RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON is the latest Feature Film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and this astonishing-looking Fantasy Adventure is set in the world of Kumandra, a place where dragons and humans once co-existed together. After monsters known as the Druun surfaced, dragons sacrificed their lives almost becoming extinct. A young warrior named Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is tasked with locating the last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina) to stop the Druun from destroying humanity. However, zany Sisu alone might not be enough and Raya and her enemies, including Namaari (Gemma Chan), must learn to overcome their differences and trust one another to accomplish this.
With production taking place over the Pandemic, its Cast and Crew of 450 people – many who worked from home – RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON is a mystical journey that explores division and the importance of trust and community. Featuring a predominantly Asian Principal Voice Cast, the Film arrives at a time where some of its sentiments echo what the Asian community is be experiencing as we heal from a divide in the aftermath of the Pandemic.
See the Trailer:
We were thrilled to join the Global Press Conference for RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON and joining us were:
Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada – Directors
Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim – Writers
Osnat Shurer – Producer
Kelly Marie Tran – Raya
Awkwafina – Sisu
Gemma Chan – Namaari
Sandra Oh – Virana, Namaari‘s mother
Daniel Dae Kim – Chief Benja, Raya‘s father
Benedict Wong – Tong, a giant
Izaac Wang – Boun, a ten-year-old Entrepreneur
Thalia Tran – Little Noi, a toddler Ongi (a bit like a money, a bit like a catfish)
Moderating was Television Personality Jeannie Mai.
The symbology of dragons are very present in the Film and we learn that the Eastern Dragon is very different from common perception.
Lim: “It was so exciting to celebrate the Eastern Dragon and we realized this was something most of the world was not familiar with. In East Asia they are referred to as Nāgas , they’re water deities who bring auspiciousness, so it’s very different from the Western Dragon who’s winged and fire-breathing, something you have to destroy and take-down. We love this symbology in our Movie because Raya thinks she’s bringing forth this Water Dragon thinking she can just snap her fingers and solve all the problems in the world. Instead, what she finds is this crazy, zany creature voiced by Awkwafina, and she’s vulnerable and needs to be protected. She’s just quirky and always sees the good in people and Raya as a warrior, thinks this is nuts. It’s so rare we get a Hollywood movie with a special female friendship at the heart of it. The humour here comes from seeing the best in people, people who Raya thought were her enemies, people who’ve let you down. It was the Dragon who could see that potential and it inspires everyone to come together and get past it.”.
The younger Cast members Isaac Wang and ThaliaTrantalk about the Film’s Southeast Asian family values.
Wang: “It’s pretty crazy to think 450 people working on this Movie and they just stuffed a bunch of cultures into this Movie. It’s amazing to see all the things that are included from the food to the weapons that you see. I’ve been centered around only a couple cultures my whole life, so to see all these cultures is really amazing to me.”.
Tran (Thalia): “Playing Noi is like nothing I’ve ever done before. She doesn’t use English words, she speaks in her own language but that connection she has with her gang of Ongis (like catfish-monkeys), Tong, Raya and the whole gang, that sense of camaraderie and the sense of family, that is something I related to. Growing up in a Vietnamese family, I learned that family always comes first, from traditions to every day life, especially now in quarantine where I’m with my family all the time. It’s something that definitely clicked with me as I know what it feels like. For her to be so young and have her family be turned to stone by the Druun, and her to have to raise herself with the Ongis, that sense of strength I feel is something very common in Southeast Asian families, especially because it’s something very valued in terms of independence. There’s a lot about Noi even though she can’t speak words, people still can connect with.”.
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON explores a central theme of female friendship. Gemma Chan and Kelly Marie Tran comment on their characters’ rivalry and love-hate relationship.
Chan: “I love that they have this love-hate dynamic, but at the core they have so much in common. I love that Namaari has this aggressive exterior but underneath it all, she’s got this huge heart. She has this love for dragons that’s really been there since childhood and I really love that first scene where she locks eyes with Sisu. It’s as if she’s become a child again. I love that and that was my way into her really. We’ve all got people in our lives we’ve got a love-hate relationship with and I think it’s such a fine line. I love that Namaari and Raya have had that connection since childhood.”.
“It shows as children when we’re young we don’t inherently hate each other. It’s learned whether it comes through as something that’s parental, a family influence or a particular tribe. Those things are learned, but they can be unlearned. Kids get on and that’s something to take away from the Movie.”.
