No one knows how far Disney’s live-action adaptations of their animated classics will go. So its popularity has yet to wane. And now, the Dwayne Johnson is moving from turning Disneyland attractions into live-action films to turning Moana into a live-action film.
Released in 2016, Moana is set in an ancient Polynesia, and tells the story of its titular character, strong-willed daughter of a chief, who goes off on a daring mission to find once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.
Johnson revealed today in a recorded message from Hawaii that a live-action reimagining of Disney Animation’s 2016 hit feature film “Moana” is in development. The announcement was shared by Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger during The Walt Disney Company’s Meeting of Shareholders Webcast.
The new feature film is produced by Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia via their Seven Bucks Productions and Beau Flynn via Flynn Picture Co. Executive producers include Auli‘i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the 2016 film, and Scott Sheldon of Flynn Picture Co. Jared Bush and Samoan industry pro Dana Ledoux Miller will also take part in the production. Bush, who was a director and co-writer of Disney’s Oscar®-winning feature “Encanto” and a writer and co-director on Disney’s Oscar®-winning film “Zootopia,” wrote the screenplay for 2016’s “Moana.”
Like its animated predecessor, the film will celebrate the islands, communities and traditions of Pacific Islanders as seen through the eyes of a young woman eager to pave her own path. Moana’s journey of self-discovery and reflection on the lives of her ancestors won hearts worldwide, as did her newfound friendship with an exiled demigod named Maui.
Johnson, who plans to return to the fictional world to set sail with Moana, said, “I’m deeply humbled and overcome with gratitude to bring the beautiful story of Moana to the live-action big screen. This story is my culture, and this story is emblematic of our people’s grace and warrior strength. I wear this culture proudly on my skin and in my soul, and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reunite with Maui, inspired by the mana and spirit of my late grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia, is one that runs very deep for me. I want to thank my partners at Disney for their strong commitment to this special endeavor, because there is no better world for us to honor the story of our people, our passion and our purpose than through the realm of music and dance, which is at the core of who we are as Polynesian people.”
Native Hawaiian actor Cravalho, who helped shape Moana in the original film, said the beloved protagonist’s reach is sweeping. “She has had such a profound impact on how we think of Disney princesses,” Cravalho said. “Moana’s strength and perseverance are inspiring—to audiences around the world, to me and to everyone who helped bring her to life. I’m looking forward to sharing her story in a whole new way.”
But the film is still very much in the planning stages but has the right people in the creative process. That includes Johnson and Cravalho, who are not only native Hawaiians but were also part of the main voice cast in the original animated film.
We’ve seen more-or-less how a near copy and paste of the animated to live-action was received critically and commercially in films like “The Lion King.” Which was a huge hit at the box office, but critically panned for being unoriginal and just a carbon copy of its animated predecessor.
Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production (Disney Live Action), said the film would join a successful lineup of live-action adaptations that include 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast,” 2019’s “Aladdin” and the highly anticipated live-action version of “The Little Mermaid,” opening May 26. “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,” said Bailey.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Moana” debuted in theaters on Nov. 23, 2016, grossing nearly $644 million in global box office. The title, which debuted on Disney+ with the streamer’s 2019 launch, is among the top 15 movies streamed in the United States in 2022. The film’s soundtrack, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina, was lauded worldwide. Miranda won a GRAMMY® for best song written for visual media (“How Far I’ll Go”), and an Oscar® nomination for best achievement in music written for motion pictures – original song (“How Far I’ll Go”). In 2021, the “Moana” soundtrack broke a Billboard Soundtrack chart record for the amount of time spent at number one (52 weeks). Additionally, the film was nominated for an Academy Award (best animated feature film of the year), a BAFTA (best animated feature film) and a pair of Golden Globes® (best motion picture – animated and best original song (“How Far I’ll Go”).