Moana is getting a surprise sequel, as Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Moana 2, Walt Disney Animation’s all-new feature-length sequel to 2016’s Oscar-nominated film, will be released in theaters in 2024. This post shares the announcement, why this is coming out of left field, and what it could mean for Walt Disney World and beyond.
“Moana remains an incredibly popular franchise,” said Iger. “And we can’t wait to give you more of Moana and Maui when Moana 2 comes to theaters this November.” Walt Disney Animation Studios’ epic, all-new animated musical Moana 2 takes audiences on an expansive new voyage with Moana, Maui and a brand-new crew of unlikely seafarers.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ epic animated musical Moana 2 takes audiences on an expansive new voyage with Moana, Maui and a brand-new crew of unlikely seafarers. After receiving an unexpected call from her wayfinding ancestors, Moana must journey to the far seas of Oceania and into dangerous, long-lost waters for an adventure unlike anything she’s ever faced.
Moana 2 is being directed by Dave Derrick Jr., with music by Grammy winners Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, Grammy nominee Opetaia Foa’i, and three-time Grammy winner Mark Mancina. Moana 2 opens in theaters this Thanksgiving Eve, on November 27, 2024.
Oddly enough, Disney did not confirm whether Auli‘i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would reprise their roles in Moana 2. Normally, that would seem like a given, but in light of other upcoming sequels and the origins of this movie, it’s no sure thing. The good news is that both Cravalho and Johnson posted the teaser for Moana 2 on Instagram, strongly suggesting they’ll be back for the sequel. Phew.
In addition to the surprise announcement of Moana 2, Bob Iger also shared on the earnings call that Zootopia 2 will be released in 2025. Frozen 3 and the Toy Story 5 will be released in 2026.
Turning to commentary, this comes as a surprise because Disney never announced Moana 2. I know it might be tough to keep track of all the sequels because there are so many, but there was originally going to be a Disney+ series based on Moana. You might’ve forgotten, but it was among the Like 937 Things Announced During Disney’s Investor Day in 2020.
Originally titled “Moana: The Series,” it was produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios in Vancouver, Canada. That branch of the studio is also responsible for animation for a Disney+ series based on The Princess and the Frog. This might raise some red flags, as longtime fans are probably well aware that Disney has used these non-Burbank outposts to create direct-to-video sequels or subpar animation.
But before you start worrying about that or that Disney is pushing this to theaters due to a weaker slate, it’s worth noting that there have been rumors for a couple of months now that “Moana: The Series” was far exceeding expectations both in story and animation quality. Between this and a dearth of other release options, this caused Disney to consider converting the series into a full-length feature film.
If you could swear that Disney actually already announced a sequel to Moana coming to theaters, you’re probably thinking of the live action Moana, which is (currently) slated for release on June 27, 2025. That was the big surprise announcement during last year’s Annual Shareholder’s meeting, when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson broke the news.
The new live-action Moana 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, and Scott Sheldon of Flynn Picture Co. Jared Bush and Dana Ledoux Miller will also take part in the production. Bush, who was a director and co-writer of Disney’s Oscar-winning film Encanto and a writer and co-director on Disney’s Oscar-winning Zootopia, wrote the screenplay for the original Moana movie.
According to Disney, the live-action reimagining of Moana will celebrate the islands, communities, and traditions of Pacific Islanders as seen through the eyes of a young woman eager to pave her own path. Moana’s journey of self-discovery and reflection on the lives of her ancestors won hearts worldwide, as did her newfound friendship with an exiled demigod named Maui.
While it might seem crazy to release Moana 2 and then turn around 6 months later to drop a live action remake–which normally have been of decades-old animated films–I kind of get it here. It’s a stars-aligned sort of scenario, where the Disney+ series looked really good and deserving of a theatrical release.
Not only that, but The Rock isn’t getting any younger. Although it seems like he’s an ageless wonder, now is probably the time to do a live-action remake if he’s going to play Maui. Even as someone who has been a huge critic of these live-action remakes as creatively-bankrupt and superfluous, I’m actually sympathetic to this one.