Tran (Kelly Marie): “Setting-up these characters as kids and seeing how authentically they can connect at a young age, and then cutting-forward and seeing the way they’ve been divided, it’s really incredible. We have this idea that the two characters switch places at one point. When I really think about it in my life when things like that have happened to me, I think about just how difficult it is to get out of your own biases from someone you see as an enemy. Incredibly by the end of the story, Raya and Namaari are willing to step outside of themselves and risk everything for this idea of community and what their relationship could have been all this time. It’s really inspiring and something I want to do in my own life. Their relationship in this Movie is one of my favourites because of how complicated it is.”.
Awkwafina comments on her comedic influences for the scene-stealing role of Sisu.
Awkwafina: “Genie was one of my favourite characters from my childhood so maybe there was a subconscious thing. The real beauty here is when I was approached to play Sisu and hear what her vibe was, I think I was given a chance to add my own voice to it and simultaneously build her up with the Directors who were always willing to explore and play. I think she was really born out of that process. The really cool thing about Sisu is that she was part my voice.”.
The Film also explores the father-daughter relationship between Chief Benja and Raya. The former is the Chief of Kumandra‘s heartland and Raya in line to be a ruler next.
Tran(Kelly Marie): “Benja and Raya are so reminiscent of the relationship between me and my own father – that reverence for your elders, how important family is and the way he bestows upon Raya all these incredible ideas at such a young age. Gosh, I cried in so many scenes with Benja.”.
Kim: “I really give a lot of credit to Don, Carlos and the Producing Team because the pitfall of the character is that he can be a Centurion Oratour, the kind of King who’s going to dictate the way everything is. But they kept pushing me to say ‘No, you have a really intimate, loving relationship with your daughter. Take it down, make it more intimate’, and it triggered something different in me and led me to finding that relationship. The second thing is Kelly, I was following you in the news and knew all the things you were about and these were characteristics I could relate to and connect to. It wasn’t just about our roles as characters, but knowing who you were as a person and that I could connect to that. When I watched the Film, I felt that we had that connection even though we weren’t in that booth together. It’s a real testament to your performance.”.
Aside from stunning lifelike animation, the Martial Arts in RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON is phenomenal. The Film’s two DirectorsDon Hall and Carlos López Estrada speak to this.
Hall: “We were fortunate the Martial Arts Coordinator also happened to be one of the Writers. We leaned on Qui quite a bit. There was one day he brought into the studio – how he got it past Security I don’t know – he brought a giant bag of weapons in to show us he was a legit Martial Arts Choreographer, which we didn’t doubt. But I think after seeing that bag of weapons, we probably treated him a little better after that too!
Estrada: “Just so that this doesn’t become a headline, I will back you up and say that they were stage weapons. The entire Crew, it was really special for them to have Qui down the hall. The Story Artists, the Animators, the vista of people, could just knock on his door and just say ‘Hey, check this move out, does this make sense?’ and Qui would give them links and bring them movies, do some in-office demonstrations. To have that direct access to someone who’s so knowledgeable in that region is invaluable and you really see that in the fights, they feel so different and so unique.”.
Nguyen: “A lot of credit goes to Maggie Macdonald who choreographed a lot of our reference fights and it was important for me to bring on a female Fight Choreographer. She brought on a female team of fighters to do the references because of our two leads are Raya and Namaari. The way a female body moves is just different and we had something that was really utilizing speed, strength and agility. You often see in movies like this Kung-Fu or Karate. It’s nice to see Southeast Asian Martial Arts shown in this way.”.
A point this Film is making is one about representation. The Cast is asked about the importance of this.
Oh: “It’s difficult because this was made in COVID times and the way Animation is made, you don’t get to meet everyone all the Directors do. I think it’s really seeing how Animation has moved on for someone like myself growing-up in the ’70s and ’80s and we didn’t really see anything. I feel like that has been the same way representation wise for a really long time. I actually am glad I’m still alive to be a part of this type of screen (she refers to the grid of predominantly Asian faces on the Zoom call grid) where you get to see the type of people who have made it. In that way it’s very exciting. It’s exciting to hear what Isaac and Thalia have to say and give them an opportunity to have their voices heard. Especially for the much younger generation for them to have a space to be heard. It’s an exhilarating change for someone like me to be a part of and witness.
Tran (Thalia): “We owe it all to people like you”.
We are faced with news of some horrific treatment the Asian community has faced subsequent to the Pandemic. The Cast talks about RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON‘s place in the world today.
Oh: “I was moved by the theme and ending of the story, which ultimately is about trust and how I myself am struggling with that. Art is here to pose questions and to potentially suggest possibility. And I think even if we start with that question in one’s self, ‘Who do I trust? How can I trust? Can I trust that other side? Can I trust that other side when it seems it’s very proof-positive that this is what has been done to me?’. As the theme of the story goes, we cannot continue without this open-heartedness. And the truth I think Raya learns is that you just have to keep having your heart broken again and again just to keep it open. Hate is not finished by hate, it is only won over by love. We have to each individually and as a large community – societally – move towards this because all of us are on the same boat. 2020 in all its destructiveness, if one can see opportunity to somehow it also has broken all our hearts open. So what can we do with all of that?”.
