Raya and the Last Dragon alternate ending was much darker, says creators

Disney’s latest cartoon animation, Raya and the Last Dragon, establishes a solo hero on a mission to conserve the dream world of Komandra from the Druun, a meaningless swarm that takes in whatever in its course. In the very start of the motion picture, Raya is an only warrior on an objective to restore the last dragon.

However from the start, the filmmakers behind Raya meant to overturn the Chosen One story.

“She thinks she’s going to awaken a dragon, and the dragon will solve all the world’s problems. And the dragon doesn’t. The dragon does something much more profound,” discusses film writer Adele Lim.

Sisu, the magical last dragon of the motion picture’s title, rather motivates Raya to bond with those she as soon as thought about opponents. The concept of connection and trust sustained the motion picture’s imaginative instructions, and notified a number of the huge options that the filmmakers made — consisting of the ending, which eventually altered to fit where the story ended up going, Lim and manufacturer Osnat Shurer inform Polygon.

[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Raya and the Last Dragon]

raya and namaari walking towards each other

Image: Disney

The Druun that afflict Komandra and turn the civilians to stone don’t have any sort of program. They are a faceless, meaningless entity that looks for to turn humankind to ash and can’t be killed by conventional weapons However they didn’t start that method. Shurer states that in the early phases of the movie the faceless bad guys were more sentient and fightable.

“The more we thought about it, the more we dug deeper into the kind of story we wanted to tell, we knew it was important that it’s about humans,” Shurer states. “It’s about the characters. It’s about Raya versus Namaari. It’s nearly 2 sides of the exact same coin.

The choice to make complex Namaari as a character — and establish her special relationship with Raya — wound up impacting the Druun themselves. At one point, Namaari managed the Druun and was more of a conventional Disney bad guy. However Lim states that when they dove much deeper into the character and picked to provide her a connection to Raya, she progressed into a more nuanced and eventually supportive character. The more archetypical evil villain didn’t suit her tale.

Raya and Namaari have a unique relationship for a Disney movie. Though Disney villains like Cruella de Vil and Maleficent continue to be popular, the studio’s more recent movies have done away with the traditional baddie, finding more threatening adversaries in natural forces like in Frozen 2 and Moana or whodunnit twists in Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. In the past, when Disney villains did have existing relationships with the protagonists, it was usually one with inherently unbalanced power dynamics, such as Mother Gothel and Rapunzel of Tangled or Scar and Simba in The Lion King. But Namaari and Raya start on equal footing as children. As they grow up, they are less direct foes and more dramatic foils.

namaari standing in a desert landscape

Image: Disney

“They knew each other as children and now view each other as enemies. They are also kind of secretly kind of like drawn intrigued by each other,” states Lim. “It was a very new, exciting relationship for the whole creative team.”

Reimagining the Druun as an overwhelming force without an agenda made them a more thematically powerful enemy for Raya and Namaari. Uncannily enough, that became a very timely force to deal with in 2021.

“We even used to talk about them like a plague,” Shurer says, clarifying that the perspective was discussed “years and years ago.”

But while the threat of the movie shifted as the character dynamics progressed, there was one major plot point the filmmakers knew would have to happen from the very beginning: Raya needed to lose Sisu. Indeed, in the motion picture’s climax, Namaari accidentally shoots Sisu. The last dragon is gone and the human characters need to figure out if they can even defend against the Druun without the dragon magic that’s protected them this long.

“It subverts Raya’s original expectation that Sisu would come and wave a wand and everything would be alright,” explains Shurer. “The solution is among us. We have to learn to trust one another and get together. We knew that the dragon would have to be taken out of the picture.”

Sisu was always going to die, but there was some back and forth on whether or not she and the rest of the dragons would actually return. Director Don Hall says there was a version where Sisu was indeed the very last dragon, with no possibility of the others returning. The filmmakers thought long about whether or not the dragons coming back would undermine the film’s ultimate message. However Shurer pushed for a happy ending from the very start, wanting a big Disney moment that made your “heart sing.” Eventually, after much back and forth, they decided to embrace the happy ending — something that actually speaks more to the cultural ethos of the film.

“What we were digging into psychologically is if we are the solution, why are we bringing the magical mystical creatures back in?” discusses Shurer. “The place where we arrived is a place that’s more connected to a more Southeast Asian and South Asian perspective, which is when we found the solution for ourselves that we earned the right to manifest the mystical.”

Raya and the Last Dragon is readily available on Disney Plus Premier Gain Access To.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.