The art of the Disney animated short is something that is so underappreciated. Animated shorts, in general, deserve so much more love and respect than they get, so it was always good that Disney and Pixar would have shorts before their movies. Disney Animation hasn't been in the habit of having shorts for the last five years, but that is changing with Raya and the Last Dragon. Disney announced via a press release that we are getting a new short for the first time in five years called Us Again. The short is being described as "set in a vibrant city pulsating with rhythm and movement, an elderly man and his young-at-heart wife rekindle their youthful passion for life and each other on one magical night. The years fade away as the joy of dancing propels them across the exciting cityscape of their youth and revives fond memories and ambitions. "Us Again" is told entirely without dialogue and set to an original funk and soul musical score reminiscent of the mid-60s."
"Working with Keone and Mari (award-winning choreographers/dancers) was the key to making this film work," recalls director Zach Parrish in a press release sent out by Disney. "From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted this film to be music-driven. And I felt that dance is a universal language that can translate into any culture. I loved that their dance style felt like it was made for animation and that there was this genuine, honest and organic connection between them because they were actually a married couple in real life. The story itself was inspired by my own grandparents, who faced getting older in different ways, along with my own physical limitations in playing sports resulting from getting older and injuries. I started thinking about how someone might look at the world differently as things change and they grow older."
Producer Brad Simonsen adds, "It was fascinating to see the process and the close collaboration between the music, the choreography and Zach's vision for layout and animation. The film has a timeless and life-affirming message and an emotional resonance that is uniquely entertaining. Zach's love of dance and animation, and his willingness to take chances as a filmmaker, made this a true labor of love."
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"From the first time we saw the storyboards, I was already tearing up," adds Mari. "The characters were easy to relate to and to empathize with. As a married couple, we tried to imagine being their age, and we also thought about our own grandparents in bringing the characters to life through dance."
Raya and the Last Dragon, with Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada directing and Paul Briggs and John Ripa co-directing, stars Kelly Marie Tran as the voice of the intrepid warrior Raya; Awkwafina as the legendary dragon, Sisu; Gemma Chan as Raya's nemesis, Namaari; Daniel Dae Kim as Raya's visionary father, Benja; Sandra Oh as Namaari's powerful mother, Virana; Benedict Wong as Tong, a formidable giant; Izaac Wang as Boun, a 10-year-old entrepreneur; Thalia Tran as the mischievous toddler Little Noi; Alan Tudyk as Tuk Tuk, Raya's best friend, and trusty steed; Lucille Soong as Dang Hu, the leader of the land of Talon; Patti Harrison as the chief of the Tail land; and Ross Butler as chief of the Spine land. It will be released in theaters and Disney+ Premiere Access on March 5th.