Neglected Reception of Disney’s Animated Movie: Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon, a potent film, suffered from underrecognition due to several factors. Here’s why it went unnoticed.

Released in 2021 and directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, the animated film recounts the tale of Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), a warrior princess safeguarding an ancient dragon gem with immense power. When the gem shatters into five pieces, releasing malevolent Druun spirits, Raya embarks on a quest to restore it and save her world, teaming up with the last dragon.

Initially set for a 2020 release, the movie was delayed to March 2021 due to the pandemic. It hit theaters and Disney+ with a $29.99 premium fee. Although it garnered positive reviews for its unique characters and Disney’s atypical approach, its financial performance was lackluster. Despite accumulating over a billion hours streamed once the premium window closed, its overshadowed strengths and weak box office figures hindered its recognition. Let’s delve into the reasons behind its oversight.

Simultaneous Streaming Release The film’s box office failure was mainly attributed to its release strategy. It debuted in theaters and on Disney+ with an extra $30 charge on top of subscribers’ monthly fees. While families found this cost-effective, individuals found it less enticing. The promise of future free access dissuaded potential viewers. This dual release pattern led to both financial disappointment and a disjointed public response. The absence of a collective viewing moment hindered its momentum, unlike the buzz generated by Disney’s Encanto.

Inopportune Timing The movie’s release coincided with the pandemic, discouraging theater attendance. Home viewing, though convenient, posed challenges, considering economic strains caused by the pandemic. The film faced competition from other releases like Luca and Encanto, with the latter having a robust theater run before transitioning to streaming.

Poor Theater Promotion Further complicating matters, Raya received inadequate promotion in theaters, and some chains even declined to screen it due to negotiation issues with Disney. Pandemic restrictions and closures also hindered its theater presence. With its home availability, the theatrical promotion was minimal, resulting in limited screenings and little buzz.

Despite its release struggles, Raya and the Last Dragon remains a robust film, offering fresh perspectives and a compelling narrative. While its release circumstances hindered its visibility, it’s a captivating watch with stunning animation, engaging characters, and a poignant story.

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Nala, Scar, Mufasa, Timon, Pumbaa

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