In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon. – Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Raya and the Last Dragon from Disney Home Entertainment.


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The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:


Extras:


Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

93



Details:

Studio and Year: Disney - 2021
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 107 minutes
Genre: Family

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, Spanish, French, Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Spanish, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Izaac Wong, Alan Tudyk
Directed by: Don Hall, Carlos Lopes Estrada
Music by: James Newton Howard
Written by: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim
Region Code: A,B,C


Release Date: May 18, 2021


"Trust…."


Synopsis:

In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon. – Disney Home Entertainment

My Take:

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world—it’s going to take trust as well.

Raya and the Last Dragon is exactly what you would expect from the creative team at Disney. I looked forward to seeing it after hearing nothing but praise from those that did. I would wholeheartedly have to agree. It's cleverly crafted, heartwarming, and charmingly amusing on levels that appeal to both children and their parents. The well-rounded narrative focuses on Raya’s quest to find the last dragon, destroy the Druun and save her world. It is also a journey of self-discovery—a quest filled with danger, adventure, humor and new friendships, yet tinged with regret, loss and anger born of the need to avenge a wrong. What Raya learns, and comes to believe is that we can trust, we can work together, we can unite.

The story has a contemporary coming of age essence, built around light, cultural folklore that seemingly takes place many years ago, eschewing overt thematic tones, instead, subtly driving its universal themes in a refreshing way that has appeal for audiences of all ages and genders.

Once again, the right actors chosen for the characters create an endearing quality that solidifies them within the context of the storyline, imparting genuine warmth, and where appropriate, funny bone tickling levity. Kelly Marie Tran nails the role of Raya, while the supporting players in Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Benedict Wong and Izaac Wong are terrific in their respective roles. The production elements are simply superlative and enhance the film with aplomb. I thoroughly enjoyed Raya and the Last Dragon and tip my cap to Disney's creative team on another job well done.



Replay Value:



Parental Guide:

The rating is for some violence, action and thematic elements.


AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.


UHD Presentation: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


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Dolby Atmos Rating: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



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Raya and the Last Dragon comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Disney Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

I opted to watch the Blu-ray of Raya and the Last Dragon first, so, when I sat down to view the Ultra HD Blu-ray its video presentation was still fresh in my mind. The Blu-ray looked fantastic so I wondered how much better the experience in Ultra HD would be. Raya and the Last Dragon in Ultra HD is rendered from a 2K DI and up-converted to 4K.

In terms of resolution the differences are apparent as there is a noticeably finer texture in the minutia, especially in the characteristics/physical makeup of the characters, particularly Tuk Tuk and Siso. This also applied to backgrounds which emphasized depth of field. The scenes that take place in the Heart (including the crystal chamber), small village and later during the final act in Namaari’s realm look nearly 3D at times.

The image has lots of pop as the expanded color gamut and emboldened dynamic range draw out the film’s color range and, use of contrast. Whites are gradational and bright and the monochromatic grays, blues and black featured in the sequences that take place in dimly lit environs, such as in the film’s opening and later in Namaari’s realm during the Druun attack, look terrific, appearing multi-staged and dimensional.

The application of HDR added a complimentary and defining element that proved eye-catching. Raya and the Last Dragon looks terrific in 1080p and the differences between that and the Ultra HD rendering aren’t vast but, are appreciable, resulting in a visually engaging and pleasing video presentation.


Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that makes steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix of atmospherics, music and discrete sound effects. This is done very well and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. There is some excellent use of the overhead channels during the sequence where Raya pursues Noi and her three bandit buddies and, the Druun attack in the finale, does a great job of bringing the entire platform to life. While this isn’t what I would regard as an aggressive Atmos mix I enjoyed the balance of atmosphere combined with discrete object placement. I think that it complimented the source material quite nicely.


For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews


Blu-ray Video:


Video: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)



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Audio: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


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    • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Raya and the Last Dragon comes to Blu-ray Disc from Disney Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound.

