Raya and the Last Dragon – Blu-ray Review

Raya and the Last Dragon

 Raya and the Last Dragon isn’t like any Disney princess film you’ve ever seen before. Like the Hong Kong wuxia flicks it’s inspired by, Raya is full of spectacle and adventure. This is Disney animation doing their version of an action film. So you’ll recognize a lot of the Disney tropes within the film. The modern-day Disney princess pattern of losing a family member and being driven by grief plays a big part in this, much like it did in Moana and Frozen. Then again, if it isn’t broke, then why fix it?

With each princess film they create, Disney animation takes the tried-and-true formula and tweaks it to serve the overall storyline and message. With much of the world divided, the film’s messaging of a unified world is something that we all need right now. After all, trust is a universal theme that can be relatable to all. 

Of course, this message is accompanied by some of Disney animation’s most realistic-looking work yet. From the water to the stone texture of the Druun’s victims, sometimes you won’t be able to tell if you’re watching a live-action or animated film. An incredible feat since the entire animation was done remotely at home during the pandemic shutdown.

When it comes to the cast, it’s terrific all-around. Awkwafina’s lightning-quick comedic timing is a perfect fit for the role of a slightly clueless dragon who sees the good in all of humanity. She’s a splendid complement to Kelly Marie Tran’s hardened and cautious Raya. Awkwafina and Kelly Marie Tran aren’t the only ones who bring so much energy to Raya

The film also boasts a lively ragtag supporting cast. Izaac Wang (Good Boys) brings a youthful spirit as the orphan teenager Boun. Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) also provides a surprising amount of depth to the warrior giant Tong. Then there’s the scene-stealing con artist toddler Noi, who delivers plenty of slapstick chaos to Raya.

Overall, Raya and the Last Dragon is an entertaining and surprisingly deep action-adventure fantasy. It’s not entirely perfect, but the mixture of martial arts action, deep messaging, realistic animation, and vibrant characters will quickly make you forget about its flaws and warm your heart in the process.

Movie Rating: 4/5 atoms

Raya and the Last Dragon - Awkwafina and Kelly Marie Tran

Video

Raya and the Last Dragon hits Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-AVC with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Right from the get-go, one can see that the video has an accurate and vibrant brightness. The shine and glow of the dragon gems and dragon magic naturally beams off the screen. However, due to the brightness of the picture, the black levels are a lighter shade of black. It’s dark, but it’s not a deep and inky black. Now, the color palette changes with each region in Kumandra. So the colors are rich and vibrant throughout—especially the iridescent colors of the dragon magic. At the same time, the details for Raya are next level. The hair, stone texture, and water are incredibly realistic, and the video transfer flawlessly shows it all off. Overall, this is a first-rate video transfer.

Video Rating: 5/5 atoms

Raya and the Last Dragon - Gemma Chan

Audio

Raya and the Last Dragon hits Blu-ray with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The sound effects are, for the most part, subtly distinct but accurate nonetheless. It doesn’t blast through your soundstage unless it fits in within the context of the scene. Much like the sound object placement, the atmospherics are also subtle. You don’t notice the atmospheric effects unless you pay attention to them. When it comes to James Newton Howard’s score, the score’s Southeast Asian influence plays dynamically across the soundstage. For instance, the bells roll like a wave across the soundstage and echo across all channels. However, despite all of the fun and chaos, the dialogue still takes priority over the entire mix and sounds clear throughout. Overall, this is a fine audio mix.

Audio Rating: 4/5 atoms

Raya and the Last Dragon - Kelly Marie Tran

Special Features

Raya and the Last Dragon‘s Blu-ray disc has the following special features on Blu-ray disc:

  • An Introduction to “Us Again”
  • “Us Again” 
  • Taste of Raya
  • Raya: Bringing it Home
  • Martial Artists
  • We are Kumandra
  • Outtakes
  • Fun Facts & Easter Eggs
  • The Story Behind the Storyboard with John Ripa
  • Deleted Scenes (with introductions by Fawn Veerasunthorn and John Ripa)
    • The Bridge
    • Escaping Namaari
    • Dragon Blade
    • Meet Boun
    • The Heart of the Dragon

“Us Again” is a brilliant and heartwarming short that played before Raya during its theatrical run. It’s definitely a must-see short that should win some animated short awards next year.

“Taste of Raya” is such a unique bonus feature because it’s a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s also a virtual dinner roundtable. In this virtual roundtable, the filmmakers and star Kelly Marie Tran talk about the experiences of the film for a hearty 22 minutes. Amazingly, a majority of the work done on Raya was done remotely at home. Working from home also included the voice actors—who had to set up sound recording forts in their own homes to record their parts for the film. So “Bringing It Home” has the filmmakers, animators, and cast talk about the challenges and experiences of working the film from home. “Outtakes” is practically an extension of “Bringing It Home” because it reveals all of the remote work done by the cast.

Screenwriter Qui Nguyen talks about the various Southeast Asian martial arts styles and weaponry in Raya. Before Qui Nguyen became a screenwriter, he was a fight director, so his insight into the martial arts world is highly insightful. “We are Kumandra” highlights the experts that are part of the Southeast Asian Story Trust and the Southeast Asian cultural influences and themes in Raya. “Fun Facts and Easter Eggs” feature information you’ll find in the other featurettes and some material that’ll be brand new.

“Behind the Storyboard” is a must-watch for any budding animators out there. Co-director John Ripa goes in-depth into the storyboarding phase of the film. Here, Ripa shows you one of the storyboarded scenes he pitched to the other filmmakers. It’s an excellent breakdown of what goes on in the storyboarding process. “Deleted Scenes” gets to explore some of the early ideas of the film, such as the Druun were more solid creatures and Raya’s sword was a more magical piece of weaponry that can take down the druun.

Special Features Rating: 4.5/5 atoms


Overall, Raya and the Last Dragon is a fantastic action-adventure fantasy aided by a flawless video transfer and a satisfying audio mix. The bonus features, too, are insightful and engaging. A difficult thing to do when the world is still partially shut down.

By the way, the thunderstorm sound in the Blu-ray’s menu works so well as relaxing background noise.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

Raya and the Last Dragon hits stores on Blu-ray on May 18th.

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1700 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.

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