Raya and the Last Dragon is, quite simply, yet another gleaming new world that Disney thrusts you into. It's vast, it's fresh, it's fantastical. But it costs £19.99 to stream on Disney+, and that's on top of your monthly subscription.
Disney's 59th animated film is about a young girl (Raya) on a quest to discover a mythical dragon and restore peace to an already splintered kingdom reminiscent to the divided world of Game Of Thrones. It's a premise that, when paired with Disney's distinct ethos and filmmaking style, doesn't feel like it could fail. And it doesn't really.
It's got everything you would expect to find in your typical Disney movie. Cute oddball sidekick, check. A bold, impulsive leader willing to risk her life to save the kingdom, check. A 'legendary' dragon that's actually just a fairly empathetic character that requires a bit more character building, check. The essence of unity and togetherness through family and friends, check. The list goes on.
On top of that, the world around them is far fuller than that of past titles like the original (never should've been remade) Mulan. It feels closer to that of the animation techniques in more recent outings but seems to up the anti a little bit. It's a film full to the brim of vivid and complex environements: grasslands, dusty plains, snowy mountains and richly coloured floating cities. You name it. You'll watch this and feel every moment of these characters' journey because the world around them is so excessively built up to cater for them.
That extends into the character design too. Every character is just as compelling and distinguished as you'd expect. From the outset you care about them because they're relatable and flawed. And, aside from an all too verbose dragon that screams "please buy me in a Happy Meal", they add energy to a predictable yet enjoyable story.
Raya and the Last Dragon is easily one of Disney's best films in a long time (excluding Pixar). It's just silly-expensive.
The price is actually a serious detractor. It's simply not worth that kind of money via a TV screen. If you're watching it on a big projector or home cinema with a load of mates or a big family then it might be worth £19.99 a pop, yes. But who has a top of the range 4K home cinema screen with a surround sound cinematic experience? And who has a load of mates over to watch Raya and the Last Dragon during a pandemic?
It begs the question: why was Soul not released with an extra premium when this film is? There's a lack of consistency on Disney's part in this case that feels a little too cash-grabby for my liking. The film is a fun time, but the politics surrounding it leave a foul taste.
Any Good? Yes, but wait for June 4th when it's free with Disney+.
Raya and the Last Dragon is now available to stream for £19.99 on Disney+