Kelly Marie Tran Cast in Lead Role in Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon

After her breakout success in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as Rose Tico and subsequent appearance in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Kelly Marie Tran is returning to Disney to lend her vocal talents to Raya and the Last Dragon, as she will voice the titular Raya. The upcoming film will be Disney Animation Studios’ first film inspired by Southeast Asia, while Tran is the first Southeast Asian actress to be the star of a project from the animation studio. The new project is being developed during the coronavirus pandemic, which presents interesting challenges for the production team, though the nature of the endeavor will still allow the filmmakers to move forward in ways live-action productions can't.

“As filmmakers, [directors] Don [Hall] and Carlos [López Estrada] bring a combination of animation know-how and emotional storytelling to Raya and the Last Dragon, bringing our fantasy adventure to surprising, original, and dynamic heights,” Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee shared in a statement to EW. “They both saw the potential for this film and had a strong vision for the story, especially for our lead character, played by the wonderfully talented Kelly Marie Tran. And no small feat, directors Don and Carlos, writers Qui [Nguyen] and Adele [Lim], and the entire crew of 400 Disney Animation artists are making this film together, while separated and working from home.”

Not only does the film have to adapt to the ongoing pandemic behind the scenes, but the filmmakers noted that the film itself will serve as a reflection of what people are currently going through in a number of ways.

raya and the last dragon movie
(Photo: Walt Disney Animation Studios/EW)

“I don’t know if Disney has ever made a movie that reflects so much what is happening with the world outside,” López Estrada detailed. “Even though our team has been working on this movie for years and years and years, it's going to feel like an idea that we had maybe a month ago because it talks so much about the themes and the questions and the hope that's happening today and also the lack of hope, and this wrestling with all these really, really important emotions that are happening right now.”

Tran went on to detail what made Raya such a compelling character.

“She is someone who is technically a princess but I think that what's really cool about this project, about this character, specifically is that everyone's trying to flip the narrative on what it means to be a princess,” Tran shared with the outlet. “Raya is totally a warrior. When she was a kid, she was excited to get her sword. And she grows up to be a really badass, gritty warrior and can really take care of herself.”

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Stay tuned for details on Raya and the Last Dragon, which is slated to hit theaters on March 12, 2021.

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