Disney’s Live-Action ‘Moana’ Casts Catherine Laga’aia in Title Role

Dwayne Johnson will return as Maui

Disney/Alexei Hay

Disney has found its live-action Moana. Newcomer Catherine Laga‘aia will play the voyager in the film set to hit theaters in July 2026.

“I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites,” the 17-year-old actress said in a Wednesday statement. “My grandfather comes from Fa‘aala, Palauli, in Savai‘i. And my grandmother is from Leulumoega Tuai on the main island of ‘Upolu in Samoa. I’m honored to have an opportunity to celebrate Samoa and all Pacific Island peoples, and to represent young girls who look like me.”

The character of Moana was originally voiced by Auli’i Cravalho in the 2016 animated film, and Cravalho will return as an executive producer on the new film. However, the actress explained to TheWrap back in January that she felt strongly about not playing the role on-screen this time around.

“It feels really important to me to pass the baton to the next young woman of Pacific Island descent, and I say that with my whole chest,” Cravalho said at the time. “I have been invited, and I exist in these beautiful AAPI spaces, Asian American Pacific Islander, and I am one of the few Pacific Islanders. And I’ll say it again, I am one of the few Pacific Islanders. And our stories are so important to be told.”

She added, “I want to be behind the camera as much as I am in front of it. When I talk about representation, I want to see the same thing happening in writers’ rooms. I want to see the same thing happening with directors.”

In addition to Laga‘aia playing Moana, John Tui will play her father, Chief Tui; Frankie Adams will play her mother, Sina; and Rena Owen will play the mischievous Gramma Tala. Plus, as previously announced, Dwayne Johnson will reprise his role of Maui, the demigod.

“Hamilton” director Thomas Kail will helm the film for Disney, saying in a statement: “I am thrilled to have met Catherine, Rena, Frankie and John through this casting process. I am humbled by this opportunity and I cannot wait to all be on set together. And there’s no better pair to be in a canoe with than Catherine and Dwayne — actually, trio: Heihei is ready, too.” 

Disney’s live-action “Moana” sails into theaters on July 10, 2026.


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