Disney's 'Raya and the Last Dragon' sparks mixed reactions on Asian representation

Cynthia Silva and Variety
·4 min read

Disney’s newly released trailer for “Raya and the Last Dragon” has spurred mixed reactions regarding Asian representation.

The new trailer for the upcoming animated feature — inspired by Southeast Asian cultures — gives audiences a more in-depth look at Raya (voiced by Kelly-Marie Tran) as she rallies her warrior crew and con artists on her quest to find the mythical “last dragon.”

The film features a voice cast full of Asian American celebrities like Awkwafina, Sandra Oh and Gemma Chan. Some have critiqued the fact that the majority of the prominent speaking roles go to East Asian cast members, pointing out that Tran is one of the few Southeast Asian actors in the animated film.

“I am actually very conflicted about the new Raya and the Last Dragon casting. I love all those cast members. But basically everyone, except KMT is East Asian. Imagine how big it would be they actually casted Southeast Asian actors. SE Asian actors are sorely lacking in Hollywood,” one user tweeted.

Others shared their excitement for Southeast Asian representation in Hollywood films. “Yay for little kids that get to see ourselves represented in Disney!” one user tweeted.

Though the film has created discussion in its representation, Tran will make history as the first Southeast Asian actress to lead a Disney animated film.

The actress wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in 2018 where she opened up about growing up, “as a person of color in a white-dominated world,” but her intentions on persevering nonetheless.

“I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white,” Tran wrote. “You might know me as Kelly. I am the first woman of color to have a leading role in a ‘Star Wars’ movie. I am the first Asian woman to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair. My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started.”

The film is set to be available on Disney Plus with Premier Access in most markets, at the same time as it is releases in theaters on March 5. Premier Access for the title will be priced at $29.99.

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