Editor’s note: Deadline’s Read the Script series debuts and celebrates the movie scripts that will be factors in this year’s movie award race.
In Raya and the last dragon, the kingdom of Kumandra splits apart when the gem protecting the kingdom of Druun shatters into five pieces. The film itself nearly fell apart when the Covid-19 pandemic forced all hosts and voice artists to stay home, but they persevered, as did Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) herself.
Raya lives in the Heart Realm with her father, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim). Years after the shattered gem allowed the Druun to return, Raya asks for help from Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon who can help restore peace (and restore Benja, who has turned to stone). They must travel to each region of Kumandra – Fang, Spine, Talon and Tail – to collect the missing pieces of the gem, while warriors from other kingdoms search for the same.
Sisu and the dragons in Raya are based on Asian dragons, very different from the fire-breathing monsters of medieval fantasy. Specifically, the animators based Sisu on the Naga dragons of Southeast Asia. The filmmakers based Kumandra’s various locations on research conducted in Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Screenwriters Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim brought more Asian influences to Raya and the last dragon; Malaysian warrior Tun Fatimah inspired Raya. However, as action-packed as Raya’s quest was, the filmmakers imbued the story with themes of unity and trust.
From March 2020 until its release, 900 Disney artists and technicians worked remotely on Raya and the last dragon, while the voice actors recorded their lines over Zoom. It only took two weeks to outfit everyone’s homes, but that involved new software and troubleshooting everyone’s internet connections.
Raya and the last dragon opens March 5 in theaters and on Disney+. It has since earned 10 Annie Award nominations and was nominated for Best Animated Feature by the Golden Globes. He is also eligible for Oscar nominations.
Click below to read Lim and Qui’s script.