Disney Finds Its Live-Action ‘Moana’ In Catherine Laga‘aia

Disney has cast Catherine Laga‘aia in the title role of its live-action Moana movie, which is set to be released in theaters on July 10, 2026. Moana 2, the animated sequel, is opening in theaters the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year.

“I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites,” the 17-year-old Sydney, Australia, native said. “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.”

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Disney also announced that New Zealander John Tui will play Moana’s no-nonsense father, Chief Tui; Samoan-New Zealand actress Frankie Adams will play 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.

The join a cast that includes the previously announced Dwayne Johnson, who will reprise his role as demigod Maui from the original 2016 movie, which grossed $687.2 million at the global box office and was up for the Animated Feature Oscar.

The live-action version of Moana is directed by Thomas Kail, who helmed Hamilton on Broadway and Disney+, Grease Live, and the first and last episodes of Hulu’s limited series We Were the Lucky Ones.

Said Kail, “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.”

Moana will be shooting this summer.

The new feature film is produced by Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia via their Seven Bucks Productions and Beau Flynn via FlynnPictureCo. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the original songs, will also serve as producer. EPs include Scott Sheldon of FlynnPictureCo., Auli‘i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the 2016 film, and Charles Newirth.

Jared Bush and Dana Ledoux Miller have also been tapped for the new project. Bush, a veteran of Disney Animation, wrote the screenplay for 2016’s Moana, and Miller is a Samoan writer who created Netflix’s Thai Cave Rescue and co-founded the nonprofit Pasifika Entertainment Advancement Komiti.

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