Audiences looking for a worthwhile movie to watch last year had a hard time of things as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic forced the shutdown of countless movies in production around the world, and delayed the release of others that were already completed. That extensive list of movies delayed due to the pandemic’s impact includes Walt Disney Studios’ latest CG-flick, Raya and the Last Dragon. The movie was originally planned for release Nov. 25, 2020 (the week of Thanksgiving), but ended up making its theatrical debut months later, March 12, 2021. More than two months later – May 18 to be exact — the movie has made its way to home audiences on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD/BD combo pack. The movie itself is just as enjoyable in its home release as in its theatrical release. Its bonus content adds to that appeal. Though at the same time, it also raises at least one concern that deserves some attention. That concern will be addressed later. The pacing of the story featured here works with the story itself to make for even more appeal It will be discussed later, too. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie and its presentation in its new home presentation. All things considered, they make Raya and the Last Dragon a surprisingly welcome new offering from Disney.
Raya and the Last Dragon is a surprisingly welcome new offering from Walt Disney Studios. The enjoyment comes in the fact that it is an original story. It is not based on some book and is not yet another of the countless reboots that Disney has churned out in the past couple of years or so. The story featured here centers on a young woman – Raya – who sets out on a quest to reassemble the “Dragon Gem” years after representatives of the nations of Kumandra fought over the gem and cracked it into multiple pieces, unwittingly freeing a group of evil beings known as the Druun. The Druun turn everything they touch into stone, including Raya’s father. That set-up leads to Raya’s quest, which is in her mind, solely focused on bringing her father back to life so to speak. In the process, Raya meets Sisu, the last dragon, and a motley crew of friends from the nations of Kumandra. Her new friends’ own strife, which was also caused by the Druun, leads her to increasingly realize the need to trust and to trust in the good in people. While this (and the message of the need for unity and peace) is at the heart of the story, the movie’s creative heads do not allow any of that content to overpower the enjoyable action and adventure that makes up the rest of the story. What’s more, the story does well in avoiding being just another coming-of-age tale (which is what Moana, Disney’s most recent “princess” movie, was). Rather, it just culminates in Raya’s own personal realization and acceptance that she was limiting herself. Given, that self realization is a familiar plot element that is used in other movies from other studios, but it is presented in a unique, fresh fashion here. Keeping everything noted here in mind, the story featured in Raya and the Last Dragon serves as a strong starting point for the movie’s presentation. It is just one part of what makes the movie so surprisingly positive. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new home release enhances the viewing experience even more.
The bonus content featured in the home release of Raya and the Last Dragon is important to its new presentation because of the background that it provides to the story. The background in question is largely the story of how the movie’s creative heads and cast overcame limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic to make the movie still happen. The cast and crew discuss working from home in the feature “Raya” Bringing It Home.” They talk about the difficulties of trying to balance their work and home life as a result of being forced to work on the movie from home. From the issue of everyone trying to log onto one of Disney’s systems all at once so as to work on the movie (risking bogging down the system), to dealing with the presence of family while working, to the very mental impact of having to stare at a computer screen for eight (and sometimes more) hours a day just to make the movie happen, the group addresses here, a variety of obstacles that it faced in bringing the story to life. That alone makes for even more appreciation for the end product.
The noted bonus feature is just one of the key extras featured in the movie’s home release. “We Are Kumandra” and “Martial Artists” serve to show the dedication that all involved had to making the story true to its source material so to speak. Viewers learn through “We Are Kumandra” that the movie’s creative heads and voice cast traveled to Southeast Asia pre-pandemic as part of the movie’s pre-production to lean about the culture of the region so as to properly and accurately display it on screen. “Martial Artists” meanwhile profiles the martial arts expert who displayed the martial arts used across Southeast Asia for the fight scenes. Again, here is an example of the movie’s creative heads making sure the region, its people, and culture were honestly and honorably displayed. This is hardly the first time that a Disney movie and its staff have gone to such lengths to make one of its movies as accurate as possible. It just shows even more, that continued dedication. That, in turn, leads to even more appreciation for the movie.
On yet another note, the deleted scenes bonus are important to the overall presentation, too. They are important because in watching them, viewers will agree that they are scenes that were not needed considering what made the final cut versus that content. What’s more, that the deleted scenes show the Druun as some kind of supernatural entity type creature that can inhabit suits of armor and become evil warriors is also troubling. It creates the sense of some kind of anime type presentation, especially as Raya uses her sword (which is also part axe in the deleted scenes) to break through the Druun’s armor and “kill” them. The more subdued use of the Druun in the final product is so much better by comparison. So here again is more proof of the positive impact of the bonus content.
As a final touch, the “Taste of Raya” virtual dinner adds its own touch to the bonus content. The cast and creative heads enjoy a virtual dinner via Zoom as they talk about the work that went into the movie’s creation. The dinner in question features real Southeast Asian dishes as part of the event. Learning about those dishes and the importance of the representation of Asian culture and peoples in the movie industry adds its own touch to the presentation. All things considered, the bonus content featured in this movie adds quite a bit of engagement and entertainment to the movie and the viewing experience.
While the bonus content featured with the movie’s home release is its own overall positive, there is a concern tied to the bonus content. That concern comes in the reality that it is not featured in the movie’s DVD presentation. That is the only platform on which it is not presented. This leads one to feel that this is Disney trying to force viewers who want to watch the bonus content to have to pay even more mainly for that content. This is hardly the first time that Disney has gone this route, either. Keeping that in mind, it makes for even more frustration toward Disney on top of the frustration already caused by the company basically double charging viewers to watch certain movies on its streaming service, Disney+. It paints Disney even more as a company that cares more about money than the audiences. Maybe one day, Disney’s officials will come to their senses about all of this. In the meantime, audiences who want to watch the movie’s bonus content will have to pay anywhere from $25-$30 (and more counting sales tax). Even with that in mind, it thankfully is not enough to make the movie’s home presentation a failure. It is just something that really needs to be addressed by Disney. The pacing of the movie’s story rounds out its most important elements.
Raya and the Last Dragon clocks in at one hour, 47 minutes. That is just under the two hour mark. For families with young children, that is important to note because of the attention span of those younger viewers. Thankfully, the movie’s creative heads must have taken that into consideration. That is because even at that run time, the story moves along at a relatively stable pace. Even in the “slower” moments in which Raya and her growing group are on board Boun’s boat, the story manages to make the dialogue engaging and entertaining. The result of that solid pacing is that audiences of all ages will remain engaged and entertained throughout. That maintained engagement and entertainment results in that much more enjoyment in and appreciation for the original, action-filled story. That, coupled with the engagement and entertainment ensured through the movie’s bonus content, makes the overall presentation a rare positive presentation from Disney that actually deserves a spot among this year’s best new movies.
Walt Disney Studios’ movie Raya and the Last Dragon is a surprisingly enjoyable offering from the studio. That is due in part to its featured story. The story is an original work that follows a young woman’s quest to bring her father back to life. In the process, she learns a valuable lesson about trust and trusting in the good in people. The story also incorporates an equally important message about the need for peace and unity. This is all done without either aspect becoming preachy, and overpowering the rest of the story. What’s more, the story does not just rehash Moana’s whole coming-of-age story. All things considered here, the story proves to be a solid starting point for the movie. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release adds its own enjoyment to the viewing experience. That is because of the background that it offers audiences. The story’s pacing rounds out the most important of its elements. It ensures that even though the movie runs almost two hours, even young audiences will remain engaged and entertained throughout. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie in its home release. All things considered, they make the movie a surprisingly enjoyable offering from Disney. Raya and the Last Dragon is available now on DVD, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack.
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