At this point, we’re better off calling them “heroines” than “princesses,” because Disney’s newest protagonist looks to be more skilled at rescuing than being rescued.
We’re talking about the latest trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon, an upcoming animated film from Disney that features the first Southeast-Asian-inspired princess (and heroine).
In the 2-minute trailer that dropped last Wednesday, we can see Raya and what seemed to be her armadillo pet, Tuktuk, traverse a dark temple. Upon reaching the end, we see her battle with a masked figure using what appears to be a pair of Arnis sticks and executing the Philippines’ national martial art.
The trailer also shows the different tribes hailing from Kumandra, the movie’s fictional setting. They are divided, and it is up to Raya, guardian of the Dragon Gem, to find the last dragon and to ultimately restore peace.
Raya will be voiced by Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran, who rose to prominence for her role in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. Comedienne Awkwafina is also on board and will lend her voice to Sisu, the legendary dragon that Raya set herself out to find. The film is directed by Moana’s Don Hall and Carlo López Estrada, who’s also set to direct the live-action remake of Robin Hood. Malaysian-born screenwriter Adele Lim and Vietnamese-American playwright Qui Nguyen worked together on the screenplay. Talk about representation!
When the trailer dropped, eagle-eyed Filipino and Filipino-American viewers were able to catch the details that make the film partly yet distinctly Filipino. In particular, Raya donning the salakot headgear, swinging the eskrima sticks as arnis weapons, and bearing the native Moro weapon, the sudang or kris.
Not to mention, her skin is the right tone for someone of Southeast Asian descent. Top marks so far, Disney!
Raya and the Last Dragon hits theaters in March 2021. Let’s all just hope that the pandemic has let up by then so we can pay this heroine the respect she deserves.