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Moana: Another Disney Remake but is it Too Soon?

Actor Dwayne Johnson has announced that a live action remake of Disney’s 2016 animated musical Moana is in the works.

The US star, aka The Rock, revealed the project in a video filmed on a beach on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, alongside his daughters.

Johnson, who voiced gregarious demi-God Maui in the animation, tweeted he was “deeply humbled” to help reproduce the “beautiful story of Moana”.

Original Moana actress Auliʻi Cravalho will also be involved.

She posted a link to a story from Deadline on her Instagram account which says she and Johnson will serve as executive producers on the project.

Set on the Polynesian island of Motunui, Moana follows the story of an adventurous teenage girl, who sets sail on a daring mission to save her people, with the help of Johnson’s Maui.

Referencing his own family’s heritage, the ex-wrestler added: “This story is my culture, and this story is emblematic of our people’s grace, mana and warrior strength.”

In the video, posted on Monday evening, Johnson went on explain how “the spirit of my late grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia” had “inspired” him to bring the part to life.

He said how “honoured” he felt to now get the chance to work with Disney again to “tell our story through the realm of music and dance, which at the core is who we are as Polynesian people.”

The original Moana animation was a box office hit, grossing more than $645m (£520m) worldwide while earning an Oscar nomination for best animated movie.

Just seven years on from its release, the latest reboot plan has left some fans on social media “stoked”, while others are suggesting Disney might be “moving a little fast”.

So Why so Many Disney Remakes?

Since the 2010s, you’ll have noticed Disney has remade a raft of box office-smashing versions of old school animated classics, using real life actors.

Remakes of Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the Lion King all grossed more than $1 billion.

And there are plenty more remakes in the pipeline too, including Hercules, Peter Pan & Wendy and Mufusa, a Lion King prequel.

Now though, with the likes of Moana and Lilo & Stitch, we are starting to see the same model being applied to more recent, 21st century favourites, according to film critic Helen O’Hara.

“I think Moana was a great film, it was a box office hit and you have these two incredibly likeable stars who are still at the right age and the right look to come back and do their roles again,” she told BBC News.

“So in that sense I get the appeal of doing it now, but it is an unusual one because it’s a much, much shorter window between animated film and live action remake than we’ve ever had before.”

O’Hara believes that most live action remakes don’t really need to exist but says some of the better ones down the years, such as Cinderella, the Jungle Book and Dumbo, have genuinely added something to the original movies.

And while the primary motivation for the business is undoubtedly money, she stresses, the creatives involved usually want to make the very best film they can.

“There are two different things going on: the people who make the decisions about what to greenlight are all about money,” she explains. “The people who make the movies – the directors, the producers, the writers, the cast – are often aiming to create something great, I think, every time they go out.

“They don’t get a slice of what the studio does, for the most part. So they want to make a great live action Moana or a great live action Lion King, or whatever it is.

“But the studio suits definitely do make decisions on the basis of money and those decisions are made on the basis of what is a familiar name to people, what will people go to the cinema and see? And people will go to the cinema to see The Rock and people will go to the cinema to see Moana, so that’s pretty much the extent of the maths that I think they’re doing.”

As well as bringing in the big bucks, leaning towards re-makes, sequels and safer franchises affords Disney – a company which has been cutting staff after numbers on its Disney+ streaming site fell – to take risks on other, more original projects.

Some of the remakes have also enabled filmmakers to tell stories from different perspectives and in different ways for modern audiences too.

Maleficent, for example, re-told the tale of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villainess. While Halle Bailey, the star of the upcoming Little Mermaid remake, was left awestruck by people sharing videos of the joy on their children’s faces on seeing the trailer for a film featuring a non-white Disney star who looked a little like them.

Despite widespread commercial success, Disney’s remakes have not been without their critics though. Last year the studio had to respond to criticism made by Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage about its forthcoming live action adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Dinklage, who has a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, said the remake of the 1937 animated film, based on story from the Brothers Grimm, was “backward”.

Disney said it was going to “avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film”.

Now as the Walt Disney Company, to give it its full name, approaches its 100th birthday, protecting its legacy is an issue too, as some of the classic, earlier movies are nearing their copyright expiration dates.

But the company’s strategy around live action remakes, O’Hara believes, has less to do with extending copyright – something which does not automatically renew by remaking something with the same name anyway – and more to do with getting the most out of each and every product.

“I think there was a discussion of that with Mickey Mouse, for example, because the copyright of that is coming up, and obviously we’ve seen this year already what happened when Winnie the Pooh fell out of copyright,” said the film critic.

“But the films that they currently have on the slate, things like the Little Mermaid or Hercules, only go back 20 or 30 years, so there’s no question that those will come falling out of copyright yet.

“And obviously something like Moana or Lilo & Stitch, those have years and years to go,” she added.

“I don’t think it’s so much about that as it is with getting everything they can out of the ideas that they hold and the ideas that people know them for.

“Because if you do succeed with your live action remake, then you can have a sequel to the live action remake. So maybe it’s good for two or three films and not just one.”

Source : BBC News