Disney Announces Live-Action Remake Of Moana With Dwayne Johnson, Just 6 Years After The Original

If you thought Disney was slowing down with its live-action remakes of animated hits, you thought wrong. Instead, the Mouse House is putting its foot on the accelerator by announcing a live-action remake of "Moana," a mere six years and change after the original arrived in theaters. Dwayne Johnson, who voiced the South Pacific demigod Maui in the animated film and even showed off his singing skills in the number "You're Welcome," announced the "reimagining" (Disney's preferred branding for its live-action remakes) in a video that also features his two youngest daughters, Jasmine and Tiana. 

Johnson intends to reprise his role as Maui, but while actress Auli'i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the 2016 original, is attached as an executive producer, there's no indication yet that she'll be returning on-screen alongside Johnson. The remake is still in very early development; "Moana" screenwriter Jared Bush and Samoan writer/producer Dana Ledoux Miller (whose credits include "Narcos" and "The Newsroom") are also involved, but no director or screenwriter has yet been confirmed. 

In a statement accompanying the announcement, Johnson 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."

You're welcome?

While Dwayne Johnson's presentation of the "Moana" remake makes it sound like a family affair driven by his love for his grandfather — and that may well be the case, at least for him — realistically this is a decision driven by Disney's love of money. Although "Moana" didn't reach the same cloudy mountain peaks of the box office as "Frozen" ($1.282 billion), it did end its theatrical run with $682.6 million worldwide, and has since proven its long-term appeal as well. Per Nielsen, "Moana" was the No. 2 most-streamed movie across all platforms in 2021, notably outranking the 2019 sequel "Frozen II" and Disney's 2021 release "Raya and the Last Dragon." And despite a recent downturn, Disney's live-action remakes have historically made the studio a lot of money.

Don't think that "Frozen" will be left alone for long, either. Film industry scooper Daniel Richtman reported via his Patreon that remakes of both "Frozen" and "Tangled" have been in development for a while. The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit notes that Disney had previously held off from remaking animated movies from the 21st century, but between the upcoming "Lilo & Stitch" remake and now this, the studio seems to be shifting its strategy. Kit also points to "Frozen" and "Tangled" as two movies that could be targeted for production soon.

There's an argument to be made that this is a positive step in terms of representation for Pacific Islanders ... but that might have been better achieved with an original story. To remake a beloved animated film so soon reinforces the idea that live-action filmmaking is an "upgrade" from animation, when in fact animated films have the potential for far broader creative horizons than live action can achieve.