Over the years, Disney has taken viewers to all sorts of mystical lands and magical kingdoms, and the latest film from the animation giant, Raya and the Last Dragon, is set in a brand new fantasy kingdom: Kumandra.
Of course, the kingdom – which is made up of five different areas that together form the shape of a dragon – is not actually a real place, but it does take inspiration from a number of different countries in Southeast Asia, including Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com ahead of the film’s release, directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada and co-writer Qui Nguyen explained that the process of creating Kumandra started before they even came on board.
“Our co-director Paul Briggs was part of that original team that went on this research trip to all over Southeast Asia over the course of three weeks,” Hall said. “And I remember when they came back they were just lit up, they were so excited to be able to take everything they learned from all the people they met and the things that they saw and build it into this fantasy world.”
And according to López Estrada, it was important to get across both the diversity of the region and the sense of community that exists between the different countries.
“Because I was born in Mexico City, I equate it a little bit to how Latin America feels,” he explained. “They’re very distinct cultures, very distinct countries but they all share something in common, and they all work to try and co-exist together and I think that was one of the things we wanted to get right.”
He elaborated, “One of the aspects of Kumandra that was most important was how can we show this diversity in the five lands that we’re creating, show that there’s different cultures, different landscapes, different fashion, different kinds of people, different points of view of the world – but also there exists this bigger tie that brings them all together.
“And that’s very much the foundation of the story. People have forgotten their similarities and pay a lot more attention to the things that set them apart and then throughout the course of the movie they remember that in the end there is a way to co-exist.”
For Nguyen, who is Vietnamese American, it was particularly important to make sure that these cultures were shown in an authentic and specific way.
“What’s so great about Kumandra is that it’s not a vague representation of Southeast Asia,” he said. “The architecture is very much based on the region, and it’s the same with the landscapes and the food.
“I think everyone who had Southeast Asian origins, we kind of arm-wrestled to decide what food to highlight on-screen at any given moment!”
Raya and the Last Dragon is available on Disney Plus from Friday 5th March 2021. If you want a full rundown of what you can watch we have a full Disney Plus content list, or the best TV Shows on Disney Plus. Looking for something to watch tonight? Check our TV Guide.