Raya and the Last Dragon is one of three Disney films nominated today for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category. Directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada spoke to Deadline after their nomination was announced.
Raya is the first Southeast Asian Disney princess, who is also voiced by a Southeast Asian actress Kelly Marie Tran. With this in mind, representation was incredibly important to the directors.
“It was a place that was underexplored in film and representation,” says Hall. “We had many research trips very early on and the filmmaking teams just fell in love with all of the different cultures and everything that goes along with it. So we were determined to make a movie that honored that. A fantasy film obviously, but one that had deep respect and origins within the many different cultures of Southeast Asia.”
“I remember one of the most moving moments of the process was after we released the movie,” says López Estrada. “The kind people at Disney animation put together this real of reactions, specifically from Asian and Southeast Asian people, people from the AAPI community, just like seeing themselves on the screen, dressing up as the characters, sharing quotes, and the reactions of families and young people that were moved by seeing their cultures depicted in a Disney movie.”
“I’m glad Carlos brought that up because it was deeply moving,” says Hall. “I mean, nobody queued us up for it, I think, they just played it and we were all just massively, massively teared up.”
“I think we can say the same for our other studio film Encanto, and as a Latinx filmmaker,” says López Estrada, “I’m just so proud to see all these kinds of stories up on the screen.”