Disney announced a live-action 'Moana' remake. I hate it.

The Rock has entered the hierarchy of remakes. PLUS: A stunning 'Across the Spider-Verse' trailer! 'Barbie' trailer comes to play, and I have a theory about Grogu in this season of 'Mandalorian' ...

Disney announced a live-action 'Moana' remake. I hate it.
Dwayne Johnson in the announcement video for the live-action Moana remake. / Walt Disney Pictures

Disney is working on a live-action remake of Moana.

I hate it.

I hate the idea that there is anything with Moana that can be improved by remaking it in live action.

I hate that Disney couldn’t even wait longer than seven years to shove Moana into the studio’s live-action remake grinder.

I hate that Dwayne Johnson has made himself the face of Moana.

I hate it.

I love Moana.

It’s one of my favorite Disney movies. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies.

Moana is the crown jewel of the Disney animation revival.

Despite missing it in theaters, I’ve watched it countless times at home. The scenes where Moana’s mom helps her pack to leave and where her grandmother’s spirit guides her never fail to bring me to tears. (I love a cathartic movie cry. Don’t tempt me with a good Arrival watch.)

While we’ve known for a few years that Disney had a Disney+ Moana series in the works, the announcement that a live-action remake of Moana was in the works came as a surprise on Monday.

Find something new, Disney.

What about an animated sequel to Moana? Shouldn’t that be the next logical step? Animated movie. Sequel. Maybe another sequel. (Maybe a few more sequels if you’re the Toy Story franchise.) And then decades pass before you release a live-action version of that original animated film, hopefully updating the story to better suit the progress of the time it’s being released in. (And to tick off the people who are obsessed with the skin color of a fictional mermaid.)

Crunching out these live-action remakes (and I’m letting “live-action” slide here since those definitely weren’t real lions in the Lion King remake) is easy money for Disney. The stories are already written. The audience is already there.

On a purely financial basis, Disney has no reason to stop making these live-action versions of their classic films. While Disney dabbled with this process during the 1990s and early 2000s with 101 Dalmatians, the machine truly began churning in 2010 with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland remake.

The studio then followed with live-action versions of Sleeping Beauty (through Maleficent), Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, Lady and the Tramp, Mulan, 101 Dalmatians (through Cruella) and Pinocchio.

Disney also has live-action remakes in the works for Peter Pan (Peter Pan & Wendy), The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Hercules, The Hunchback of Norte Dame, The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, Bambi, The Aristocats and Lilo & Stich.

Moana is by far the newest movie on this list, coming out eighteen years after Mulan — and even then, there was a 22-year gap between Mulan and its remake.

Thanks to the wonders of how animated movies are treated differently than live-action movies, a studio doesn’t necessarily have to pay the originals writers in the case of the remake. Writer Siddhant Adlakha nailed it with his tweet about these Disney remakes.

And then there’s The Rock of it all.

If you somehow haven’t seen Moana, Johnson doesn’t play the title character. Moana is the daughter of a village chief who seeks out the demigod Maui to make him return the Heart of Te Fiti to save her people.

The story is her journey.

She is the hero.

Maui is a fantastic character. Johnson nails every element of the character, even talk-singing the iconic “You’re Welcome.”

It’s not his movie, though. At all.

But somehow it’s Johnson starring in the announcement video for the live-action Moana remake. Somehow he is the star of this moment. Somehow he is the one representing this remake.

And, yes, Johnson will play Maui in the remake.

Will Johnson move away from his trademark bald look? During the development of Moana, the creative team learned that Maui needed to have long hair and had to move away from the bald design they were working with. From The Art of Moana:

Before reaching his final design, Maui also underwent several hairstyle evolutions. “Early on, we fell in love with a few drawings that [visual development artist] Sue Nichols did of Maui without hair,” recalls [John Musker]. “So for a while, Maui didn't have hair. It made him distinctive, but -” [Ron Clements] interjects, “When we asked some of our consultants from Mo’orea, they told us that they envisioned Maui with a mane of Sampson-like hair. His hair is his mana, they explained. And we really like that.”
Early Maui designs. The one on the upper right is basically Dwayne Johnson’s WWE hair. / Walt Disney Animation Studios

Even more concerning, the press release for the remake very quickly notes that the “new feature film is produced by Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia via their Seven Bucks Productions.” If you’re not familiar with those other names, that’s the same group of people and production company that gave the world the disaster that was Black Adam and its betrayal of Henry Cavill.

