Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon does not disappoint on 4K UHD Blu-ray, not only providing an exciting adventure but terrific audio and video.
The Production: 4.5/5
Long ago, the land of Kumandra was under attack by an evil force known as the Druun, laying waste to everything in its path and turning any living creature to stone. Dragons were the protector of the land, but they were no match for the Druun, who turned nearly all of the dragons to stone. The last remaining dragons teamed together and channeled their powers into a Dragon Stone, offering it to their baby sister Sisu (voiced with a lot of spunk by Awkwafina) to detonate and defeat the Druun. The successful defeat caused the people in Kumandra to splinter off into five independent societies when the Heart clan took possession of the Dragon Gem, leaving Fang, Spine, Talon, and Tail not only jealous of Heart’s prized possession, but envious as well. Five hundred years later, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) of Heart invites the four other clans for a celebration in hopes of reuniting the land. His daughter, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), seems to have found a friend in Namaari (Gemma Chan), the daughter of Chief Virana (Sandra Oh) from the Fang clan, with the hope of a peaceful dinner among the clans. Out of trust, Raya takes Namaari to the secret chamber where Sisu’s dragon gem is kept, only to be betrayed when Fang soldiers arrive in hopes of taking the gem. When a fight breaks out, the gem is shattered into five pieces, with each clan taking a fragment. Worse, the shattering of the gem has awakened the Druun, who have resumed their attack on the people of Kumandra. Raya escapes Heart with one of the gem fragments as the Druun turn her father to stone, spending the next six years travelling throughout Kumandra on her pet Tuk Tuk (grunted by Alan Tudyk) in search of Sisu with the hope that the Last Dragon can not only reunite the fractured gem, but Kumandra as well and defeat the Druun once and for all.
Like Pixar’s Soul, the production of Raya had to be completed remotely from animator’s homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And like Soul, you would never know that as the animation is quite possibly the best we’ve seen come out of the Walt Disney Animation Studios group. The action sequences are absolutely thrilling (with some nice callbacks to classic Asian cinema), but even the animation on the menu screen (which is very subtle) is breathtaking. The voice acting is exceptional (and it should considering its A and B level Asian cast). This is definitely one of the Disney Animation Studios best films in years.
3D Rating: NA
IMDB states that Raya and the Last Dragon was completed as a 4K Digital Intermediate, and Dolby Vision HDR was likely used for its premiere engagements. Disney’s 2160p HEVC-encode on this disc only offers HDR10 support, but this is still a great-looking disc. Fine detail is exceptional, revealing the smallest of pores and cracks in rocks, nearly every strand of hair on character’s heads, even intricate weaving on the fabrics of costumes. The colors are bright and vivid where necessary, with luscious blues and greens in heavily vegetated lands, dense browns in the arid desert areas. Blacks are deep and inky, retaining nice shadow details in darker sequences.
My first visit to a movie theater since the pandemic was to see Raya and the Last Dragon in a theater that claimed it was in Dolby Atmos. I was a bit disappointed in that presentation from an audio standpoint, but the Dolby Atmos track available on this UHD disc release is immersive and impressive, and almost complete 180 from that theatrical experience just a few months prior. Sounds travel seamlessly around the room with a great deal of depth. Overheads are engaged for atmospheric effects like rainstorms or when Sisu flies overhead. LFE is a bit of a disappointment, as I was expecting more rumbling during the Druun attacks. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout.
Special Features: 4/5
As usual for a Disney release, the UHD disc contains nothing but the movie, with all of the special features on the included Blu-ray edition of the film. The menu on both the UHD and Blu-ray discs are excellent for playing in the background for when you need assistance in relaxing.
An Introduction to “Us Again” (1080p; 1:21): Writer-Director Zach Parrish introduces the short film that played theatrically with Raya and the Last Dragon.
Us Again (1080p; 6:49): The fun and touching animated short that played theatrically with Raya and the Last Dragon. Sadly, it is presented in only 7.1 DTS-HD MA and not in Dolby Atmos.
Taste of Raya (1080p; 22:09): Raya herself, Kelly Marie Tran, shares a virtual dinner with some of the key members of the crew as they discuss the making of the film.
Raya: Bringing it Home (1080p; 14:35): The challenge of completing the film remotely.
Martial Artists (1080p; 5:49): Designing the many fight sequences in the film.
We Are Kumandra (1080p; 9:09): The Southeast Asian influences on the design of Kumandra.
Outtakes (1080p; 2:23): Some of the challenges of recording vocal performances from home.
Fun Facts & Easter Eggs (1080p; 4:16): A quick run through of some of the trivia and other easter eggs from the film.
The Story Behind the Storyboard with John Ripa (1080p; 5:02): Co-director Ripa discusses the use of storyboards in animation.
Deleted Scenes (1080p; ): Five scenes, mostly in storyboard form, are introduced by Head of Story Fawn Veerasunthorn and Co-Director John Ripa.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available) on Movies Anywhere. If your Movies Anywhere and Disney Movie Insiders (DMI) accounts are linked, you will also receive 200 points on DMI upon redemption.
Raya and the Last Dragon is an exciting animated action film, and one of the best from Walt Disney Animation Studios in years. The presentation on UHD disc is outstanding, and the extras are plentiful and interesting.
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