New Report Reveals How Disney Sequel Went From A Streaming TV Series To Theatrical Release

Disney CEO Bob Iger recently announced plans for a new Moana movie which will arrive in theaters this Thanksgiving (less than a year after we first learned of its existence). While the news generated excitement among Disney Animation fans, it’s left a lot of people scratching their heads too. 

It was way back in 2020 that a Moana Disney+ TV series was announced, with the idea being for it to serve as a loose follow-up in the same way as the streamer’s Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and Cars sequels. So, what changed?

According to The Wrap (via Toonado.com), this is all part of Disney’s strategy to increase revenue after the impact COVID and ousted CEO Bob Chapek had on the studio’s bottom line. During his tenure, a seemingly endless stream of pricey content was developed for Disney+ to boost subscribers and many movies, primarily those from Pixar, skipped theaters completely. 

The trade reveals that Moana 2‘s evolution was set in motion just a few months ago when Disney executives sat down to watch near-finished episodes of the series. Writer and director David G. Derrick Jr. must have exceeded expectations because the decision was then made to combine the episodes into a single big screen tale.

The studio is said to have “wrestled” with the concept, keeping that Thanksgiving 2024 slot free just in case one of its other movies – Zootopia 2, for example – could fill it. 

Part of the reason for this unexpected change is the revenue Disney can create beyond just ticket sales; by returning to tried and tested franchises, the hope is it will increase interest in new theme park attractions and ultimately lead to a rise in merchandise sales (which will inevitably be higher for a movie than a TV series which drops on Disney+ on a random Wednesday). 

It’s going to be very interesting to see whether this strategy pans out; we find it hard to believe the small screen version was going to enlist Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for more than a cameo given how expensive his time is, but that will have likely changed now Moana 2 is a movie. Surely that’s resulted in sweeping changes to the story and a need to create new scenes in a rush?

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ epic animated musical Moana 2 takes audiences on an expansive new voyage with Moana, Maui and a brand-new crew of unlikely seafarers. After receiving an unexpected call from her wayfinding ancestors, Moana must journey to the far seas of Oceania and into dangerous, long-lost waters for an adventure unlike anything she’s ever faced.

Directed by Dave Derrick Jr. with music by Grammy winners Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, Grammy nominee Opetaia Foa’i, and three-time Grammy winner Mark Mancina (Lin-Manuel Miranda won’t be returning), Moana 2 opens in theaters on November. 27, 2024.