Did Bob Iger and everyone else over at Disney miss how things turned out with that one?

I hate this.

Programming note

Popculturology will be on break until Thursday, April 12.

Happy Thursday, and thanks for reading Popculturology. I love writing about pop culture, and I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter. Are you a subscriber yet? It’s the easiest way to make sure you get every edition of Popculturology.

Wanna share Popculturology’s thoughts on Moana and Disney’s live-action remakes?

The News
Emma Watson, Rupert Grant and Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1. / Warner Bros. Pictures

HBO Max is close to a Harry Potter series based on the books

Despite HBO Max being part of the same conglomerate that produced the Harry Potter movies, the streaming service hasn’t always had the rights to offer those films to subscribers. Three years ago, I pitched the solution to the problem: A new television series that adapts the entire Harry Potter story.

And now in 2023, Bloomberg reports that Warner Bros. is close to a deal that would bring a Harry Potter series to HBO and HBO Max. “Each season of the series will be based on one of JK Rowling’s seven books,” a source told Bloomberg.

This should’ve been a no-brainer for HBO/HBO Max since the service launched in the first place. It’s clear that the Fantastic Beasts movies aren’t working. A new series goes back to the source material with the opportunity to smooth over any story wrinkles while also fully incorporating anything new that’s been added to the franchise from the beginning.

The way Harry Potter works, though, is Rowling is part of the deal.

“The author will be involved in the series to ensure it remains loyal to her original material but will not run the show day to day or serve as its primary creator,” Bloomberg’s source told them.

Any new Harry Potter show or movie or video game puts fans of the franchise in the position of choosing between continuing to enjoy the stories and characters they love and supporting those products in a way that puts money into Rowling’s pockets. The author’s anti-trans remarks have had a negative effect on the money she makes from Harry Potter. I’d imagine any deal with Warner Bros. for an HBO/HBO Max series would pay her very, very well.

The ScreenX poster for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. / Marvel Studios

James Gunn talks following Avengers: Endgame, a new tone for Superman: Legacy

James Gunn is simultaneously wrapping up his time with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is about to release in theaters (bought my tickets on Monday!) while plotting the course for DC Studios and working on getting Superman: Legacy off the ground.

Gunn chatted with Rolling Stone and shared a few of his thoughts on both Guardians Vol. 3 and Superman: Legacy.

It turns out that not only was Gunn not in the loop when it came to Thor joining the Guardians at the end of Avengers: Endgame, he was going to ditch Thor if he had to.

“They chose to have that ending in editing,” Gunn told Rolling Stone. “And I didn’t think it was gonna be in there. Endgame came out right after I decided to do Guardians again. So I didn’t have much say in what was in Endgame, and then it came out and then I was like, ‘What the fuck am I gonna do?’”

It was only Taika Waititi jumping in on Thor: Love and Thunder that solved the problem.

“To be completely honest, Thor was never going to be in this movie,” Gunn told Rolling Stone. “Taika took a bullet for me. Because I was not going to have him in. I was just gonna start up and there’s no Thor.”

“Took a bullet for me.” It’s wild how no one actually wanted to continue the story of Thor joining the Guardians. Gunn absolutely didn’t want to pick up that thread. And based on how quickly Waititi wrapped up the Guardians storyline at the beginning of Love and Thunder, he had very little use for that development either.

As for Superman: Legacy, Gunn doesn’t plan to turn the Man of Steel into a clone of his Guardians movies.

