Catherine Laga'aia. Photo by Alexei Hay. © 2024 Alexei Hay. All Rights Reserved.

Catherine Laga'aia. Photo by Alexei Hay. © 2024 Alexei Hay. All Rights Reserved.


  • Catherine Laga‘aia is playing the title character in the live-action ‘Moana’.
  • Dwayne Johnson is reprising his role as Maui.
  • ‘Hamilton’ director Thomas Kail is behind the camera.

We’ve known since April that, in addition to the animation sequel headed to theaters this Thanksgiving, Disney is hard at work on a live-action version of 2016’s animated hit ‘Moana’.

But while that announcement included word that Dwayne Johnson would be reprising his role as demi-god Maui, there was no indication of who might be inheriting the title role of the young Pacific Islander who sets sail on a quest, as Auli’i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the animated version, is instead just a producer on this one.


"The ocean is calling."
PG1 hr 47 minNov 23rd, 2016
Showtimes & Tickets

What’s the story of Moana?

Walt Disney Studios Animation's 'Moana.'

Walt Disney Studios Animation's 'Moana.'

The original movie follows the young woman rebelling against the insular nature of her island community and embracing her destiny as an adventurer, helping to sort out a huge problem in the process.

Along the way, she meets Maui, the mischievous, shape-shifting demi-god who is initially a thorn in her side but ends up a trusted companion.

Who is appearing in the ‘Moana’ live-action movie?

Frankie Adams.

Frankie Adams.

Here’s what Catherine Laga‘aia had to say about getting the role:

“I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites. My grandfather comes from Fa‘aala, Palauli, in Savai‘i. And my grandmother is from Leulumoega Tuai on the main island of ‘Upolu in Samoa. I’m honored to have an opportunity to celebrate Samoa and all Pacific Island peoples, and to represent young girls who look like me.”

She’ll be joined in the cast by Auckland, New Zealander John Tui as Moana’s no-nonsense father, Chief Tui; Samoan-New Zealand actress Frankie Adams portrays Moana’s playful and strong-willed mother, Sina; and Rena Owen, who hails from Bay of Islands, NZ, was cast as the revered Gramma Tala.

Related Article: Dwayne Johnson Announces Disney is Making a Live-Action ‘Moana’

Who is making the live-action ‘Moana’?

John Tui.

John Tui.

Thomas Kail, who directed the theatre sensation ‘Hamilton’ (and on TV made the likes of ‘Fosse/Verdon’ and ‘Up Here’), is behind the camera for the new ‘Moana’.

This is his statement on tackling the new movie:

“I am thrilled to have met Catherine, Rena, Frankie and John through this casting process. I am humbled by this opportunity, and I cannot wait to all be on set together. And there’s no better pair to be in a canoe with than Catherine and Dwayne — actually, trio: Heihei is ready, too.”

In case that last name has you saying “whowho?”, Heihei is Moana’s extremely dim chicken friend from the animated pic.

Jared Bush, who co-wrote on the original ‘Moana’, has crafted the new script alongside Samoan writer Dana Ledoux Miller. And Kail’s old friend, ‘Hamilton’ creator/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also wrote songs for the animated movie) is a producer on this one.

When will the live-action ‘Moana’ be in theaters?

Disney has planted a flag in July 10th, 2026, as the release date for the new movie.

Rena Owen. Photo by Manfred Baumann.

Rena Owen. Photo by Manfred Baumann.

Other Movies Similar to Live-Action ‘Moana':

Buy Disney's 'Moana' on Amazon