Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently portrayed a version of Hercules whose mythological deeds and backstory were somewhat exaggerated; now, though, he’s in negotiations to lend his voice to a proper demigod in an upcoming Disney Animation project. The Mouse House feature in question is Moana, one of two original animated films that the studio has scheduled for release in 2016.
The first Disney ‘toon arriving in 2016 is Zootopia, a buddy movie featuring a pair of natural enemies (a fox and a rabbit). Moana, as it were, is also something of a buddy adventure; according to the official synopsis, it follows South Pacific Islander Moana as she teams up with her hero, the famous demigod Maui (the role Johnson’s circling), to travel the waters of ancient Oceania in search of “a fabled island.”
The Wrap, while reporting on Johnson’s negotiations to join the animated nautical adventure, says that the title role of Moana – described by co-director John Musker as “a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself” – has not yet been filled; nor, for that matter, is Johnson’s involvement a given. If The Rock signs on, though, it will (somewhat surprisingly) only be his first voice-acting role since the 2009 3D animated feature Planet 51 – and that wasn’t exactly a widely-seen film, either.
Similarly, it’s kind of surprising that Johnson isn’t already part of the world of Disney Animation; after all, he’s currently a G.I. Joe, has a couple of franchises under his belt, and is set to join DC’s cinematic universe as Black Adam in Shazam in 2019. Not that we’re complaining, Johnson’s a tried and true entertainer; and just as we’re interested to see him partner with Kevin Hart on the action/comedy Central Intelligence, we are likewise game to see him serve as the godly sidekick to the latest Disney princess in the animated Moana.
Moana is being helmed by the directing team of Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Frog), based on their original story pitch. The film won’t be a musical, but will include soundtrack work by Disney vet Mark Mancina (Tarzan, Brother Bear). It also won’t utilize the 2D/3D technique used on such Disney cartoon shorts as “Paperman” and “Feast” (the latter is now showing with Big Hero 6), but the computer-animation aesthetic is expected to imitate a painterly style (see: the Rococo influence on Tangled and Frozen).
Disney animated films have always explored themes of romantic love, but in recent years they’ve put a greater emphasis on telling stories of familial and platonic love too. That trend may well continue with Moana, as Moana/Maui look to resemble such recent non-romantic Disney couples as Ralph/Vanellope and Hiro/Baymax. Ancient Oceania – a world of “enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore” – should also make for a visually rich Disney fairy tale setting, on par with such locations as Arendelle (Frozen) and San Fransokyo (Big Hero 6).
Moana opens in U.S. theaters on November 23rd, 2016.