Disney’s latest animated feature, Raya and The Last Dragon makes its way to audiences in theaters on Disney+ Premier Access on March 5th and it’s a film built on firsts. Not only will Raya, voiced by Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker star Kelly Marie Tran, be Disney’s first Southeast Asian princess, but it’s also the first Disney animated film inspired by the culture of that region. The film’s world of Kumandra may be a work of fiction, but it has real-world roots and while there’s no one culture or mythology the story draws from, writers Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen are explaining some of the inspirations behind the film.
ComicBook.com was on hand during a recent press day for Raya and The Last Dragon and when asked about the folklore that went into creating the story of the film, Lim explained that while there weren’t specific characters, there were stories that she said resonated.
“I don’t think there were specific characters within Southeast Asian mythology. But in Southeast Asia, there’s a great tradition of female leaders, military leaders, and warriors. And leaders of their realms. And also, the stories of Nagas and dragons, particularly with water,” Lim said. “In Malaysia, we have the warrior Tun Fatimah, and we have stories of Naga Tasik Chini, which is the dragon of Chini Lake. So it’s sort of within a lot of cultures in Southeast Asia. And so we knew it was one of those threads that would really resonate within the film.”
Nguyen shared that a Vietnamese story — as well as his own mother — were part of his inspiration.
“In Vietnamese culture, there’s this really famous story of the Trung sisters,” Nguyen said. “They’re like these famous Vietnamese warriors that I definitely thought of. Without a doubt, I think Adele and I drew inspirations for families from our parents. Specifically for me, from my mom. I know what she had to go through when she came to this country. And just to have that kind of fighting spirit. And also, just the kind of energy that our people have that you don’t always get to display on screen. It was important for us to show the real spirit of Southeast Asia out there.”
Raya and the Last Dragon arrives in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on March 5th.