By Zach Johnson
What can we say except, “You’re welcome!”
Dwayne Johnson had Disney fans hooked when he revealed today in a recorded message from Hawaii that a live-action reimagining of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 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 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, and Scott Sheldon of Flynn Picture Co. Jared Bush and Dana Ledoux Miller (who is of Samoan heritage) will also take part in the production. Bush, who was a director and co-writer of Disney’s Oscar®-winning film Encanto and a writer and co-director on Disney’s Oscar-winning film Zootopia, wrote the screenplay for Moana (2016).
Like its animated predecessor—which grossed nearly $644 million at the global box office and was among the Top 15 movies streamed in the U.S. in 2022—the live-action reimagining of Moana 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.
“I’m deeply humbled and overcome with gratitude to bring the beautiful story of Moana to the live-action big screen,” said Johnson, who plans to return to the fictional world to set sail with Moana. “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.”
Cravalho, a Native Hawaiian actor who helped shape the protagonist in the original film, said Moana’s reach is sweeping. “She has had such a profound impact on how we think of Disney princesses,” Cravalho explained. “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.”
Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production (Disney Live Action), said the film will join a successful lineup of live-action adaptations that includes Beauty and the Beast (2017), Aladdin (2019), and the highly anticipated The Little Mermaid, opening in theaters May 26. “It’s still early,” Bailey said, “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.”