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Surprise ‘Moana’ Sequel Hitting Theaters in November

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Moana and Maui are hitting the ocean once again. In a surprise move, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that the company will release an animated sequel to the 2016 film that will hit theaters Nov. 27. The announcement came during an earnings call in which Iger emphasized that the ship was being righted at Disney’s film and TV divisions several months after he acknowledged the company had done too much too fast in order to feed Disney+, leading to some cases of lower quality projects hitting the marketplace. 

“I feel great about where we are with the studio,” Iger said when updating investors on Wednesday.

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Dave Derrick Jr., who worked on the original film as a story board artist, will direct the new sequel, which is separate from a live-action remake of Moana starring Dwayne Johnson. Abigail Barlow, Emily Bear, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina are writing the music.

Iger revealed the Moana sequel was initially developed as a TV series, before becoming a movie. “We were impressed by what we saw, and knew it deserved a theatrical release,” Iger during the call. He added that the film crossed 1 billion minutes of viewing on Disney+ in 2023, underscoring its continued cultural cachet.

Among the news Iger also shared was a big coup for Disney+, the acquisition of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version). The company also revealed a release date for Zootopia 2 (Nov. 26, 2025).

On Wednesday, Iger said the company was “leaning a little bit more into sequels and franchises.” He added that Marvel Studios, which has cut back on its output, “is starting to focus on some of its stronger franchises going forward, but I’ll leave it at that.”

The original Moana voice starred Auliʻi Cravalho as Moana, a young woman who goes on an adventure against the wishes of her father, the chief of the Polynesian island of Motunui. Along the way, she teams up with Maui, a demigod of the wind and sea voiced by Johnson. Johnson and Cravalho are expected to reprise their roles.

The musical animated feature grossed $643.3 million globally, and it received Oscar nominations for best animated feature and best song for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go.”

Ron Clements and John Musker directed the 2016 movie. Miranda, Mark Mancina and Foa’i were the songwriters. 

The Moana news comes as the studio rethinks its franchise strategy after a number of high-profile sequels disappointed last year, with underperforming titles including Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and The Marvels. Animation has also been a struggle in recent years, with Pixar’s Lightyear and Disney Animation’s Strange World bombing in 2022. Last year’s Pixar feature Elemental was a bright spot, with the sleeper hit earning nearly $500 million globally.

Nearly a year ago, in March 2023, Iger suggested the company would be more pointed when opting to greenlight sequels, particularly third or fourth installments. “Sequels typically work well for us, but do you need a third or a fourth, for instance? Or is it time to turn to other characters?” Iger said, specifically referencing Marvel.

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