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Why Raya's Companions Mean More Than You Think In Raya And The Last Dragon

Contains spoilers for Raya and the Last Dragon

The opening exposition of Disney's latest animated adventure, Raya and the Last Dragon, explains that its story takes place in a divided political landscape. At the film's outset, what was once a unified region called Kumandra has been separated into five distinct tribes called Tail, Spine, Talon, Fang, and Heart. The cause of that separation was a war between Kumandra's dragons and a species of evil beings called the Druun. Kumandra's dragons acted historically as deities of sorts for humanity by causing rain to fall, thus giving life to the world's plants and animals. The Druun, meanwhile, turn living creatures into lifeless stone.

Conveniently, the Druun are afraid of water, so the dragons' elemental affinity helped them fight back during the war. Nevertheless, the majority of the world's dragons were turned to stone, leading four of the final five living dragons to sacrifice themselves in order to create an orb that would stop the Druun for good. Humanity promptly fought for control of that orb, before it ultimately ended up in the care of what would become the Heart tribe, home of the titular Raya.

In the film's present, a plot by representatives of the Fang tribe during a gathering organized by Raya's father results in the orb shattering. The Druun then return, and representatives from each tribe end up with a shard of the shattered orb. Six years later, Raya meets Sisu, the last living dragon, on her quest to gather those shards and save the world. Along the way Raya amasses a team of allies, defined by not just by their individual abilities but their collective importance to reuniting Kumandra.

Friends without borders

Raya and Sisu first meet a shipowner and child chef named Boun in the land of the Tail tribe. He becomes responsible for their transportation between regions. Then, when visiting the Talon tribe, a con artist baby and her team of three monkey accomplices join the crew. Their acrobatics prove invaluable as the journey progresses. In Spine they add a warrior named Tong to the group. Finally, in the story's climax their crew cooperates with Namaari, the Fang tribe's princess, who deceived Raya six years prior and indirectly caused the orb to shatter.

Given the diverse skills wielded by each of Raya's crew members' abilities, it's easy to understand the cast around her as practical members of a well-rounded adventuring party. More than that, however, each of her allies represents one of the divided tribes of Kumandra. The fact that their tribal affiliations aren't always apparent is key to the film's message. Though members of each of the divided tribes must work with one another to save the world, by the end of the film they feel less like members of separate tribes and more like a cohesive team. Thus, the dream of Raya's father of reuniting Kumandra is accomplished on a small scale. The crew is a microcosm of the world.