Disney Mounts Live-Action ‘Moana’ Remake with Dwayne Johnson Reprising His Role as Maui

What can we say except “you’re welcome?”

Dwayne Johnson Moana

Dwayne Johnson and Disney will be bringing the world of “Moana” to live-action. And what’s more, Johnson will be reprising his role as demigod Maui for the new version.

Johnson revealed the news in a prefilmed segment featured Monday in Disney’s annual shareholder meeting.

You can see the segment below, which features Johnson in Hawaii with his young daughters (who are, presumably, “Moana” super-fans). “We are so excited and happy to announce that a live-action reimagining of Moana is in the works,” Johnson said, while standing on the beach, the waves gently lapping behind him. “In a way, when I bring Maui to life, I’m doing it in the spirit of my grandfather.” Johnson noted that it’s “very early in the process” with “lots of work to be done.”  

What’s interesting about “Moana” is that it wasn’t an immediate smash out of the gate. Released in 2016, it was outgrossed at the worldwide box office by “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Ice Age: Collison Course” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” (not to mention Disney’s own “Finding Dory” and “Zootopia,” the two biggest animated features of the year). While it was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, it lost to Disney’s own “Zootopia.” But in the years since, “Moana” has proven a sleeper smash, with tons of new projects in the works, including an attraction at EPCOT (and potentially additional attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and a new animated series coming to Disney+ from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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 original 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 “Encanto” and a writer and co-director on “Zootopia.” Bush wrote the screenplay for the original “Moana.”

Disney has been leaning on its back catalog of animated classics for box office riches; updated versions of “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” have all crossed the $1 billion mark globally. And there are plenty in the works, with “Peter Pan & Wendy” debuting on Disney+ later this month, “The Little Mermaid” coming in May and “Snow White” and a “Lion King” sequel/prequel called “Mufasa” both due out next year. Additionally, new versions of “Lilo & Stitch” and “The Aristocats,” plus a sequel to “Cruella” are all in the works.

But this is the first time that a live-action movie has followed so quickly after an animated movie’s release. If Guy Ritchie’s proposed “Hercules” remake makes it off the ground, that will be the most recent animated movie to get the live-action treatment (and that opened in 1997, almost 20 years before the release of “Moana”). John Lasseter, the former chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, was said to have made a rule that more recent Disney animated fare couldn’t be adapted, but Lasseter was removed in 2017 after a number of sexual harassment allegations were disclosed.