The character of Dawn Betterman in the animated feature The Croods: A New Age is the prehistoric version of the princess in a tower.

Voiced by 31-year-old Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran, Dawn has been kept a prisoner from birth in her luxurious home by smothering parents.

When her technologically advanced family encounters the primitive Croods, the scene is set for a clash of cultures in the film, a sequel to The Croods (2013).

Speaking to The Straits Times via video from Los Angeles, Tran talked about how she found Dawn’s voice.

“I drew on her ability to see the world in a new light. She’s had really overprotective parents,” she says.

That lack of exposure to the world, rather than making her afraid of everything, had the opposite effect.

“So the things the Croods have been taught to fear, Dawn is excited to be exposed to,” she adds.

Tran had been a fan of the first film, so she was overjoyed to be involved in the second.

“The first movie made me really emotional, I was really moved by it,” says the actress, who gained world attention when she was cast as resistance fighter Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).

Visual jokes abound in both Croods pictures, with much of the humour coming from the fictional animals that populate the world.

Each creature is a familiar animal with a strange trait or hybrid of two animals. In the Croods world, there are Land Sharks, Kangadillos, Punch Monkeys, Macawnivores and Wolf Spiders.

Tran’s favourite animal in the sequel? The Chicken Seal, a beach dweller with the head of a chicken and the body of seal, but which screams like a human. “They are so funny,” she says of the lumbering, screeching beasts.

If she had a say in the creation of a Croods hybrid, she would like to see a bison with a rabbit head.

Tran visited Singapore in 2017 to promote The Last Jedi, during which she spoke about how pleased and fortunate she felt to have been included in the Star Wars universe.

Right-wingers, however, hated the prominent role that non-white characters such as Tran’s Rose played in the story. They flooded her social media feeds with racist and sexist harassment, causing her to delete her Instagram posts.

She later penned a defiant editorial in The New York Times, saying how after the vitriol sent her down “a spiral of self-hate”, she picked herself up and announced: “I am not giving up.”

Today, when asked what she thinks of the episode, she has a prepared answer.

“I honestly feel like a better, stronger person for having been through that experience. That’s how I feel about it.”

• The Croods: A New Age opens in cinemas today. 





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