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Moana 2 locks down both Auli'i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson as Disney scrambles to transition from show to film

Yeah, this one wasn't planned out in advance.

Moana (2016)
Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

The announcement of Moana 2 that came out of nowhere was a pleasant early 2024 surprise for many, especially when it's set to arrive later this year, but there's cause for concern.

As we previously explained, the original plan was to make a Moana follow-up series exclusive to Disney+ instead of a theatrical sequel. However, recent (self-inflicted) streaming market conditions have caused Disney to do a hard pivot towards fewer series and more movies. You know, the tried-and-tested formula that turned Disney into a seemingly unbeatable transmedia behemoth in the 2010s.

Those who'd been closely following the news from Disney's animation branch knew this change couldn't have possibly happened too long ago, as Disney likes to announce what's in the works well in advance of the release dates and the Moana Disney+ series was believed to still be in development last year. Animators and VFX artists surely aren't too happy about this hard pivot meant to get an animated blockbuster ready for Thanksgiving 2024, but it also looks like the first movie's stars, Auli'i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson, weren't confirmed to return until very recently.

While we learned shortly after the announcement that Johnson, who's also prepping for the live-action Moana remake (yes, this soon), was down to voice Maui again, Cravalho's involvement wasn't as clear. Now, Deadline has confirmed she'll be back in the titular role. Moreover, she confirmed the news herself via Instagram.

Believe it or not, it appears that both actors weren't meant to return for the now-dead Moana series, as Disney's animated series' production budgets are typically spread thinner and a good way to keep costs down is to cast new, less famous voices for the returning characters. The fact we're only now getting confirmation the stars of the original movie are beginning to record their lines highlights how much of a rush job this theatrical release is looking.

Will Disney's financial power and well-greased animation pipeline make the switch from show to less-than-two-hours movie feel right when Moana 2 opens on November 27, 2024? We can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

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