Disney has re-cast one of the title roles of its upcoming animated feature Raya And The Last Dragon, with Variety reporting that Kelly Marie Tran has come onboard to take over the part of Raya, which had previously been announced as going to actress Cassie Steele. The news comes after the film faced some fairly significant COVID-19 delays, bumping its release date from this November back to March of 2021. Tran, best known for her starring role in Disney’s The Last Jedi (and then, unfortunately, also for the enormously shitty reaction some internet men had to her starring role in The Last Jedi) will co-star with Awkwafina, who plays the aforementioned last dragon.
The film—about a young warrior seeking dragons to help her fight off an evil threat, only to find that the last one has gotten trapped in human form—was originally announced back at the D23 Expo in 2019. Tran gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly this week about the role (although it didn’t include any information about the re-casting), calling Raya a “really badass, gritty warrior.” She also discussed the film’s approach to representation, noting that it’s the first Disney film to take its inspiration from Southeast Asian cultures:
I felt so seen, and it was such a blissful feeling. I don’t know if I can even explain it, but it was this surprise. I’ve worked on some things before which obviously weren’t as culturally specific as this, and I don’t think that I knew that I needed that.
Raya And The Last Dragon is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on March 12, 2021.