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Raya and the Last Dragon Raya and the Last Dragon

Seven months before the release of Raya and the Last Dragon, Walt Disney Animation Studios has dropped a big bombshell, announcing three new directors/co-directors on the film, as well as adding a new producer and recasting the lead voice actress.

The film’s new directors are Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada. (To be clear, the directorial changes were obviously not made recently; they are only being announced publicly now for the first time.)

The co-directors on the film are newly announced John Ripa, along with Paul Briggs. Both are from the studio’s story department and have served as heads of story on earlier Disney hits. Briggs, as you may recall, was originally announced as the director of Raya back in 2018, along with Dean Wellins, who is no longer a director on the project.

The new directors are an odd couple pairing. Hall was one of the directors of Big Hero 6 and Winnie the Pooh, and also served as a co-director on Moana, while López Estrada is a live-action director (Blindspotting) who was hired by Disney Animation last year.

Here is the statement that Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, provided to Entertainment Weekly on the new directors:

As filmmakers, Don and Carlos bring a combination of animation know-how and emotional storytelling to Raya and the Last Dragon, bringing our fantasy adventure to surprising, original, and dynamic heights. They both saw the potential for this film and had a strong vision for the story, especially for our lead character, played by the wonderfully talented Kelly Marie Tran. And no small feat, directors Don and Carlos, writers Qui and Adele, and the entire crew of 400 Disney Animation artists are making this film together, while separated and working from home.

The new details in the EW article suggest that the production of Raya, a Southeast Asia-inspired fantasy film, has not been smooth. Among the biggest changes in the film, the new directors Hall and López Estrada replaced Cassie Steele, the originally announced voice of Raya, with Kelly Marie Tran.

The film has also added a new producer, Peter Del Vecho, who is working with original producer Osnat Shurer.

Qui Nguyen joins previously announced Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians) as one of the Raya’s writers.