Kelly Marie Tran will play the lead role in Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon. The studio recently made the announcement that Tran, known best for her work as Rose Tico in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, has replaced Cassie Steele in the role of Raya. She joins Awkwafina (Ocean's 8, Crazy Rich Asians) who is set to voice the dragon, Sisu. The movie was first announced at Disney's D23 Expo last year and is set for release in early 2021.
Raya and the Last Dragon is the first movie in the long history of Walt Disney Animation to be inspired by Southeast Asia. That being the case, Casting Kelly Marie Tran, a Vietnamese-American, in the lead role makes a great deal of sense. Tran will be making history as she becomes the first actress of Southeast Asian descent to lead a Disney animated movie. Tran had this to say about the character to Entertainment Weekly.
"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. 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."
In addition to the casting update, Disney also released a new image from the movie, which showcases Raya from behind, as well as the animation style featured in the movie. It comes from directors Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada, as well as co-directors Paul Briggs and John Ripa. Dean Wellins was originally announced as the director but is said to be working on another Disney Animation project. Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho are on board as producers. Playwright Qui Nguyen Adele Lim penned the screenplay.
Raya and the Last Dragon is set in the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together in harmony long ago. However, sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land and the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, the same monsters have returned. A lone warrior, Raya, is tasked with tracking down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun once and for all. But during her journey, she'll learn that it will take more than dragon magic to save the world, it's going to take trust as well.
Kelly Marie Tran got her big break as Rose in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She reprised the role, though with limited screen time, in last year's The Rise of Skywalker. Tran is also set to appear in Hulu's Monsterland series later this year. Raya and the Last Dragon is currently set to hit theaters on March 12, 2021. Be sure to check out the new first-look image from the official Raya and the Last Dragon Twitter account.