Disney’s latest animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon, units up a solo hero on a quest to save lots of the fantasy world of Komandra from the Druun, a senseless swarm that consumes all the things in its path. In the very starting of the film, Raya is a lone warrior on a mission to revive the final dragon.
But from the get go, the filmmakers behind Raya meant to subvert the Chosen One narrative.
“She thinks she’s going to awaken a dragon, and the dragon will solve all the world’s problems. And the dragon doesn’t. The dragon does something much more profound,” explains screenwriter Adele Lim.
Sisu, the paranormal final dragon of the film’s title, as a substitute evokes Raya to bond with these she as soon as thought-about enemies. The concept of connection and belief fueled the film’s inventive route, and knowledgeable lots of the large decisions that the filmmakers made — together with the ending, which finally modified to suit the place the story wound up going, Lim and producer Osnat Shurer inform Polygon.
[Ed. word: This publish incorporates main spoilers for Raya and the Last Dragon]
The Druun that plague Komandra and switch the civilians to stone don’t have any kind of agenda. They are a faceless, senseless entity that seeks to show humanity to ash and may’t be slayed by conventional weapons But they didn’t begin out that approach. Shurer says that within the early levels of the movie the faceless villains have been extra sentient and fightable.
“The more we thought about it, the more we dug deeper into the kind of story we wanted to tell, we knew it was important that it’s about humans,” Shurer says. “It’s in regards to the characters. It’s about Raya versus Namaari. It’s nearly two sides of the identical coin.
The determination to complicate Namaari as a personality — and develop her distinctive relationship with Raya — ended up affecting the Druun themselves. At one level, Namaari managed the Druun and was extra of a standard Disney villain. But Lim says that after they dove deeper into the character and selected to offer her a connection to Raya, she developed right into a extra nuanced and finally sympathetic character. The extra archetypical evil villain didn’t go well with her story.
Raya and Namaari have a singular relationship for a Disney film. Though Disney villains like Cruella de Vil and Maleficent proceed to be common, the studio’s more moderen films have executed away with the standard baddie, discovering extra threatening adversaries in pure forces like in Frozen 2 and Moana or whodunnit twists in Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. In the previous, when Disney villains did have current relationships with the protagonists, it was normally one with inherently unbalanced energy dynamics, reminiscent of Mother Gothel and Rapunzel of Tangled or Scar and Simba in The Lion King. But Namaari and Raya begin on equal footing as kids. As they develop up, they’re much less direct foes and extra dramatic foils.
“They knew each other as children and now view each other as enemies. They are also kind of secretly kind of like drawn intrigued by each other,” says Lim. “It was a very new, exciting relationship for the whole creative team.”
Reimagining the Druun as an awesome drive with out an agenda made them a extra thematically highly effective enemy for Raya and Namaari. Uncannily sufficient, that turned a really well timed drive to take care of in 2021.
“We even used to talk about them like a plague,” Shurer says, clarifying that the attitude was mentioned “years and years ago.”
But whereas the specter of the film shifted because the character dynamics developed, there was one main plot level the filmmakers knew must occur from the very starting: Raya wanted to lose Sisu. Indeed, within the film’s climax, Namaari by accident shoots Sisu. The final dragon is gone and the human characters want to determine if they’ll even defend in opposition to the Druun with out the dragon magic that’s protected them this lengthy.
“It subverts Raya’s original expectation that Sisu would come and wave a wand and everything would be alright,” explains Shurer. “The solution is among us. We have to learn to trust one another and get together. We knew that the dragon would have to be taken out of the picture.”
Sisu was at all times going to die, however there was some forwards and backwards on whether or not or not she and the remainder of the dragons would really return. Director Don Hall says there was a model the place Sisu was certainly the final dragon, with no chance of the others returning. The filmmakers thought lengthy about whether or not or not the dragons coming again would undermine the movie’s final message. But Shurer pushed for a contented ending from the very starting, wanting an enormous Disney second that made your “heart sing.” Eventually, after a lot forwards and backwards, they determined to embrace the pleased ending — one thing that truly speaks extra to the cultural ethos of the movie.
“What we were digging into psychologically is if we are the solution, why are we bringing the magical mystical creatures back in?” explains Shurer. “The place where we arrived is a place that’s more connected to a more Southeast Asian and South Asian perspective, which is when we found the solution for ourselves that we earned the right to manifest the mystical.”
Raya and the Last Dragon is on the market on Disney Plus Premier Access.