In the past, animation giant Walt Disney Studios has created strong female characters in their movies who veer away from the stereotypic ‘damsel in distress’ narrative, and achieve their dreams all on their own.
These strong, independent Disney princesses also represent different races and ethnicities— allowing for a more diverse roster of women that young girls can look up to and aspire to be like. (Read: 4 Young Actors We Can’t Wait to See Back on Screen This 2021)
Polynesian princess Moana, Scottish princess Merida, and Norwegian queen Elsa are just some of the new generation Disney women that are moving away from the usual girl-meets-boy-and-falls-in-love story that the animation studio has been writing for decades.
And this year, there will be a new female lead that will be representing yet another ethnicity of young women: the Southeast Asian princess, Raya!
On March 5, Princess Raya will finally be revealed to the world. In the movie Raya and the Last Dragon, the brave princess (who comes from fictional world Kumandra) is in search of the last dragon in the hopes of reuniting their once peaceful world. She meets obstacles and foes along the way, but fights her way through them to restore peace and harmony.
Because the movie takes inspiration from the cultures of Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Disney took it upon themselves to team up with equally strong Asian women to voice the characters in the film. Read below!
Kelly Marie Tran as Princess Raya
Kelly Marie Tran is a Vietnamese-American actress who will be voicing the female lead, Princess Raya. (Read: Bey Talks ‘Crash Landing,’ Music Inspirations, and More!)
Kelly is known for portraying Rose Tico in a couple of Star Wars films where she received several nominations for Best Supporting Actress, Best Female Newcomer, and Choice Breakout Movie Star. Her other past projects include playing the role of Tina in the Hope and Randy series, and voicing for the 2020 animated movie, The Croods: New Age.
Awkwafina as Sisu the Dragon
Nora Lum, known professionally as Awkwafina, is a comedian, media personality, and actress who has been in several movies and TV shows since 2005. In Raya and the Last Dragon, she is voicing Princess Raya’s trusty companion, Sisu the Dragon.
The 32-year-old Chinese- and Korean-American actress has famously played Constance in Ocean’s 8 and Goh Peik Lin in Crazy Rich Asians. Some of her TV shows include Saturday Night Live (SNL) where she served as a host in 2018, and her own show (which she co-produced and created) Awkwafina is Nora from Queens.
Sandra Oh as Virana, Chieftess of Fang Land
Sandra Oh is a Korean-Canadian-American actress whose been in the spotlight for over three decades. She is best known for her portrayal of Christina Yang in the longstanding medical drama series, Grey’s Anatomy. But apart from it, she has also appeared in Judging Amy and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
Sandra has also voiced several animated characters such as Mrs. Zhong from Over the Moon, Sun Park in American Dragon: Jake Long, and Ting Ting in Mulan II. Now, she gets to voice Virana in Raya and the Last Dragon.
Gemma Chan as Namaari
Gemma Chan is a British-Asian actress best known for playing Astrid Young-Teo in the 2018 film, Crazy Rich Asians. She also appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Captain Marvel as Minn-Erva, and in the 2013 Scottish series, Shetland, as Hattie James.
Gemma has also done some theater, having played roles in the 2013 play Our Ajax, 2014 play Yellow Face, and 2015 theater production of The Homecoming. In Raya and the Last Dragon, the rising actress voices Namaari, Raya’s enemy and Virana’s daughter.