A month out from the release of “The Little Mermaid,” Disney’s other beloved nautical cartoon is prepping its live-action makeover. A remake of “Moana,” the 2016 animated blockbuster, is in early development, Disney announced Monday.
The news was revealed during Disney’s annual meeting of shareholders. During the webcast, a prerecorded message from Dwayne Johnson, who voiced the character of Maui in the original animated film, was played. (You can watch the full video below.)
Speaking from Hawaii, Johnson said, “As many of you may not know, the brilliant team at Disney Animation, my partners, we found so much inspiration for Maui in the mana and presence of my late grandfather, the legendary high-chief Peter Maivia. … In a way, when I bring Maui to life, I’m doing it in the spirit of my grandfather.”
No director, screenwriter, or casting has been announced for the feature. Johnson will produce the upcoming remake via his Seven Bucks Productions banner, along with Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia. Auli‘i Cravalho, who voiced the titular character in the animated film, will executive produce.
In an official statement, Disney added that Johnson “plans to return to the fictional world to set sail with Moana,” marking his first announced project after DC shelved plans for him to make future appearances as Black Adam last fall; he also has a Christmas film, “Red One,” coming out later this year. It’s unclear if Johnson will play Maui again or a new character, and there’s no mention of Cravalho making an appearance in the film.
“Moana’s strength and perseverance are inspiring — to audiences around the world, to me and to everyone who helped bring her to life,” Cravalho said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to sharing her story in a whole new way.”
Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, the original “Moana” is the 56th feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Set in a fantasy version of ancient Polynesia, the film focuses on the titular character, the daughter of her village’s chief, as she sets out on an adventure with demigod Maui to find the goddess Te Fiti. A critical success, the movie grossed over $645 million worldwide, and received two Oscar nominations. Lin Manuel-Miranda wrote the original songs for the feature, and received a Grammy for the centerpiece ballad “How Far I’ll Go.”
“Moana” joins many Disney animated classics to receive a live-action (or photorealistic CGI) remake from the company; the original was the 1994 “Jungle Book,” but the current wave of adaptations began with 2014’s “Maleficent” and has lead to box office hits like 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast” and 2019’s “The Lion King.”
Aside from “The Little Mermaid” with Halle Bailey, “Peter Pan and Wendy” will release on Disney+ this month. Other remakes include next year’s “Snow White” and the Barry Jenkins-helmed “Lion King” prequel, as well as recently announced “Aristocats” and “Lilo & Stitch” adaptations.
“It’s still early, but the idea of working with these fantastic partners to tell such a meaningful story on a live-action canvas, particularly as we celebrate 100 years of storytelling at Disney, is thrilling,” Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, said in a statement about the “Moana” remake.
Alongside Johnson, Beau Flynn produces the “Moana” remake via his Flynn Picture Co. Scott Sheldon executive produces for Flynn Picture. The original animated film’s screenwriter, Jared Bush, and Dana Ledoux Miller will “take part in production,” but their specific roles were not announced.