Disney animation Raya and the Last Dragon will be released on March 4th, as the first Disney story based in Southeast Asia. After illuminating Northern Europe with Frozen and Polynesian regions with Moana, Disney Animation Studios has now turned its head to the warm and rich land of water.
Among about 450 animators participating is a Korean animator Choi Young Jae, who has been working with Disney for 14 years. “Animators coordinate the muscles and joints of the character to convey emotions through their facial expressions and movements,” he explained. The animator is one of the people who made Raya, the first Disney princess from Southeast Asia, and a strong female warrior. From the first battle scene at the temple to the climax battle scene in the second half, Choi Young Jae’s touches are ridden in various action scenes.
Talking of Raya, who was reborn as a warrior to save the divided kingdom of Kumandra, the animator said, “if it’s combat powers, she ranks right after Frozen’s Elsa. If Elsa has magic, Raya has excellent martial arts skills. She has the best fighting martial art techniques among Disney princesses. She has learned a lot from the street after losing her father.” Of course, this becomes a challenging task for action animators.
“It was the hardest to do everything at home,” he explained while reminiscing of his experience working at home in the midst of a pandemic. “It’s hard to constantly think of the battle scene while also working overtime. It was the most difficult but also the most memorable work for me,” he said. All 450 animators are said to have worked from home.
As Raya and the Last Dragon has been set in Asia, several Asian actors participated in the voice acting of the movie. This includes Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dan Kim, and Sandra Oh.
Animator Choi Young Jae has been working for Disney for 14 years, participating in several hit films such as the Frozen series, Moana, Wreck-It Ralph, and Tangled. He took pride in Disney animation, and Raya and the Last Dragon. “The techniques and visuals of it are dynamic and impactful. The high-end graphic images and beautiful colors are charmingly expressed. Greeting its 100th anniversary in two years, Disney constantly tries to demonstrate the best visuals by upgrading its tools and software every year. That seems to be Disney’s secret to keeping its current position,” Choi Young Jae stated.
The animator emphasized that Raya and the Last Dragon is about trust and symbiosis. “Coincidentally, we were reminded of the situation we are in. It’s a movie that can question a big part of the situation we are in.”