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What’s Up at the Movies: We Review “Raya and the Last Dragon”

Continuing their experiment in the world of digital releases, Disney has made their new animated film Raya and the Last Dragon simultaneously available in theaters and on their streaming service, Disney+. Raya marks the second time they have released a movie using Premier Access, which requires a one-time $30 fee on top of a Disney+ subscription and gives unlimited access to the movie before June 4th, when all subscribers can stream it for free.

With theatrical exclusivity looking increasingly unlikely to survive the pandemic, I expect this premium-hybrid approach to be something the studio continues to play with post-COVID, as long as it works better for them this time around than it did for Mulan. And it definitely should – while Mulan’s lukewarm response made it an easy movie to wait for, Raya is a whole-family winner, and those that pull the Premier Access trigger are unlikely to regret their investment.

Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon | Official Trailer

Inspired by the cultures of Southeast Asia, Raya and the Last Dragon takes place in the dragon-shaped land of Kumandra, long divided into five sections named for their place on the creature’s body. Since the legendary last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), sacrificed herself to defeat the evil Druun spirits 500 years prior, the five tribes have warred over the dragon gem, the last remnant of magic that protects their world. When a gamble for peace by the gem’s current protector, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) of the Heart tribe, returns the Druun to their world, his daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) embarks on a quest to revive Sisu and restore the gem before the spirits turn all Kumandra’s inhabitants to stone.

As you might have guessed, Raya is a fantasy-adventure with an expansive storyworld, the development

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