Raya and The Last Dragon will not only be Disney's first animated movie with a Southeast Asian lead, but it will be one of the first Disney Animation features to be developed from remote locations amidst the ongoing pandemic.
As production on the movie gets underway, Entertainment Weekly exclusively revealed a major shuffle in cast and production. Star Wars' Kelly Marie Tran is taking over the eponymous part of Raya from Cassie Steele, while Awkwafina remains to play Sisu, a dragon trapped in human form.
Original directors Paul Briggs and Dean Wellins are now listed as co-directors, while Disney veteran Don Hall (Moana, Big Hero 6) and Carlos López Estrada are announced as the new lead directors. Crazy Rich Asians' Adele Lim penned the original script, but Qui Nguyen has recently been added as screenwriter.
With a March 2021 release date looming, it appears Disney is bringing in help to see the movie through these final months. Though there has been no word on why the leading actress or original directors were replaced. "As filmmakers, Don and Carlos 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 said in a statement to EW.
"And no small feat, directors Don and Carlos, writers Qui and Adele, and the entire crew of 400 Disney Animation artists are making this film together, while separated and working from home."
Disney has described the film as the story of "Raya, a lone warrior from the fantasy kingdom of Kumandra who teams up with a crew of misfits in her quest to find the Last Dragon and bring light and unity back to their world."
If all goes to plan, catch it in cinemas March 2021. In the meantime, here is every new Disney movie that we know about.