In Disney's upcoming animated feature Raya and The Last Dragon, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker star Kelly Marie Tran will lend her voice to the titular character of Raya, a lone warrior set on a journey to track down the legendary last dragon as she seeks to save her world, Kumandra, and unite its divided people. In the film, Tran is joined by Awkwafina as the voice of that dragon, Sisu and as is the case in any animated film, getting just the right voices for the characters is an important part of the filmmaking process. And, according to Raya and The Last Dragon producer Osnat Shurer, both Awkwafina and Tran were just perfect fits for their respective roles.
"The process was the way we always work in film, our casting director's wonderful and is always in touch and bringing people to just meet us and even if we haven't seen them on the screen yet," Shurer told ComicBook.com. "One of those people that came in to meet us very early on was Awkwafina and she hadn't done Ocean's Eight, Crazy Rich Asians hadn't come out. And we spent an hour chatting with her and came away from that meeting knowing we were going to cast her as Sisu, the dragon. There was so much through her that was everything we wanted in the dragon, the vulnerability and the humor and the kind of great emotional connection to the story that was instant, so she was very much a co-creator in that character."
As for Tran, Shurer explained that she made the character of Raya come alive and they realized in the first recording session that the casting was a perfect fit.
"With Kelly Marie, and it's true for some of our other casting, that, you know, you form the character, you design the character, you know, the writers write and you hope that it'll come alive and come together to be what it is you want it to be," she said. "In this character, we knew that we could easily go too bitter or you know, it's a character that has to learn to trust, you can easily lose their likability or their warmth or their relatability. And the moment Kelly Marie went into the recording studio and did the first session, we knew that was not going to be a problem that we now have the right relationship of wit, humor, emotion, connection to the cultures that inspired the movie, talent. And one of the most wonderful human beings you get to meet or work with on top of that. So, there's the joy of that."
Shurer also said that it was a similar process for the other characters as well and that ultimately they landed on talent that fully embodied the characters.
"With each of the other characters we did a lot of auditioning, of course, a lot of conversations, meetings with people," Shurer said. "And all we're looking for is people who can embody the character. That's what you look for in animation in particular because they don't get to have their expression --the animators do that. So it has to come through in the quality of their being and the quality of their voice and their quality of how they take what's written on the page by these wonderful writers they have and bring it alive and make it theirs, and we feel like with each of them, we landed on somebody that embodies the character in ways that we couldn't have dreamed of."