“I learned so much from making these movies,” he told Rolling Stone. “But it’s not like Superman is going to have exactly the same vibe as a Guardians movie. It’s actually quite different. … I think I would have an interest in a live-action Krypto whether or not I had anything to do with Rocket.”

I can’t wait to see what Gunn does with Superman.

HBO is working on another Game of Thrones prequel series — that might launch with a movie

Harry Potter isn’t the only major franchise that Warner Bros. hopes to keep expanding. Variety reported on Monday that HBO is in the beginning stages of making another Game of Thrones prequel series happen.

This series would go back even further in time than House of the Dragons, with Variety reporting that it would tell the story of Aegon I Targaryen’s conquest of Westeros. There’s the possibility that the show would launch with a feature film too.

While Variety notes that HBO and Warner Bros. would produce the film together, it’s unclear if it would be a film that runs on HBO and HBO Max or a legit theatrical release. Knowing how Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has railed against Warner Bros. movies skipping the theatrical window, I can’t imagine he would miss a chance to see how the Game of Thrones franchise fares at the box office.

Morfydd Clark and Charlie Vickers in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. / Amazon Studios

Quick hits

  • ‘Me being on SNL would’ve killed me.’ Donald Glover discussed with GQ the very different path his career could’ve taken. Anyone else remember the rumors that Saturday Night Live was going to bring him on to play Barack Obama?
  • Um, did anyone finish watching Rings of Power? According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series has a 37 percent completion rate. That means that for every ten people who began watching The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, less than four of them actually kept watching until the end. Yikes.
  • Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom moves up. Will the Aquaman sequel be a disaster? How will it fit in with the DC Studios reboot? We’ll get to find out on Dec. 20 instead of Dec. 25 now.
  • The third Paddington movie is finally in production. Variety confirmed the news on Monday, reporting that Paddington in Peru will get going in July. Douglas Wilson will make his feature film directorial debut, taking over for Paul King, who directed the first two installments.
  • Heat sequel eyes Adam Driver. Deadline reported on Monday that director Michael Mann sees the film as his next project and Driver is in talks to join him.

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Trailer Watch

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Love this. Love this so much. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse should have been nominated for Best Picture the year it won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film (and Daniel Pemberton should’ve been nominated for Best Original Score), so my hopes are insanely high for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

This new trailer doesn’t disappoint. The creative team behind this film appears to have taken everything about the original and cranked up the levels of creativity and, um, groundbreakingness. Groundbreakingness is word, right? It is now.

Here’s a fun Easter egg in this trailer: When Miguel O’Hara mentions “Doctor Strange and the little nerd back on Earth-199999,” he referring to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and what we saw happen in Spider-Man: No Way Home. The Marvel multiverse featured in the comics has long been Earth-616, and while Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness tried to claim that designation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe too, Earth-199999 was the previously accepted naming convention for the MCU.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse opens on June 2.


If it wasn’t for the Across the Spider-Verse trailer, the Barbie trailer would easily be the first trailer in this section. Like with Across the Spider-Verse, I’ve watched it several times and cannot wait to see the movie.

I’m still not quite sure what director Greta Gerwig has put together here, but it looks original and wild.

And who can pass up Ryan Gosling’s deadpan seriousness when it comes to whether or not he brought he rollerblades?

Barbie opens on July 21.

Blue Beetle

Here’s hoping for the best for Blue Beetle. It’s hitting theaters before the official Gunn reboot hits the DCU, but Gunn has said that the film is “totally disconnected” from the DCEU films that have already been released. I guess that means if it’s a critical and/or box office hit, Blue Beetle can be incorporated into the future plans for DC Studios?

Blue Beetle opens on Aug. 18.

💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!

Katee Sackhoff in The Mandalorian episode “Guns for Hire.” / Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian

“Guns for Hire”

Gonna put this theory out there about Season 3 of The Mandalorian: Grogu was not originally a part of it.

Maybe the final few episodes of this season will prove me wrong, but nothing Grogu has done has been integral to the plot in a way that only he can deliver. Getting Bo-Katan in order to rescue Din? R5-D4 could’ve done that. The Jedi Temple flashback? Extremely cool but zero impact on this season. In multiple episodes, Grogu just hangs back, whether it’s with the Armorer or Lizzo.

