Walt Disney Animation Studios has been on roll of late, with such films as Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen having both earned critical acclaim and cleaned up at the box office, and next month’s Big Hero 6 looks to keep that win streak alive. The Mouse House will unveil two Pixar animated features next year, with Inside Out arriving in June and The Good Dinosaur in November in lieu of a new Disney Animation feature.
Similar to Pixar releasing two movies in 2015 after having “passed” on 2014, Disney Animation intends to release a pair of animated theatrical features in 2016 after being a no-show for 2015. The studio previously announced Zootopia (from Tangled director Bryan Howard) and has it tentatively set to arrive in March 2016. Today, the Mouse House unveiled another developing original film, titled Moana, that’s on course to reach theaters in late 2016 (presumably taking the November 23rd date currently reserved for a Disney Animation project).
Moana is being directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The movie shall arrive in time to mark the 30th anniversary of the pair’s first Disney animated feature, The Great Mouse Detective, which they then followed with such noteworthy Mouse House ‘toons as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and, most recently, The Princess and the Frog. Their latest feature takes place in the “ancient South Pacific world of Oceania,” and it follows the adventures of a young woman named Moana. You can check out the first official concept art for the film, below (click the image for the full-sized version).
Moana, described by Musker as “indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself,” undergoes a journey where she joins forces with her hero – the demigod Maui – and travels the wide, unconquered ocean on a voyage. The how and why of Moana’s grand adventure remains something of a mystery beyond that, thought the film’s synopsis does promise “enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.”
Mark Mancina (Tarzan, Brother Bear) is composing the film’s score, though it appears as though Moana is not going to be a proper musical – something that has usually not been the case for animated princess fairy tale adventures released under the Disney banner. It could always have a musical component to it, though, along the same lines as such past Mouse House ‘toons as Tarzan and Lilo & Stitch, for example.
Of course, Disney Animation’s recent success can partly be attributed to the studio’s willingness to modernize and modify the archetypes of the classic princess fairy tale (Tangled, Frozen), and to explore similar fairy tale narratives in different contexts – be it the world of arcade games in Wreck-It Ralph or Marvel superheroes with Big Hero 6. This has, in turn, allowed the Mouse House to produce animated features that better combine traditional storytelling with artistic innovation.
Moana, by the sound of it, will be in keeping with that trend – and that’s perfectly cool by us. We look forward to more details on the film, arriving over the next two years.
Moana sets sail in theaters in late 2016; we’ll keep you posted on its development until then.