Kelly Marie Tran is entering new heights of fame as a Disney film star. Disney will soon release “Raya and the Last Dragon,” the latest Disney animated film (RALD). This film (RALD) represents a major step forward in terms of Disney’s commitment to minority representation.
This film was co-written by Adele Lim, who is known for co-writing the hit film “Crazy Rich Asians.” RALD’s other author was Qui Nguyen, the well-respected Vietnamese-American screenwriter.
This film represents a new milestone in Tran’s career. Although Tran has starred in multiple Disney movies already, the Disney machine hasn’t always been kind to Tran. Tran made her first big splash with the general public through her role in “Star Wars, Episode 8: The Last Jedi.” Although that film was a huge financial success, it created a lot of controversy among diehard Star Wars fans. Unfortunately, many of the criticisms levelled at Tran were framed in sexist, racist terms. When Tran’s character was almost written out of “Star Wars: Episode 9,” many Tran supporters wondered if Disney had given in to its most virulent supporters.
Through RALD, Disney is demonstrating that it isn’t backing off its support for Tran. By highlighting this talented East Asian actress, Disney is doubling down on its commitment to multiculturalism. It is almost certain that Tran’s profile will continue to rise.
RALD is set in the fantasy kingdom of Kumandra. Although Kumandra is fictional, it is clearly based on Southeast Asia. Tran isn’t the only East Asian actor featured in RALD. The film’s all-star cast includes Sandra Oh, Daniel Dae Tim and Awkwafina. Some people felt that RALD’s cast needed more Southeast Asian actors. Nevertheless, there’s little doubt that Disney is helping push Tran’s career prospects to new heights. Thanks to her professional relationship with Disney, Tran could easily become one of the world’s most recognizable East Asian entertainment stars. After the rousing success of “Crazy Rich Asians,” it seemed like a safe bet for Hollywood studios to invest in films with lead actors. However, it took until now to see an East Asian actor star in one of Disney’s animated tentpole films.
Disney went to great lengths to pursue authenticity while researching for this animated story. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney staffers traveled throughout Southeast Asia. Led by Lao anthropologist S. Arounsack, this research team did its best to capture the flavor of Southeast Asian culture. Tran’s new film has great potential to interest people in cultures they may have previously overlooked.