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What Recording Raya And The Last Dragon Was Really Like For The Cast

Raya and the Last Dragon is set to be Walt Disney Animation Studios' 59th feature film, and the studio's first new film since Moana was released back in 2016. The film, directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada and co-directed by Paul Briggs and John Ripa, is set in a fantasy world called Kumandra and follows a powerful warrior named Raya on her mission to find the land's fabled last dragon. It promises to be one of the first major movie events of 2021 — despite its unorthodox release method – and early reviews indicate that the film is yet another successful creation from Disney.

Like most Disney Animation titles, Raya and the Last Dragon boasts a strong voice cast as well — with actors like Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Gemma Chan, and Alan Tudyk all voicing characters in the film. However, due to the workflow changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, recording their lines for the film ended up being a unique experience for the Raya cast.

The Raya and the Last Dragon voice cast's experience working on the film

Looper was in attendance during a recent press event for Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon, during which the film's voice cast opened up about their experience working on the film under unusual circumstances. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted production on the feature last year, and as a result, the Raya and the Last Dragon cast was forced to record their dialogue for the film remotely.

For Daniel Dae Kim — who voices Raya's father, Chief Benja — that wasn't much of an issue. The actor said it was "amazing [to] record from home." He added, "Living in Hawaii, anytime I try and travel to go shoot something, it's at least five hours and sometimes 11 by plane. To be able to walk downstairs in my T-shirt and shorts was pretty great." Dae Kim did admit that the process wasn't "without hiccups," referencing one of his "very first sessions," which Raya co-director Don Hall confirmed went on far longer than Dae Kim remembers. 

Meanwhile, unlike Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, who voices Tong in the film, revealed that he had the "luxury" to "go into a studio and record" his lines because he was in Perth, Western Australia at the time.

Fortunately, it seems the remote recording situation didn't impact the quality of the cast's voice work in the slightest. Kelly Marie Tran, who voices the film's titular character, gave "all the credit" to the people who made Raya a reality. "All the credit has to go to the story team, the editing team, all of the incredible team behind the movie. Because all of the actors, at least in my experience, we're all isolated and we're recording by ourselves," she said. Tran added that "to see all the chemistry of these incredible characters have, I think that says a lot about just the expertise of Disney animation." She called her time working on the film "an incredible experience."

Now, viewers will get to see just how well the Raya and the Last Dragon team's hard work paid off when the film hits select theaters and is released as a Disney+ Premier Access title on Friday, March 5.