It’s taken almost 90 years – but Disney’s first South East Asian heroine premiered on Thursday. Raya is the titular character of Raya and the Last Dragon, which sees her travel around the region to reunite its people and attempt to save the world in the process. But aside from bearing the weight of humanity on her shoulders – she’s got another burden to bear. South East Asia is a region that is home to 11 countries and 673 million people. There are dozens, if not hundreds of different cultures in this region, which begs the question – what exactly is a South East Asian identity and can Disney’s latest heroine really embody it?
The movie is set in Kumandra – a fantasy land that’s home to five tribes – each of which has its own distinct culture, inspired by different places in South East Asia. Director Don Hall told the BBC the decision to film in the region was inspired by a trip the filmmaking team took there. The film doesn’t take place in today’s timeline, but rather imagines what the region might have looked like thousands of years ago.https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56277164