Rubado column: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ shows how far animation has come

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

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Jared Rubado

The pinnacle of animated films is often viewed as a benchmark only Pixar could hit.

In recent years, we’ve seen animated movies take several steps forward in terms of how incredible they look. It’s not just Pixar. In fact, It’s the studios outside of Pixar that are making new waves.

Disney studios’ latest release is also its most visually impressive. “Raya and the Last Dragon” was one of the first new theater releases since theaters reopened. I was originally planning to review “Cruella” today, but “Raya and the Last Dragon is too good to skip.

I don’t like criticizing kids movies because they’re not made for me. Adults can have fun watching them, but it always feels unfair to break them down like I do other films. Instead, I like to split them into three categories: Bad, good and great. And let me tell you, “Raya and the Last Dragon” is great.

It’s a story about a place called Kumandra, where dragons and humans lived together. When monsters disrupted the peace, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. All that was left of the dragon’s magic was a gem.


Kumandra was split into different tribes. In an effort to reunite the fallen kingdom, Raya leads the various tribes into the gem temple. When the gem breaks into pieces, and each tribe steals a portion, it’s up to Raya to put the gem back together.

In the first scene of the film, I was shocked at how good the animation was. I couldn’t believe how awesome this film looked on screen. I had instant regret for not seeing it in theaters.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” also features Awkwafina, one of my favorite actresses in the world right now. If you haven’t seen “The Farewell,” add it to your list.

This is a movie about interpersonal growth and life lessons. That’s the purpose of most animated movies. I’m giving this a 90/100. It’s well worth a couple of hours on Disney+ for the whole family.

Disney studios is on a roll with its animated films. “Raya and the Last Dragon” followed up both Frozen movies, all three of which were made to near perfection.

Even with Disney studios and Pixar, that's owned by Disney but ran separately, being at the forefront, Sony has proved to be innovative in recent years. It made “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which revolutionized how animated movies are made.

Animations are portrayed in frames-per-second. The more frames in a scene the smoother it feels to the audience. Spider-Verse is an origin story about Miles Morales, who lives in an alternate Spider-Man dimension. After he’s bitten by a radioactive spider, he starts to realize his powers. As the movie goes on, his character slowly gains more frames-per-second until the climax scene where he becomes Spider-Man.

Innovation will drive animated movies to be better than ever. Pixar is animation’s top dog because the quality of each movie is as good as the special effects, but it’s wonderful to see other studios keep up.

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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