This is a pristine and reference quality high-definition presentation. The video quality is visually arresting in its depiction of the film’s animated subjects. Detail and definition is impeccably rendered as images have a luminous and sparkling clarity that is appreciably dimensional. Fine degrees of subtle delineation and texture are clearly discernible. The attention to detail in the construction of the animated characters physical features as well as objects within each frame is superb. Colors are richly saturated, vibrant and beautifully rendered. Primaries are particularly vivid and exhibit visibly delineated stages that bring out subtle degrees of separation. Contrast is spot on as blacks are inky with deep highlights, whites and grays exhibit multi-layered depth and refined detail that give them excellent dimension. Absolutely gorgeous!

The 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack makes for a rewarding home theater experience. This is a fairly active sound design that benefits from the additional rear channels. Dynamics are noteworthy as the elements contained within the recording have definitive energy and weight. The film’s music plays an integral role in the presentation, and the entire surround platform is used to present the vocal/instrumental performance. Dialog is crystalline with appreciable tonal inflection, and non-sibilant vocal character. The auditory is rich in clarity, and detail, which allows the subtle environmental cues in the recording to easily be heard. When called for the mix creates an immersive surround experience that achieves excellent balance. Low frequency effects engage the room with palpable response. This isn’t an aggressive surround sound mix but it's well-designed, and makes for an involving listening experience that compliments the source material.


Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Raya and the Last Dragon Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Raya and the Last Dragon Blu-ray
    • An Introduction to Us Again – Director Zach Parrish takes you behind the scenes of the Walt Disney Animation Studios short.
    • Us Again – An elderly man and his young-at-heart wife rekindle their passion for life on one magical night.
    • Taste of Raya – Dine along with Kelly Marie Tran and the film’s creative team--virtually--over a Southeast Asian menu inspired by the countries that influenced the film as they discuss their experiences creating the world of Kumandra.
    • Raya: Bringing it Home – When the global pandemic of 2020 hit, production of Raya and the Last Dragon moved to the houses of over 450 people. We open a window into their lives and learn how they overcame massive obstacles to make an animated feature from home.
    • Martial Artists – You’ll get a kick out of learning about the martial art forms and weapons used in the film as co-screenwriter Qui Nguyen and visual anthropologist Dr. S. Steve Arounsack share the inspiration behind the film’s action-packed elements.
    • We are Kumandra – Meet members of the Southeast Asia Story Trust and discover the cultural influences that inspired the film...and how important this representation in a Disney animated film is to the people of the region.
    • Outtakes – Step into the homes and behind the mics of the cast of Raya and the Last Dragon as they experience voice-over sessions in closets and shaky internet connections, which made recording this film unlike any other.
    • Fun Facts & Easter Eggs – Take a look at some of the hidden surprises and behind-the-scenes secrets of Raya and the Last Dragon.
    • The Story Behind the Storyboard with John Ripa – Co-Director John Ripa invites you to get an inside look at his thought process as he pitches a storyboard sequence from the film and talks about his amazing career with Disney Animation.
    • Deleted Scenes
    o Introduction – Head of Story Fawn Veerasunthorn introduces deleted scenes from Raya and the Last Dragon.
    o The Bridge – Raya confronts an early version of the Druun in this deleted storyboard sequence.
    o Escaping Namaari – See an early version sequence of an introduction to Namaari as an adult.
    o Dragon Blade – Discover an early version of Raya's sword, when it used to have magical powers.
    o Meet Boun – Meet an early version of Boun before he was a chef and shrimp boat captain.
    o The Heart of the Dragon – Co-Director John Ripa introduces a deleted scene which brought the theme of hope into the film.
  • Digital Code



Final Thoughts:

Raya and the Last Dragon is a charming, heartwarming and refreshing animated film that makes for pitch perfect family entertainment. Kudos to Disney Home Entertainment who didn’t miss a beat with its stellar video presentation and rousing lossless sound (including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive listening track) that shines in Ultra HD and standard high definition on Blu-ray Disc. Raya and the Last Dragon is an entertaining family film that is made all the better in this Ultimate Collector’s Edition. Give it a spin and enjoy the ride.