I went into Raya and the Last Dragon totally cold. No trailers, no reviews, nada. So I had zero expectations.

In ye olden days, Disney (via hand-drawn cells) was capable of producing shorts on a continuing basis, but features on average one per year in the 1940s, dropping five total in the 1950s, three in the ’60s, four in the ’70s and onward at an equal rate –

until CAPD animation arrived with The Little Mermaid, afaik, also the first to be shot on Eastman Color negative, and not SE. Anything hand-drawn or in a 2D format seems to have ended at least a decade ago, with the latest digital incarnations coming to the fore.

That era also moved the features up to one per year, with the general quality of the animation improving along the way.

One thing now seems to presumably be set in stone, and that’s the appearance of (at least) lead characters, ie Disney “princesse,” of which Raya seems to fit that bill.

Watching Raya, I couldn’t get over the fact that she looked (aside from some basic cultural features) akin to virtually every other Disney “princess” of past films.

And by that I mean the “Big Eyes” look.

For those unaware, see Tim Burton’s 2014 Big Eyes, with Amy Adams as Margaret Keane.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, and seemingly the current Disney standard issue appearance.

While that concept was going through my mind, I realized that I was totally enjoying Raya. The reality is that it’s quite an extraordinary animation experience. The details, depth and color are what’s the word?

Magisterial.

So as Disney’s candidate for next year’s Academy Award for animation, it’s a film well worth your time, and as a 4k Blu-ray, one of the finest yet produced.

Probably because it’s derived from a true 4k DI.

HDR works beautifully, and the Dolby Atmos track is properly room-filling.


Nice to have a film that both kids and adults can watch, and the positive message doesn’t hurt either.

Image – 5


Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Plays nicely with projectors – Yes


Highly Recommended

RAH
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Robert Harris

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jim_falconer

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Thanks for the review Robert. My daughter is really looking forward to seeing this film, so it’s nice to know I can watch it with her, and find some enjoyment
 

Sinbad75

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Thanks for the write up! Now, with less than 2 weeks before street date for blu-ray and 4K discs, it sure would be nice to see a pre-order! Especially for the Best Buy steelbook! 😟
 

Malcolm R

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and the Dolby Atmos track is properly room-filling.
That's good to know, as recent Disney discs have been notorious for being mastered at a very low levels. What would be my normal volume setting for any other disc needs to be cranked much higher on Disney titles.
 

Sam Favate

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We thoroughly enjoyed this in my house, and are also eagerly awaiting the 4K disc, but here we are, two weeks shy of release date and there are no preorders anywhere. Disney sure doesn’t make this easy.
 

Robert Harris

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We thoroughly enjoyed this in my house, and are also eagerly awaiting the 4K disc, but here we are, two weeks shy of release date and there are no preorders anywhere. Disney sure doesn’t make this easy.
I doubt it has anything to do with Disney. Presume it’s supply problems.
 

Jake Lipson

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as Disney's candidate for next year's Academy Aware for animation

Actually, it is one of their canidaters. Disney Animation has another release this year as well, so they will have two contenders for the award competing against each other. The second one, Encanto will be released in the traditional Disney Animation Thanksgiving week period.

Raya was originally dated for release last Thanksgiving prior to the release schedule being throughly scrambled by COVID, so they ended up with two 2021 films instead of one film per year as usual.
 
Last edited:

Lord Dalek

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Apparently RAH was replaced by Richard Roeper circa February 2002 on this review.
 

benbess

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I saw this in the theater and also enjoyed it quite a bit.

But I'm still missing hand-drawn animation. I wish at least Disney + would bring that back.
 

Sam Favate

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Ten days away from release day and literally no one has this available to preorder.
 

Kent K H

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I guess I’m in the minority on this one. I caught it in the theater and everything about it just missed for me. Everything seemed very coldly calculated. Despite putting everything through an Avatar:TLA filter, the design felt super generic, especially with regard to the characters. The animation felt stilted and video-gamey, especially compared compared to some of their other recent work (especially Tangled, which used excellent squash and stretch.) The characters and story felt like a mash-up of things I’d seen before, and because everything was so middle-of-the road, nothing really sold me on it. I’m glad other folks enjoyed it, but it didn’t do it for me.
 

DanH1972

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That's good to know, as recent Disney discs have been notorious for being mastered at a very low levels. What would be my normal volume setting for any other disc needs to be cranked much higher on Disney titles.
Not just volume subdued, but locked or limited Atmos usage, squashed dynamic range, depth of surround sparsely utilized, low frequency filtered, etc.
 

Dick

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I saw this in the theater and also enjoyed it quite a bit.

But I'm still missing hand-drawn animation. I wish at least Disney + would bring that back.

I concur. At least their cel animation went out on a strong note (PRINCESS AND THE FROG), but I wish they hadn't dropped it after that one. Unfortunately, the studio would have to completely gear up a massive number of hand-drawing animators and inkers and all that if they decided to delve back into it, and any film that might be produced would likely take years to reach the screen.

Disney has made some excellent CGI features, but as RAH conferred, the characters tend to look as though modeled from the same mold -- particularly the "lead" female protagonists -- as opposed to the cel animated features, which mostly had very unique drawing styles from one to the next. I get that little girls need role models, even if animated, but where are the male heroes for little boys lately? Few and far between.