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My grandfather comes from Fa‘aala, Palauli, in Savai‘i, and my grandmother is from Leulumoega Tuai


Disney has announced that Catherine Laga’aia, a 17-year-old Australian actress of Samoan heritage, will star as Moana in the upcoming live-action remake of the beloved 2016 animated film. This highly anticipated adaptation will begin filming this summer and is set to celebrate the islands, communities, and traditions of Pacific Islanders through a spectacular adventure.


A New Star Emerges

Catherine Laga’aia, who resides in Sydney, has been cast as the adventurous and spirited heroine Moana. Despite her relatively short acting resume, which includes a role in the TV series The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, her selection for this iconic role marks a significant moment in her budding career. Catherine’s father, Jay Laga’aia, is a well-known actor who appeared in the Star Wars franchise, making her no stranger to the world of showbiz.


Embracing Her Heritage

In her statement about the casting, Laga’aia expressed her excitement and honour in taking on the role of Moana:

“I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favourites. 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.”

A Stellar Cast

Laga’aia will be joined by a stellar cast, including:

  • Dwayne Johnson, reprising his role as Maui, the larger-than-life demigod.

  • John Tui, portraying Chief Tui, Moana’s father.

  • Frankie Adams, cast as Sina, Moana’s mother.

  • Rena Owen, playing Gramma Tala, the wise and loving grandmother.

Production Team

The live-action Moana will be directed by Thomas Kail, known for his acclaimed work on Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who composed much of the original film’s soundtrack, will serve as one of the producers. Other producers include Scott Sheldon of FlynnPictureCo. and Auli‘i Cravalho, the original voice of Moana.


A Cultural Celebration

This live-action remake promises to retain the charm and music of the original, featuring beloved songs that have captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. Disney’s announcement emphasised that the movie will celebrate the islands, communities, and traditions of Pacific Islanders, making it a culturally rich and vibrant adventure.


Continuing a Legacy

The original 2016 animated Moana was a massive success, grossing over $680 million at the box office and becoming the most-streamed movie of 2023 according to Nielsen tracking. With the announcement of the live-action adaptation, fans can look forward to a new interpretation of the story that highlights the grace, mana, and warrior strength of Pacific Islander people.


Conclusion

The casting of Catherine Laga’aia as Moana is a significant step forward for representation in film, celebrating the rich culture and traditions of the Pacific Islands. As Disney continues to reimagine its animated classics, this live-action adaptation is poised to bring a beloved story to life for a new generation, honouring its legacy while introducing fresh perspectives and talents.


The live-action Moana is set for release in July 2026, and audiences around the world eagerly await the opportunity to embark on this new voyage to Motunui and beyond.

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