Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's charismatic and likable screen presence has helped him to emerge as one of this generation's leading action stars, helping to add momentum to film franchises like Fast and Furious and G.I. Joe, not to mention headlining properties like this summer's disaster movie, San Andreas. Not to mention the millions who will soon see him as Shazam villain Black Adam in Warner Bros.' shared DC cinematic universe.
As Johnson continues to pad his filmography, it looks like he'll next be trying his hand at some animation voice-over. It was months ago that we first heard the actor was in talks with Disney to voice the demigod Maui in their upcoming South Pacific adventure Moana, but it can now be confirmed that Johnson has officially signed on.
Johnson himself broke the news, sharing a photo on his Instagram page of him signing the contract at Disney Studios:
At DISNEY STUDIOS signing contracts to play the male lead in their next big classic animated musical, #MOANA. Just had an amazing 2hr presentation and it's easy to see why they're the greatest story tellers in the world. Im excited. And in the background my homies Fred & Wasabi from #BigHERO6 are jumpin' for joy joy cause they heard I'm gonna sing in the movie. #WeTrulyKnowWhereWereGoing #WhenWeUnderstandWhereWereFrom #NeverForgetHome #MOANA
Though he doesn't come out and say it in his post, it's safe to assume that Johnson will indeed be playing Maui. According to the film's synopsis, Maui teams up with South Pacific Islander Moana as the two embark on a journey through Oceania in search of "a fabled island" (based on that information, it's hard to see how Maui wouldn't be the movie's male lead).
Johnson classifying Moana as a musical is an interesting development, since it had previously been reported that the film would NOT be part of that genre. Apparently that plan has been altered. The possibility of Johnson voicing a character like Maui had already caught our attention, but knowing his musical talents will be on display makes the film all the more intriguing.
In recent years, Disney Animation Studios has gained significant ground on former frontrunner Pixar: offerings like Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6 have not only become major commercial hits, but managed to win over critics as well thanks to their heartfelt themes and imaginative concepts. Obviously, the hope is that Moana can continue this hot streak and be another memorable offering in the Disney canon.
On paper, the film definitely has the elements to be another winner for the studio. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker have had previous success in this realm, calling the shots on films like The Little Mermaid and The Princess and The Frog, and the lush environments of Oceania show the kind of promise one would expect in a Disney production. A world of giant sea creatures and ancient folklore in the hands of accomplished animators could sell tickets on premise alone.
The actor is an in-demand name these days in Hollywood, and with him referring to the Disney bosses as "the greatest story tellers in the world," something special about the project must have caught his eye. Fingers crossed our hope isn't misplaced and Moana can join the ranks of Disney's latest success when it's released next year.
Moana will hit theaters on November 23, 2016.
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