Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon debuts this week in theaters and on Disney+ and it’s a groundbreaking film. The animated action-adventure is the first to be inspired by the cultures of Southeast Asia and also the first to feature a Southeast Asian Disney princess in its titular character, Raya. It’s a major moment for the studio, and for Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran, who voices Raya in the film, it’s a big deal because she’s not only of Southeast Asian descent herself but she’s also a major Disney fan — making the experience something she described as “incredible and rare”.
Speaking with ComicBook.com ahead of the film’s release, Tran spoke about how she wished she could share the experience with everyone who has ever wanted to be part of a Disney film.
“Oh man, that’s a big deal. Yeah, I grew up loving these movies and loving being a part of the Disney fandom,” Tran said. “Just being a kid that loved watching animated movies over and over and over and quoting them with my sisters. It was a huge part of my childhood. And so, to be a part of this is a really big deal for me. I’m really excited to share it with the world. And I just honestly wish I could share this with everyone who’s ever loved these movies and wanted to be a part of them. It is an absolutely incredible and rare experience that I really wish I could just share.”
While Tran can’t truly share what it’s like to be a groundbreaking Disney princess, she did share with fans a glimpse of what the process was like for her. Disney recently released a behind the scenes featurette in which Tran gave viewers a look at her makeshift home recording booth in which she recorded her lines for Raya as the coronavirus pandemic forced production on the film to be completed not at Disney Animation Studios, but from over 450 individual homes due to quarantine.
“Recording from home has been really fun, but there’s been some hard things especially with internet that’s always freezing,” Tran says in the featurette. “It can be really frustrating when you’re in the middle of a really good take.”
As for the significance of Raya being the first Southeast Asian Disney princess, the significance is something not lost on the film’s writers, either. Qui Nguyen previously told ComicBook.com that it was also significant that Raya’s not just a princess, but something of a superhero as well.
“Well, for me, this is the big dream,” Nguyen said. “I know that a lot of people are super excited about Raya being Disney’s first Southeast Asian princess. But, for me, it is such a big deal for her to be my kids’ new favorite superhero. It is something that I didn’t get to see growing up, someone that really represented me, our voice, our culture. And to be able to have that for my children is a blessing that will last way beyond my time here on earth. So, it’s an amazing moment to be part of this.”
Raya and The Last Dragon arrives in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access on March 5th.