Disney has announced a surprise sequel to its hit animated musical film Moana, which is set to arrive in cinemas in November.
During an earnings call on Wednesday, the Disney CEO, Bob Iger, revealed Moana 2 was initially developed as a TV series.
“We were impressed by what we saw and knew it deserved a theatrical release,” he said, adding that Moana had been streamed for more than 1bn minutes on Disney+ in 2023 alone, highlighting its continued popularity.
Set in Polynesia, Moana follows the titular teenage heroine as she embarks on a journey across the ocean with the demigod Maui, in order to save her people. The film was a huge success, grossing $643m worldwide and nominated for two Academy Awards.
Dave Derrick Jr, who worked on the original film as a story board artist, will direct Moana 2, while Abigail Barlow, Emily Bear, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina are writing the songs. Foa’i and Mancina worked on the first film’s songs with the Hamilton creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Moana 2, which will be released on 27 November, will be an “expansive new voyage with Moana, Maui and a brand-new crew of unlikely seafarers”, Disney said.
The film’s description reads: “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.”
It is unusual for what would be considered a major film to be announced so close to the cinematic release, especially as a live-action remake of Moana is set to be released in 2025. The live-action film will, like the animated original, star Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson as the demigod Maui. The role of Moana has yet to be cast in the live-action film, but the original voice actor Auli’i Cravalho has confirmed she won’t be playing the role.
Iger also announced in the earnings call that Disney+ had secured the streaming rights for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, which will land on the platform on 15 March. The Disney+ version will include five songs that were not included in the theatrical or video-on-demand releases.
Disney is also set to invest $1.5bn in Epic Games, the studio behind the hugely popular video game Fortnite, as part of a partnership to create a new “games and entertainment universe” that will see characters from Disney’s huge array of intellectual properties – spanning franchises like Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and Avatar – included in both Fortnite and other Epic Games projects.