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Disney's Polynesian princess movie from 'Little Mermaid' directors arriving sooner than expected
Disney Princess
From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes Moana, a CG-animated comedy-adventure about a spirited teenager on an impossible mission to fulfill her ancestors' quest. - photo by Disney

It looks like Disney fans won’t have to wait quite as long as expected for the next princess movie.

On Oct. 21, the animation studio announced a new release date for “Moana,” its 56th animated feature, which is being described as an “epic comedy-adventure” set around 2,000 years ago across the islands of the South Pacific.

Previously scheduled for 2018, the movie is now slated to arrive two years earlier in “late 2016,” according to a press release issued by Disney.

Included with the press release was the first piece of concept art for “Moana" — showing a primitive sailboat approaching a lush island covered in mountains — and an official synopsis, which goes like this:

“In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.”

If just the thought of a seafaring Polynesian princess isn’t enough to get people onboard with “Moana,” the creative team definitely should: It’s being directed by one of Disney’s most accomplished filmmaking duos, Ron Clements and John Musker, who were partially responsible for the Disney renaissance of the early 1990s.

Their past credits include “The Great Mouse Detective,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Hercules” and, most recently, “The Princess and the Frog.”

This will be their eighth feature together and their first using 3-D animation.

“John and I have partnered on so many films,” Clements said in the news release. “Creating ‘Moana’ is one of the great thrills of our career. It’s a big adventure set in this beautiful world of Oceania."

Musker added, “Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself. She's the kind of character we all root for, and we can't wait to introduce her to audiences.”

Apparently, audiences can’t wait, either. As detailed by The Daily Dot, “Moana” has already managed to attract a big online fan base and inspired tons of art of the titular princess — despite the fact that nobody outside of Disney has any clue what she looks like yet.

For those keeping up with Walt Disney Animation Studios’ numbering system, after this month’s release of “Big Hero 6,” the studio’s 54th feature, there should be one more release before “Moana,” its 56th feature, hits theaters.

That’s expected to be “Zootopia,” a comedic crime thriller featuring talking animals from “Tangled” director Byron Howard. Not a whole lot is known about “Zootopia” other than a rough plot summary and a single piece of concept art — in other words, exactly as much as “Moana.” But based on a previous release calendar issued by Disney (via Deadline), it is expected to hit theaters on March 4, 2016, with “Moana” arriving eight months later on Nov. 23.

Jeff Peterson contributes to the film discussion website