By Rachel Yang
January 08, 2021 at 09:00 AM EST
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Raya and the Last Dragon

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This month, EW is offering exclusive looks at more than two dozen of 2021's most anticipated movies. Check out more of our preview here.

Prepare to step into another land in the epic kingdom of Kumandra.

In the last few months, Disney has been steadily introducing fans to the world of Raya and the Last Dragon, which follow our heroine (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) as she searches for the sole remaining dragon to stop monsters named Druun from attacking the kingdom.

To do so, she will have to traverse all five lands of Kumandra, and EW can exclusively reveal a preview image of Raya in Talon.

"Throughout the journey of the film, Raya visits different lands: the land of Heart, Talon, Fang, Spine, and Tail," director Don Hall says. The image above finds Raya "in the middle of a really cool action scene" in the "floating market" of Talon.

Producer Osnat Shurer, who was also behind Moana, says each of the five lands will have its own distinctive flair, down to color schemes, fabrics, and even hairstyles, which fans caught a glimpse of in October's teaser. The inspiration for Talon came out of cultural research trips to the Mekong region of Southeast Asia, where floating markets abound.

And like in any great Disney movie, Raya can't save the world alone. We previously met the Heart Lands warrior's trusty steed Tuk Tuk, and Disney's Investor Day acquainted us with a few more players.

Along her quest, Raya assembles the "Kumandran version of the Island of Misfit Toys" including Tong, "this enormous warrior from Spine, a battle-hardened kind of guy," Hall says. "And Boun, we always refer to him as our Han Solo, because he provides the transportation, which is a boat called the Shrimporium, it's a floating sort of restaurant." 

The cutest of Raya's little ensemble might be Noi, the mischievous "con baby," the director says with a laugh. "She runs a little con game in town with these creatures called Ongis, which are kind of fantasy creatures."

The filmmakers also can't say enough about working with Awkwafina, who voices Sisu the dragon, as she stepped up to the challenge of recording lines during quarantine. Qui Nguyen, who co-wrote the film with Adele Lim and served as a martial arts consultant, says the actress "has so much passion and love for the character."

"Sisu's an interesting character," he adds. "It's a tightrope to walk on because she has to be fun but also has to have this wisdom and huge heart of a Disney character and Awkwafina is so masterful ... it's been an amazing sight to behold."

Shurer says she can't wait for the future ahead for Raya, which includes a graphic novel and the translation of the movie into over 45 languages. More immediate on the horizon though is the next trailer, which Shurer says will further showcase the film's humor and action.

Currently at work on the trailer, the filmmakers say they've been energized by the fans, whose responses and reaction videos had them in tears. They knew their hard work paid off when audiences noticed small details and cultural nods, such as the escrima sticks Raya used as weapons, which come from Arnis/Kali martial arts in the Philippines.

"The reactions that we've gotten from the Southeast Asian community has definitely been the most emotional for us to see," director Carlos López Estrada says. "We got people commenting on the different skin tones, people commenting on such specific cultural things that people have been putting so much thought into, that it's just good to know that they matter in the impact."

Raya and the Last Dragon premieres on March 5 in theaters and on Disney+ with premiere access.

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Raya and the Last Dragon

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