Dwayne Johnson’s Questionable Live-Action Disney Movie Gets Updates

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Moana (Auliʻi Cravalho) and Maui (Dwayne Johnson) holding an oar

Credit: Disney

Back in April, The Walt Disney Company shocked fans when it announced that a live-action remake of Moana (2016) was in development. Here are all the updates about the upcoming movie.

Moana in the rain
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Animated Moana

What is Moana?

Moana is a 2016 movie from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. The musical adventure, based on Polynesian myths, tells the story of a young girl from a coastal village that rejects her intended role of becoming chief like her father and sets out on the ocean to find the demigod Maui and restore the heart of Te Fiti — a magical artifact that could save her home from ruin.

Moana was directed by John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules) and Ron Clements (Treasure Planet, The Princess and the Frog) and co-directed by Chris Williams (Big Hero 6) and Don Hall (Strange World). Jared Bush (Encanto) wrote the script for Moana, and Osnat Shurer (Raya and the Last Dragon) produced the film.

The film went on to gross $645 million at the global box office and was nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“How Far I’ll Go”) at the 89th Academy Awards. It lost out to Disney’s other 2016 hit, Zootopia, and “Remember Me” from Disney Pixar’s Coco (2017), respectively.

Moana and Maui
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Animated Movies Severely at Risk This Year

Who is in the cast of Moana?

Auliʻi Cravalho stars as the titular Moana, while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Black Adam) voices the demigod Maui. Rachel House joins them as Tala, Temuera Morrison as Tui (Christopher Jackson provided singing vocals for Tui), Jermaine Clement as Tamatoa, Nicole Sherzinger as Sina, and Alan Tudyk as Heihei.

What songs are in Moana?

Moana is a true Disney animated musical and, as such, is packed with songs. Those include: “Where You Are”, “How Far I’ll Go”, “We Know the Way”, “You’re Welcome”, “Shiny”, and “I Am Moana”.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa’i wrote the songs for Moana, with lyrics from languages English, Tokelauan, Tuvaluan, and Samoan. Mancina also did the score for the musical Disney movie.

Moana (Auliʻi Cravalho) and Maui (Dwayne Johnson) holding an oar
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Live-Action Moana

When was the live-action Moana announced?

Much to the surprise of fans, a live-action version of Moana was announced earlier this year. During the Annual Shareholders conference call in April, The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger and Dwayne Johnson announced that Moana would be getting the live-action remake treatment, much like other movies like Beauty and the Beast (1991) and, most recently, The Little Mermaid (2023).

“This story is my culture, and this story is emblematic of our people’s grace and warrior strength,” Johnson said from the beach. “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.”

Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs in the 'Fast and the Furious' franchise
Credit: Universal Pictures

Who is in the cast of live-action Moana?

So far, only Johnson is tapped to be starring in the live-action Moana, where he will likely return to his role as shapeshifting demigod Maui. While fans hoped Auliʻi Cravalho would return to play the eponymous Moana, the actress, and singer recently shared she will not be starring as the character in this new adaptation.

Who is producing, directing, and writing the live-action Moana?

The live-action Moana is being produced by Johnson, Dany Garcia, and Hiram Garcia through their production banner, Seven Bucks Productions, with Beau Flynn of Flynn Pictures Co. joining them. Cravalho and Scott Sheldon are executive producing.

Encanto‘s Jared Bush will be writing the script, and most recently, updates were shared when Disney revealed that Thomas Kail (Hamilton) will be directing.

Dwayne Johnson as Maui in 'Moana'
Credit: Disney

What are fans saying about live-action Moana?

Reception has been largely mixed for the remake of Moana. While Dwayne Johnson has a huge following, and many of his loyal fans were excited to see him return to the Moana universe, others blasted the decision to remake a movie not even a decade old.

Fans questioned Disney’s decision not to let Moana the animation stand on its own merit for a little while longer before giving it the live-action treatment.

And not just that, but the live-action catalog — while ever-growing — has not always been universally well-received. Sure, movies like Alice in Wonderland (2010), Beauty and the Beast (2017), Aladdin (2019), and The Lion King (2019) have all crossed a billion at the box office, but much like other big splashy franchises, fans are becoming tiresome of the near over-saturation of remakes. Mainly due to a lack of original storytelling because of the investment in remakes.

At the time of the announcement, Walt Disney Studios’ President of Motion Picture Production, Sean Bailey, said (via Deadline):

“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.”

Mufasa and Simba in 'The Lion King'
Credit: Disney

Related: Do You Think Disney Movie Live Action Remakes Measure up to the Originals?

Disney’s Live-Action Remakes

What has Disney remade so far?

While films like 101 Dalmatians (1996) are classed as live-action remakes, the current wave of remakes didn’t ramp up until Maleficent (2014). Following the Angelina Jolie vehicle, Disney released Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016), Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), Beauty and the Beast, Christopher Robin (2018), Dumbo (2019), Aladdin, The Lion King, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019), Lady and the Tramp (2019), Mulan (2020), Cruella (2021), Pinocchio (2022), Peter Pan & Wendy (2023), and most recently, The Little Mermaid starring Halle Bailey as Ariel.

What is Disney remaking next?

Alongside the current development of Moana, Disney will next release Snow White (2024), Mufasa: The Lion King (2024), Lilo & Stitch (TBD), Hercules (TBD), Hunchback (TBD), The Sword in the Stone (TBD), an untitled Cruella sequel, an untitled Prince Anders movie, Bambi, Robin Hood (TBD), and The Aristocats (TBD).

A television series based on The Princess and the Frog (2009) is in development called Tiana, and it has been reported that the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, Jennifer Lee, and writer/director of Tiana Stella Meghie are working on a live-action adaptation movie of the animated film.

 Are you looking forward to the Moana remake on the big screen? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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