I don’t think it’ll be better than the original, but the live-action Moana should be a fun movie in a stunning setting. While his track record has become spottier in recent years, The Rock knows what he’s doing here. I’d be willing to bet this will be the biggest live-action remake since Aladdin.
This also makes sense given the staying power of Moana. The original movie was directed by Disney legends Ron Clements and John Musker and co-directed by Chris Williams and Don Hall. It was released for Thanksgiving 2016, where it made $682.6 million at the box office. That’s fantastic as compared to current bombs, but it was actually far overshadowed by other Disney and Pixar animated releases of that ‘era’ (yes, it’s a different era than post-pandemic).
In the years since the release of Moana, its popularity has only grown. According to Nielsen, Moana topped all other movies in 2023 with an all-time high of 11.6 billion viewing minutes after landing in the top four spots over the past four years. Since Nielsen began measuring streaming, audiences have watched nearly 80 billion minutes of Moana, which translates to watching the full movie 775 million times.
And as you’re probably aware, Moana’s Journey of Water Inspired opened late last year at EPCOT. This is the first standalone attraction based on Moana in any of the Disney Parks, but probably not the last. Which brings us to our final point…
More Moana is also probably on the way at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and beyond. That would probably end up being true without regard for “Moana: The Series” being converted into Moana 2. Between the early live action remake (almost assuredly a success given the popularity of the original plus The Rock) and the growth in the minutes-streamed stat, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Moana will have a stronger parks presence.
For a ‘blueprint’ of Moana’s future theme park presence, I’d look no further than World of Frozen, which just opened at Hong Kong Disneyland and is coming in 2025 to Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. I haven’t the slightest idea where it’ll go or what it’ll entail, but if Moana 2 and the live-action remake are smash successes at the box office, another single IP land is a distinct possibility.
Another possibility is a new twist on Fantasy Springs, the port-of-call at Tokyo DisneySea that’ll merge Frozen, Tangled and Peter Pan into a single land. That addition has dedicated areas–rather than an entire land or just single attractions–for each of those movies.
Fantasy Springs could very well be the next ‘evolution’ theme park design, as Disney moves away from the single IP land and towards concepts that blend together a variety of properties. Even if you never experience Fantasy Springs, you might recognize this major development as…how theme park lands used to be! Sort of like how streaming was the evolution of the cable bundle…but has itself essentially reinvented the bundle. (Joking aside, Fantasy Springs is actually a new twist, as it’s more like 3 self-contained minilands.)
We also have a fairly good idea that this is the plan for the future, since all of Imagineering’s blue sky daydreaming teases for Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom have brought together a variety of IP (Moana + Zootopia; Indiana Jones + Encanto; Coco + Encanto, etc.) into these expansions. Who knows what will end up happening with all of that, but I suspect the odds have just gone up on a new “Moana + something” land at Walt Disney World.
Regardless of what happens, I’d expect Walt Disney World to start steering away from Star Wars and Marvel, with the possible exception of a thrill ride rethemed to Wakanda and retooling of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Other than that, I think we’ve entered the era of stuff based on classic and new-classic Walt Disney Animation Studios films, along with a dash of (underutilized) Pixar movies.
When it comes to potential options here, there are a lot of popular options that have even less of a park presence than Moana, including but not limited to Zootopia, Coco, Inside Out, Encanto, and pretty much everything from the Disney Renaissance in the 1990s. There are actually many popular movies that have no meaningful presence in attractions at Walt Disney World, so not as much “need” to double dip on Moana…but it’ll happen anyway!
What are your thoughts on more Moana being added to Walt Disney World or Disneyland in the style of World of Frozen or Fantasy Springs? Think the Walt Disney Company will follow through on its purported plans to “turbocharge” investment and double CapEx to $60 billion on Park & Resorts in the next decade with significant investment in a land that features Moana? Which IPs would you like to see better represented at WDW and DLR? Anything you’re hoping does not end up coming to fruition? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!