First and foremost, let's get one thing straight, this movie is gorgeous, but it's not right. Here are some translations.
Malaysian, 'To Celebrate' : Indonesian, 'Great': Thai, 'One who is leading'
Raya really does present a sense of wonder, but it is just disappointing to see Disney disregard the depth of these cultures and their own company's capabilities.
Dragons, Monkeys = Religion??? Fun fact, not all SEA people believe in dragons. This is a muddling of culture, there's no boundary between any culture. While dragons are regarded nobly with Thailand and Malaysia, they're known to be seen as beings of worship more In Vietnam and China. The Philippines has quite the expanse of Christian influence from its colonial times, I think people forget to see that Indonesia and Malaysia both respectfully have their deep Muslim roots. Monkeys are seen more in Hinduism. Literally, today, you can see them roaming the cities of Thailand. This brings me to the Dragon, seriously, why does she have eyebrows??? Disney missed such an opportunity to present the fierceness of SEA people with their powerful and traditional Naga dragons, Sisu is actually meant to embody what dragons are to SEA people: magical. The presentation of Sisu is something I frown upon.
Physical characteristics. I can and will hurt the next person to say that Raya looks like Mulan. The least Disney has done is get her general hair and skin tone right. I'm torn on whether Raya is Pinoy because of the Silat, or Filipino because of the Arnis, martial arts.
Cast representation. I love Kally Marie Tran, she was a great choice, find me an actress more passionate, I dare you. Qui Nguyen, it's made me so happy that there was at least some martial art influence at the heart of this campaign. Adele Lim, amazing, but the humour didn't hit, love her work regardless. A lot of the cast are majority East Asian respectively, and there has been a lot of conflict over this. While I'm all for representation, the southern Asian part is a bit lacking.
Architecture and other Cultural Indicators. This is probably what is most meant to be inspired by Thailand and Cambodia. There's a distinct Minangkabau style to the architecture that says Indonesian. Cambodia? Sure, right next to Thailand, but guys, Indonesia is literally an Island. The Naga-styled stairways seen in the Heart land indicate Laos too. The land of Tail I suspect is supposed to be based on the Mekong River. Where do I see Myanmar and Singapore??? Hard to tell, they're blended. This blend really is beautiful, but it's lacking the depth of representation we hoped for. It says SEA cultures are almost interchangeable.
Let's talk morals and ethics! Raya is an epic character, while the live-action Mulan turned Mulan into a heartless warrior, Raya is animated, and alive and she shows that there can be no line between a princess and a warrior. A big thing in the central lands of South-East Asia are morals, RatLD shows Trust overall. The Thai scout motto is 'It is better to die than to lie'. We literally see these characters hurt one another, we see a glossed over the surface of cultures at war and all the suffering it brings, yet the characters must trust.
Every culture is unique, but Disney had the opportunity to make a show of the illusory complexities of SEA and they failed. Raya and the last dragon is a lazy folly on my culture and I do not appreciate it. Each South-East Asian country has its own language sets and skin tones as well as martial arts and weaponry set apart greatly from Eastern Asian tributes to these categories. The movie, I feel, lacks harmony with South-East Asia's grand diversity.