Disney’s latest animated offering has a groundbreaking moment in it that you might not even know was there.
In the new film Raya and The Last Dragon, Patti Harrison becomes the first known trans actor to voice a character in a Disney animated movie.
The world of the movie, Kumandra, is divided into five lands, Heart, Talon, Spine, Fang, and Tail. Harrison plays the Chieftess of Tail at the beginning of the film. While she’s only there for one scene and has just a couple lines, it’s still an important milestone for trans actors getting more roles.
Traditionally, trans actors have only gotten roles as trans characters, which also meant they didn’t appear much in media made for family or younger audiences. While there’s been a lot of progress in TV shows and movies casting trans actors in trans roles, there are still very few of those trans roles. As long as trans actors can only get trans roles, their job opportunities will be limited.
The praise here lies with Harrison for breaking that barrier. Disney obviously needs to do more than have a trans actor in a scene of one movie and a lesbian cyclops cop in a few minutes of another, but it is a start.
But it's not the only bit of LGBTQ+ chatter around the project. Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Raya in the film, said that she supports a queer reading of the newest Disney Princess. “I’m obsessed with Namaari (Raya’s nemesis in the movie) and I’m obsessed with Gemma Chan (who plays her),” she said in an interview with Vanity Fair. “I think if you’re a person watching this movie and you see representation in a way that feels really real and authentic to you, then it is real and authentic. I think it might get me in trouble for saying that, but whatever.” Some online have remaked on the "lesbian energy" between the two.
After rising in popularity with her hilarious social media posts and scene-stealing appearances on Search Party and Shrill, Harrison gave a terrific starring performance in Together, Together, a pregnancy dramady that premiered at Sundance this year. She plays a pregnant cis woman in the film. Harrison is the first trans actor to lead a movie as a cisgender character, again breaking a barrier. The film was acquired by Bleecker Street and will be released on April 23, 2021.
Harrison was recently banned from Twitter after she changed her account several times, parodying various cookie brands tweeting out their hilarious opinions on LGBTQ+ people. The official Oreo Twitter account had earlier tweeted “Trans people exist.”
You can watch Raya and The Last Dragon, starring Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, and Gemma Chan on Disney+ with premiere access for $29.99