Live-Action ‘Moana’ in the Works From Dwayne Johnson, Disney

Live-Action ‘Moana’ in the Works From Dwayne Johnson, Disney

Johnson announced the project during Disney’s shareholders meeting.

Disney is setting sail with Moana once again, this time in vibrant live action. The studio has teamed with Dwayne Johnson to develop a live-action remake of its 2016 animated musical sensation.

Johnson plans to return to the role of Maui, the grandiose demigod of the wind and sea. He will produce via his Seven Bucks Productions along with Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia. Beau Flynn produces via Flynn Picture Co. Jared Bush, who wrote the screenplay for the original movie, is back to write the remake, along with Dana Ledoux Miller. No director is involved at this stage of development.

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

Moana took its inspiration from Polynesian myths as it told the story of a young woman who disobeys her father, the chief of an island that is dealing with an impending ecological disaster, and goes off on a quest to reunite a mystical relic with its owner, a goddess named Te Fiti. Along the way, she releases Maui from his island prison, is captured by a monstrous crab and finds the strength to become the chief her father believed she could be.

Auli‘i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the original, will executive produce with Scott Sheldon of Flynn Picture Co.

John Musker and Ron Clements directed the original movie, which had a story by Clements, Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell and Jordan Kandell. Bush was the sole credited screenwriter.

Lin-Manuel Miranda had a heavy hand in the song-making, working with Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina. Johnson had one of the showstopping tunes, the catchy Miranda-penned “You’re Welcome.” Another song, “How Far I’ll Go,” was Oscar-nominated for best original song.

The movie was a hit with audiences and critics, generating over $665 million worldwide and earning an Oscar nomination for best animated movie, losing to fellow Disney movie, Zootopia.

Disney pioneered a strategy of remaking its classic animated movies into live-action features. It’s a strategy that has yielded huge dividends, with some movies, such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, becoming billion-dollar hits, and some earning plaudits for creativity, such as Cruella. But it has also yielded duds, with some titles being dumped on its streaming service, Disney+.

Up until now, it has not remade any title from the 21st century, preferring to keep some distance from animated and classic versions. But the studio’s strategy now seems to be changing, and it may not be long before movies such as Frozen or Tangled are targeted.

Already a Lilo & Stitch movie is in preproduction for a summer shoot. Fan response has been one reason for the distance, but Disney is betting half a dozen years isn’t that short in a nostalgia-fueled culture that cycles through ideas faster than a girl on a camakau escaping coconut pirates.  

Disney’s strategy is now also inspiring some other studios with animation libraries to look into their catalogs to find titles for live-action remakes. Universal is prepping to film this summer a remake of How to Train Your Dragon, its beloved and now-classic movie from 2010.

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