Tuk Tuk wasn’t created to be an animal sidekick. He was initially just a mode of transportation for Raya and was developed into a character.
Raya and the Last Dragon producer Osnat Shurer shares the secret of how one of the film’s characters, Tuk Tuk, came to be. The upcoming Disney animated classic is set to release in theaters and on Disney+ on March 5, 2021. Disney+ subscribers will have to pay an extra $29.99 to watch it. However, it may eventually become free to viewers like Mulan.
Raya and the Last Dragon takes place in a fictional land called Kumandra. This world resembles Earth as if an ancient civilization inhabited it. Disney used Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Indonesia as inspiration to create the film. The film stars Raya, a warrior in her civilization, who takes on finding the last dragon to save her people’s land.
Raya and the Last Dragon producer Shurer reveals that Raya’s animal companion, Tuk Tuk, wasn’t initially created to serve as a sidekick. Instead, Shurer explains that Tuk Tuk was created as a means of transportation for Raya. He claims Raya “needed a ride” that fit within the realm of Kumandra. Considering it’s an ancient civilization, planes, trains, and automobiles were out of the question. Ultimately, they came up with “a pill bug meets a pug meets an armadillo” that can roll up for Raya to ride on.
This wasn’t like, “Hey, Raya needs an animal sidekick.” It was actually a little bit like a Western way early on, and she needs a steam. She needs a ride. And in our fantasy world, what would that be? We’re sitting in the room, and one of the writers or one of the artists goes, “Okay, it’s a pill bug meets a pug meets an armadillo. It rolls up into a ball and rides.” And then that visual development artist goes away, and the next day comes back with something that was pretty close to what later became Tuk Tuk. But he was mostly just a ride, even though he was beautiful and he was cool.
Even though Tuk Tuk started as a mode of transportation, Shurer explains that the character became much more as the film developed. He eventually became a companion with a personality. He became someone for Raya to express herself with along their journey. Additionally, Tuk Tuk also evolved to help convey Raya’s backstory. The creative team decided that Tuk Tuk would be involved with scenes from when Raya was young.
This “really small” Tuk Tuk was beloved by the creative team and titled baby Tuk Tuk. This has been a formula for success in the past for Disney with Baby Yoda and Baby Groot. Even though Tuk Tuk was created for a different purpose, he will likely become a fan favorite in the Disney franchise for years to come. Sidekicks are always some of the most lovable characters of any Disney movie. From Olaf to Dory to the Genie, the more eccentric and quirky the character is, the better.
However, Disney has done away with some of these animal sidekicks in its recent live-action remakes. Aladdin didn’t feature Iago nor Abu. Most recently, Mulan didn’t include the beloved bearded dragon Mushu. He was certainly missed by fans and the fact that viewers had to pay an extra $29.99 to watch it on Disney+. Hopefully, Tuk Tuk and the rest of the Raya and the Last Dragon characters will prove worthy of viewers’ extra charge.