What if the decision to include Grogu in Season 3 came late in the game? Too late to properly reunite him with Din without having to massively rewrite the beginning of the season? Tucking that reunion — the Luke Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano bits too — into The Book of Boba Fett tidied up that change and allowed Season 3 of The Mandalorian to jump right in.

I asked last week if The Mandalorian was a cohesive show or just a collection of cool Star Wars elements. We drifted further toward the latter after this episode. A quick recap of everything in this episode:

  • A Quarren/Mon Calamari couple
  • A team of Mandalorians in possession of an Imperial starship
  • Aliens. All the aliens. This episode saw Andor pass on creature effects and scooped them all up for itself.
  • Lizzo and Jack Black as the rulers of a new planet
  • Christopher Lloyd
  • Battle Droids! Super Battle Droids! More droids! A bar for droids!
  • References to Count Dooku

What this episode was missing was any kind of narrative arc for Din Djarin. You know, the guy who’s allegedly the titular Mandalorian. After quickly redeeming himself in the Living Waters on Mandalore earlier this season, Din really doesn’t have a purpose. At least he still has the Darksaber, the weapon that’ll probably lead to him reluctantly assuming rule over Mandalore.

What’s that?

Din gave the Darksaber back to Bo-Katan?

I assume it was through a cool battle between the two?

No? He used the logic that Bo-Katan defeating the creature on Mandalore that defeated him counts as her winning the Darksaber from him?


Sure, Bo-Katan wields the Darksaber like a badass while Din can barely lift the thing, but this show isn’t his story anymore. He’s just a bystander now.

Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck, Sarah Snook and Jeremy Strong in the Succession episode “Rehearsal.” / HBO



How did Roman wind up the only Roy offspring living in reality?

Kendall and Shiv have been chasing whatever shiny new venture comes in front of them and putting all their focus on crushing Logan. And while Logan is absolutely manipulating Roman, capitalizing on his son’s love for him, Roman appears to see how things will shake out.

Ditching The Hundred to buy a legacy media organization just to spite Logan? Not a great idea.

Overpaying for it? Nope.

And delaying the Waystar Royco deal for a few extra million dollars (and to needle Logan) while everyone knows Lukas will walk? Horrible idea.

Roman’s understood all of this, and he’s done getting dragged along by his older siblings.

“The Rehearsal” was full of classic Succession quotes and moments, and while watching Greg describe his uncle as “if Santa Clause were a hitman,” it was Connor who delivered the episode’s most cutting lines.

“The good things about having a family that doesn’t love you is you learn to live without it,” he told his siblings at the end of his rehearsal dinner from Hell. “I don’t need love. It’s like a superpower.”

Mae Martin: SAP

While scrolling through Netflix earlier this week, Caitlin found Mae Martin: SAP. I was vaguely familiar with the comedian, seeing a few tweets about their new standup special on Twitter.

I’m happy Caitlin found it, since it was fantastic.

Netflix was clearly happy with Mae Martin and their special too, as news broke this week that the comedian is working on an eight-episode limited series for the streamer.

The Links

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Odds and Ends

Molly Shannon hosts SNL

Molly Shannon returns to SNL this weekend for her second hosting stint. The Other Two star has apparently been gone long enough to forget what day the show is on …

More on that Weekend Update prank

Last Saturday’s edition of Weekend Update kicked off with one of the most brutal pranks in SNL history. After watching joke after joke fall flat with the audience, Colin Jost broke when someone in the audience yelled, “you stink!” Michael Che then revealed that he told the audience to not laugh at Jost’s jokes.

The folks over at Saturday Night Network broke down how the prank happened in studio, revealing that it was Please Don’t Destroy’s John Higgins who yelled, “you stink!”

From Read-Thru to Air: ‘Traffic Altercation’

Guess we’re ending this edition of Popculturology with an SNL triple header. I love watching how these sketches come together.

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