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What Disney's Live-Action Moana Movie Cast Looks Like In Real Life

Disney's going all in on "Moana." Released during the tail end of 2016, the animated pic became a cultural juggernaut thanks to its lush visuals, diverse narrative, and heartfelt soundtrack, which had songs co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. With the film's continued success, especially on Disney+, Maui voice actor Dwayne Johnson announced a live-action remake in 2023. While there was some criticism over how it was too soon to revisit the "Moana" property, the House of Mouse has trucked along, tapping director Thomas Kail to helm the picture, which is currently set to grace cinemas in July 2026. 

While concrete plot details are slim, it's fair to say that Disney will stick closely to the original. Jared Bush, who wrote the original flick, is returning as the live-action film's writer. He's joined by Samoan co-writer Dana Ledoux Miller. Unfortunately, Auli'i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the animated OG, won't be returning for the 2026 release. The star will, however, produce the updated version, ensuring that it sticks to the source material and continues to be a diverse project. 

For a while, many speculated on who would step into the shoes of the titular character, and we finally have our answer. In a recent press release, Disney confirmed that production on "Moana" 2026 would begin in summer 2024. The announcement also confirmed the rest of the project's cast, including who'll be playing the Samoan princess. Unsurprisingly, the studio has cast a relatively unknown actor to steer the future of the franchise.

Catherine Laga'aia stars as Moana

After months of searching for their lead star, Disney has landed on Catherine Laga'aia to star as the titular character of Moana. Seventeen years old as of this writing, the soon-to-be superstar was born in Australia. To date, she has only starred in the critically acclaimed Australian miniseries "The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart," which debuted on Amazon Prime Video. Despite only just starting her acting journey, Laga'aia is the perfect choice for Moana. 

"I'm really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites," she said in Disney's press release. "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." 

Laga'aia is the perfect age for Moana, who was depicted as 16 in the original pic, and she boasts the character's signature curly hair, making her a solid choice for the upcoming blockbuster. Our new Moana also happens to be the daughter of New Zealand screen icon Jay Laga'aia, who played Gregar Typho in the "Star Wars" prequels. Following the announcement of his daughter's Disney appointment, Jay took to Instagram to gush about how he excited he was for Catherine. 

Dwayne Johnson is returning as Maui

There's a lot you probably don't know about Maui, but we know that his live-action counterpart is perfect for him. Unsurprisingly, Dwayne Johnson is returning as the cocky demigod. Disney deciding to bring the "Jumanji" actor back on board is an extremely sound decision that should help lead the film to box office glory. A beloved movie star, he continues to pull in audiences, and "Moana" will likely be no exception when it washes into multiplexes in 2026. The project is also deeply personal to the wrestler-turned-actor, as he'll be producing the film alongside his company Seven Bucks Productions. Disney is likely keen to have the actor's input, as the studio recently signed a first look with Johnson's production company for future projects

Johnson is particularly enthusiastic about bringing "Moana" back to the big screen, as he believes it's an opportunity to continue the legacy of the animated pic. "This story is my culture, and this story is emblematic of our people's grace and warrior strength. I wear this culture proudly on my skin and in my soul, and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reunite with Maui, inspired by the mana and spirit of my late grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia, is one that runs very deep for me," he said in a Disney announcement

Right now, it's unclear what Maui will look like in the final film, but seeing as Johnson is already adorned with tattoos and has a bulky physique, it's fair to say that he'll bring the live-action version of the character to justice. 

One of Dwayne Johnson's frequent collaborators is playing Moana's dad

In what was likely a very obvious decision, John Tui has been cast as Moana's father, who is also called Tui. Audiences will remember Moana's dad as being serious and extremely strict. After all, he's the chief of Motunui Island, and he has to be particularly protective of his clan members and daughter. The character was previously voiced by Boba/Jango Fett actor Temuera Morrison in the original pic. 

Audiences might be unfamiliar with John Tui, but they've likely seen him if they're fans of Dwayne Johnson. The New Zealand-born actor's biggest role to date is Kal in 2019's "Fast & Furious" spin-off "Hobbs & Shaw." He plays one of Johnson's brothers during the Samoa portion of the film. Johnson must have enjoyed working with the actor, as Tui later joined the sitcom "Young Rock" as a the wrestler Afa Anoa'i. His other credits include "Solo: A Star Wars Story" and 2012's "Battleship." 

Tui's presence is large and dominating, standing at 6 feet tall. Seeing as he already has experience playing tough guys and wrestlers, the "Hobbit" actor is a solid option to play the chief of Montunui Island. Here's hoping he can nail the songs!

Frankie Adams is playing Moana's mom

Moana's mother, Sina, will be played by New Zealand actress Frankie Adams, who is of Samoan descent. Adams made her acting debut with the New Zealand soap opera "Shortland Street," appearing in the program from 2010 to 2014. Her major breakthrough role was in the beloved Syfy and Prime Video series "The Expanse," where she played the sergeant Bobbie. Audience members who tuned in for Taika Waititi's 2023 soccer comedy, "Next Goal Wins," may also recognize Adams from her brief role in the pic. She was also featured in the Peter Jackson-produced "Mortal Engines." 

What might have led to Adams' casting as Moana's mom is that she headlined the miniseries "The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart," which also features Catherine Laga'aia. In the Prime Video series, Laga'aia plays the younger version of Adams' character, Candy. Seeing as the rising star already has experience playing around with Adams' mannerisms, it makes sense that both were cast as a mother-daughter duo.

Following the confirmation that she'd be playing Moana's mom, the actress took to Instagram to express her gratitude and excitement for the opportunity: "Congratulations to our sweet Katie who is bringing Moana to life. I'm a proud Māmā! So honored and grateful to be part of this team. This is truly surreal. Ok, ok I'm off to have another joyful cry and get ready for my trip to Motunui!"

"Moana" hits cinemas on July 10, 2026.