Within the first few minutes of "Raya and The Last Dragon," viewers will be hooked. The storytelling and world-building elements are creative, succinct and magical, making it one of the best modern Disney animated movies.
The creators of "Raya" present a fantasy world called Kumandra, where humans and dragons once lived together in harmony. But and evil entity called the Druun threatened the land and turned every living being it touched into stone. To save the world, the dragons sacrificed themselves.
Fast forward 500 years later, and the same evil returns to a divided Kumandra, split by vastly different nations named after a part of a dragon like Tail and Spine.
When threats invade her home in Heart, it's up to Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), her trusty animal pal Tuk Tuk, a dragon named Sisu (Awkwafina) and a team of misfits to save humanity.
Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon | Official Trailer www.youtube.com
The cast, including Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh and Benedict Wong, is phenomenal. They make each character immediately likable or intriguing upon their first appearance in the film. Combine the talented ensemble with gorgeous animation, and viewers feel immersed in Kumandra.
After watching "Raya," audiences will crave more from the world. They'll want to learn more about the individual nations, about the leaders and about the dragons. The world-building is that engaging.
Since the trailer's premiere, general audiences claim Sisu's design feels out of place. But maybe their minds will change when they see the movie in its entirety. Sisu is an awkward character who never felt like she was good enough, yet she's an all-powerful dragon. So it makes sense that her character design is a bit brighter and stands out when comparing the world's color palettes.
The pacing is appropriate, spending just the right amount of time on exposition, action and emotional storytelling. In the beginning the film's sub-plot devices feel predictable, but the last half of the film might surprise you and leave you in awe of Raya's character development.
Viewers walk away with an impact that feels all too relevant to the real world's current problems. All these reasons and more make "Raya" a must-see on anyone's list.
See "Raya and The Last Dragon" in theaters or on Disney+ with premier access starting Friday, March 5.
Follow Samantha Incorvaia on Twitter at @s_incorvaia.