizes showy riches and privilege.
  • “There are folks who operate grocery shops, laundromats, and nail salons, and there’s a lot of subtlety to those kinds of businesses,” says the author.
  • In terms of wartime connections or wartime tragedies, we’re still saddled with a lot of baggage.
  • There are a number of Southeast Asian countries—ranging from Laos and Cambodia to Indonesia and Myanmar—whose tales are conveyed more sparingly in mainstream Hollywood entertainment despite this one-dimensional representation.
  • Is it, however, an accurate representation?
  • “On the other hand, a lot of our other Southeast Asian siblings and nations aren’t even mentioned in the discourse,” he explains further.

(Despite the fact that Crazy Rich Asians is set in Singapore, the majority of the characters are ethnic Chinese.) According to Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, an American Studies and English professor at the University of Virginia who is also the director of the Asian Pacific American Studies minor, “It’s not that East Asians are excluding Southeast Asians, it’s that East Asians and Southeast Asians are being put into a zero-sum game, where they have to compete for a limited amount of attention from people who finance and produce films.” She asserts that when it comes to the sorts of stories that are presented, “East Asian privilege” exists, according to her.

The popularity of Bong Joon-Ho is a factor in the production of Minaricoul, and I’m not sure it would have happened otherwise.

As she says, the money and support that went into the production of the two previous films prepared the ground for the subsequent ones.

It has been a while since there has been a Vietnamese-American film or a Filipino-American picture of the same caliber, adds Chong.

“Firsts” in order to get to “nexts”

Quynh Nguyen recalls asking his children who their favorite Asian superhero was and finding out that they couldn’t come up with a single name. In order for me to present them with a movie that they could see and that would have a good impact on their self-esteem, it was critical for me to show them that they had the agency to be the main protagonists in their own story, says Nguyen. He recalls their initial responses when they first saw the promotional photos for Raya and the Last Dragon. They were immediately taken aback by the fact that Raya resembled Nguyen’s mother and the character Tong resembled his father, and their first remarks were, “Wow, they look likeBà niandng ni,” which translates as “grandpa and grandma in Vietnamese.” Both Nguyen and Adele Lim believe that the film represents a significant step forward in terms of breaking new ground in terms of representation.

We’d like to think that we’ll live in a future where we’ll be able to work on a variety of projects that are inspired by many different parts of our cultures.

DISNEY—Disney in the year 2021.

And although some members of the Asian and Asian American communities have expressed disappointment over missed chances, many others are expressing joy as well.

“We are not attempting to bring anyone else down with our remarks.

According to Bing Chen, CEO of Gold House, “I enjoy ‘firsts’ for our community since firsts are necessary in order for us to get to ‘nexts.'” Correction received on March 7th.

She is a Malaysian, not a Malaysian-American, according to her passport.

Advocates argue that representation in Hollywood should not be limited to actors and actresses.

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