Hall: There were certainly moments during the making of the Film where we were very aware of how this Film which was meant to be timeless was unbelievably timely. I think it emboldened us to continue forward as I felt we had something to say. If this Film can just teach one person to be brave enough to trust someone, then we’ve done what we set-out to do.
Benedict Wong, who came dressed like his fumbling giant character, Tong, tells us about his experience watching the Film with his son.
Wong: “It was the first time we actually sat down and watched the Film entirely all the way through. Afterwards, he turned, gave me a hug and said ‘I trust you, Daddy’. We need this to unite. We are living through remnants of hate that have permeated through the world and again it’s very timely with our beautiful Film that shows that love can lead the way.”.
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON arrives on Disney+ with Premier Access and in theatres Friday, March 5, 2021.
A new Trailer for RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON has surfaced. The Animated Feature arrives next month, with a fantastic Voice Cast including Gemma Chan, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Awkwafina and Kelly Marie Tran.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” takes us on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.
See the new Trailer:
Raya and the Last Dragon arrives on Disney+ with Premiere Access on March 5, 2021.
Diversity and inclusion were front and center at this year’s 76th annual Golden Globe Awards, taking place at the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom. Hosted by Andy Samberg and now two-time Golden Globe winner, Ottawa-born Actress Sandra Oh, the Awards more than ever before saw representation. Oh who won Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Killing Eve, took a moment early in the broadcast, fighting back tears to say, “I wanted to be here to look out into this audience and witness this moment of change. And I’m not fooling myself. I’m not fooling myself. Next year can be different, it probably will be, but right now, this moment is real.”.
Peter Farrelly’s GREEN BOOK which won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF ‘ 18, landed on-top tripling-up with wins for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical,Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie) and Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Mahershala Ali).
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY scored a surprise upset winning Best Motion Picture – Drama and also Rami Malek winning Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for his portrayal of Queen Frontman Freddie Mercury.
Glenn Close won her third Golden Globe Award for her work in THE WIFE, garnering her Best Lead Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.
The evening saw ROMA shine, winning two Awards including Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón) and Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language. The groundbreaking Netflix release which premiered at TIFF ’18, further solidifies the streaming giant’s presence Awards Season and will represent Mexico at the Academy Awards next month.
In the Television categories, AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE and THE KOMINSKY METHOD came out on-top with two wins apiece. The former won Best Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Darren Criss) and Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. The latter won Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy (Michael Douglas) and Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. This marks Douglas’ sixth Golden Globe Award and in 2004 he was given the Cecil B DeMille Award
Jeff Bridges was honoured with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for this contributions to the world of Entertainment and earlier in the evening Funnywoman Carol Burnett was honoured with an eponymous award also for her trailblazing achievements and accomplishments.
Some of the evening’s most memorable looks included Lady Gaga in a Valentino nod to Judy Garland and Tiffany& Co. jewelry, Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians) in Valentino,Julia Roberts in a Stella McCartney pantsuit and newcomer Kiki Layne in Dior.
Nominations were unveiled this morning for the 76th edition of the Golden Globe Awards from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Coming out of nowhere to lead the tally was Adam McKay’s VICE, which still has yet to open in theatres. The Dick Cheney Biopic starring Christian Bale, comes out ahead with six nods, including Motion Picture – Comedy, Actor in a Comedy and Director.
Not far behind with five nominations, is Bradley Cooper’s Box Office and commercial success A STAR IS BORN which sees the Film nominated for Motion Picture – Drama and himself cross-nominated for Director and Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. Already a Golden Globe winner, Lady Gaga gets recognition again for her performance, up for Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Very shockingly, Sam Elliott didn’t get a nod for Supporting Actor after a win in the National Board of Review Awards last week.
THE FAVOURITE and GREEN BOOK, the latter which won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and also Best Picture at the National Board of Review Awards, likewise get five nominations. All three stars of the former are up for Actress in Motion Picture – Comedy (Olivia Colman) and Supporting Actress (Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz). Both stars of the latter are up for awards also in the category of Lead Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy (Viggo Mortensen) and Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali).
In Television categories, we saw AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE validated with four nominations including Best Limited Television Series, Actor in a Limited Series (Darren Criss),Actor in a Supporting Role in a Limited Series (Edgar Ramirez) and Actress in a Supporting Role in a Limited Series (Pénélope Cruz).
There is a six-way tie between BARRY, THE KOMISNKI METHOD, HOMECOMING, SHARP OBJECTS, THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL and A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL.
