New Details And Characters From ‘Moana 2’ Revealed At Annecy

Walt Disney Animation Studios started off its 2024 Annecy Showcase with a quote from the company’s founder: “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” The presentation that followed largely focused on the upcoming release of Moana 2, scheduled for U.S. release on November 27.

But first, Mark Henn kicked off the event by receiving the Annecy Walk of Fame award, presented to him by Marcel Jean, artistic director of Annecy Int’l Animation Film Festival. An iconic figure of Disney’s 1990s renaissance, the recently-retired Henn supervised animation on five female leads, more than any other person in the history of the Disney studio.

Henn is visiting Annecy for the first time to screen his new short, a Donald Duck entry called D.I.Y. Duck. “It means a lot to be here, back with one of Disney’s Sensational Six,” said a very emotional Henn after receiving a long standing ovation from Annecy’s euphoric audience.

Henn added, “Forty-three years have gone by since I’ve started working at Disney, and throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to work on so many great characters. With Donald, I wanted to take a modern yet hand-drawn approach to his own persona. What thing in modern-day life would make him lose his temper? And so, we turned to simple home repairs.”

In D.I.Y. Duck, which marks the 90th anniversary of the character but also is Donald’s first stand-alone appearance in a short since 1961, Henn and his team of animators bring back the essence of Donald’s comedic style. The short, produced by Meet the Robinsons’ producer Dorothy McKim, has an old-school yet dynamic look, mirroring Henn’s hand-drawn years at Disney Animation studio in Florida. “It’s been a pleasure to come out of retirement to bring back the all-original Donald Duck, with his signature voice, the legacy of Clarence ‘Ducky’ Nash.”

Before handing over the stage to Moana 2 directors, Henn shared a few words for the students in the room: “Keep drawing. Every aspect of animation, whether it’s 2d or cg, still starts with a paper and pencil.”

And that’s exactly how it started for Moana 2 directors David Derrick Jr. and Jason Hand, who introduced the film on stage. Both Calarts graduates from the same year, Moana 2 marks their feature directorial debuts, with co-director Dana Ledoux Miller, currently writing on the film with Moana and Encanto’s screenwriter Jared Bush.

“I came to Disney for Moana,” an enthusiastic Derrick said on stage. “Part of my ancestry comes from Samoa, and it’s a delight to be able to bring the Polynesian voyagers, who were part of the greatest explorers of history, on screen. Dana is also deeply linked to her Samoan roots, and besides working once again with the Oceanic Cultural Trust, we are teaming up with the great Nainoa Thompson and the Polynesian Voyaging Society to depict Moana’s greatest journey yet.”

The film is also the first collaboration with Disney’s Burbank and Vancouver studios, and also features the return of the hand-drawn animation team under Eric Goldberg’s leadership, drawing Mini Maui once again for the film, along with Mark Henn.

“We have an amazing group of talented people with us,” Hand said. “From returning cast Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, and Temuera Morrison to new talents such as Khaleesi Lambert-Tsuda, who will voice Simea, Moana’s baby sister, or Rose Matafeo, who portrays in the funniest way Loto, who is a key part of Moana’s new crew.”

As the village’s new shipwright, Loto will be responsible for building Moana’s new sailboat, which will take her and her ragtag crew – Loto; Kele, a grumpy old farmer; Moni, a clumsy buffed historian and Maui-superfan; and beloved pets Hei Hei and Pua – to the lost island of Motu Fetu, which once connected the ocean, now hidden by Nalo, the jealous God of Storms.

“Throughout the film and its making,” Derrick said, “we’re exploring the idea that the ocean, which seems to divide the islands, is actually uniting them. And that’s a theme that has been with us during the whole journey.”

The film’s music team is comprised of Grammy Award-winning songwriters Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, as well as returning composer Mark Mancina and Samoan-born musician Opeatia Foa’i. The opening song “We’re Back”, which spearheaded the sneak peek, rings both a new catchy tune and an homage to Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s earlier “Where You Are”.

Other early footage shown during the screening included Moana’s encounters with the quirky Kakamora crew, a Godzilla-sized boat-eating clam, and, of course Dwayne Johnson’s Maui, with his signature charisma and multi-purpose fishing hook. “He is Maui,” the directors added. “He’s aware of who he is, and he plays with that. He brings so much to his character. It was so enjoyable to work with him.”

Moana 2 isn’t just a movie for all of us”, concluded Derrick. “She has reinvigorated the love of the sea in her people. For us, this has been an ocean to cross, and we are thankful to the people who came across that ocean with us. But even more, I feel like Moana is a wayfinder to us all. A way to magic.”

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