Mongrel Media x Mr. Will want to ring-in Chinese New Year by giving Readers a chance to win Run-of-Engagment Passes to see Mina Shum’s MEDITATION PARK.
Select winners also will win digital downloads of Shum’s other acclaimed Films WINDOW HORSES and also a copy of EVE & THE FIRE HORSE on DVD.
Mina Shum directs an all-star cast — including Cheng Pei Pei, Sandra Oh, Tzi Ma and DonMcKellar — in her latest feature, about a devoted wife and mother who is forced to reassess her reverence for her husband after she finds another woman’s undergarment in his laundry.
Growing up, National Film Board Animated Shorts like The Cat Came Back and Log Driver’s Waltz helped define what it meant to be Canadian. They represented a support of the arts and a style of animation that were unique and unlike anything produced elsewhere at the time. Ann Marie Fleming’s Movie Window Horses (The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming) is a nostalgic return to those halcyon days at the NFB.
Rosie (Sandra Oh) was raised by her grandparents after her mother died and her father disappeared. Her self-published book of poetry My eye Full, has brought her to the attention of a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran where she has been invited to share her work. Despite fearing rejection by her peers, Rosie flies to the home of her absentee father and immerses herself in Persian culture. At the festival she meets Dietmar (Don McKellar) a German hipster, Mehrnaz (the sublime Shohreh Aghdashloo) an Iranian professor, and DiDi (Jun Zhu) an exiled Chinese poet. Through them Rosie finds her voice and learns what it means to be a Poet.
The Movie works best when the animation is punctuating the poetry rather than chasing stories about Rosie’s father. In one particular scene early in the Movie, Rosie listens to the muezzins call out the morning prayer and sees rainbows stream from the top of the minarets around her. As someone who lived briefly in the Middle East, the images struck me as particularly beautiful expressing perfectly my own feelings about those first moments at dawn.
In a year punctuated by excellent Animated Movies, Window Horses stands apart thanks to its unique cross-cultural story. The poetry of animation and words will stay with audiences long after the Festival.
Window Horses screens:
Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 2:00 PMIsabel Bader Theatre Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 4:45 PMScotiabank Theatre
It was a massively star-studded second day in Toronto and Team Mr. Will had a bit better luck after a bit of a slow start to TIFF ‘ 16! Newly-minted Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio had King Street shut down as he walked the Red Carpet with grace for Global Warming Documentary BEFORE THE FLOOD, signing a whole lot of autographs for Fans who queued hours to see him in a rare visit to the City! Later on in the day, Joseph Gordon-Levitt faced the Media and Fans at the Premiere for his Award Season vehicle, SNOWDEN at Roy Thomson Hall. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway brought a sizable crowd to Ryerson Theatre to see her latest effort, COLOSSAL at its World Premiere. While immersed in controversy of late, THE BIRTH OF NATION, starring, written and directed by Nate Parker got two Premieres tonight around town and its run at TIFF ’16 just might be the publicity it needs to get itself back on the right path.
Canadian Television and Film Royalty have united in Toronto this past week for three separate Galas honouring the v. best we have to offer in Entertainment. Combining what formerly were known as the Genies and Geminis together, the Awards are given by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. Drawing some of the Country’s most familiar faces, the final Broadcast Gala took place, airing nationally on CBC, hosted by beloved Funnyman Martin Short.
Winning top honours this year was War Witch (Rebelle), a Drama about a 14-year-old Girl in Sub-Saharan Africa who tells her unborn Child the story of her life since she has experienced the War, which swept ten categories including Best Motion Picture and Director for Kim Nguyen. American Actor James Cromwell won for Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Still Mine, while War Witch‘s Rachel Mwanza won Actress in a Leading Role.
In the Television categories, CTV‘s now concluded Flashpoint won Dramatic Series, with Enrico Colantoni winning Lead Actor in a Dramatic Role. Meanwhile, Meg Tilly, who stars in Global Television Series Bomb Girls won Lead Actress in a Dramatic Role. HBO Canada‘s Less Than Kind won Comedy Series with its Wendel Meldrum winning Lead Actress in a Comedic Role. Gerry Dee won Lead Actor in a Comedic Role for CBC‘s Mr. D.
Many Stars braved the cold to greet Fans who lined hours at the Red Carpet including Laura Vandervoort, Catherine O’Hara, Geneviève Bujold, James Cromwell, Jay Baruchel, Stephen Amell, Xavier Dolan, Kristin Kreuk, Sandra Oh and several more. Even Vandervoort spotted me and even came over to say a quick “hi” recognizing me instantly! The Party continued at a Reception post-Gala at the venue, before making its way over to Rosewater Supper Club.