Disney to produce te reo Māori versions of The Lion King, Frozen

Production is under way to create te reo Māori versions of two of Disney's most iconic animated features.

Matewa Media and Walt Disney Studios are teaming up once again to create te reo Māori versions of Frozen and The Lion King.

In 2017 Disney released Moana Reo Māori in New Zealand cinemas, and it proved so successful that a further two Disney films will be produced entirely in Aotearoa's official language.

The production is being led by Oscar-nominated producer Chelsea Winstanley (Jojo Rabbit), and Tweedie Waititi (Moana Reo Māori, Rūrangi) from Matewa Media.

"It was always our dream to dub more Disney films that our tāmariki love into te reo Māori. We are extremely thrilled to continue this journey with the Walt Disney Company, it clearly demonstrates their commitment as a company to diversity and inclusion," Winstanley said in a press release.

Senior vice-president and managing director of Disney Australia and New Zealand, Kylie Watson-Wheeler, said they were "truly excited" to bring the Māori versions of The Lion King and Frozen to Kiwi audiences.

Disney's 2013 animated musical feature Frozen will soon have a te reo Māori version. Photo / Disney

"The launch of Moana Reo Māori was an incredibly special moment for our New Zealand-based team, and we know that continuing to celebrate the indigenous language with the addition of these cherished films will mean a lot to the local community".

Moana Reo Māori debuted in New Zealand cinemas in 2017.

The te reo Māori production cast new actors to voice the iconic characters, including then 16-year-old Jaedyn Randell who was picked to play Moana Waialiki. Randell worked alongside performance director Rachel House, who played Gramma Tala in the original Moana.

In June 2020, Disney released the te reo Māori version of Moana on Disney +, and it also featured on Air New Zealand flights.

The original script for Moana was written by Taika Waititi and released in the US in 2016.

He, along with his whāngai sister, Tweedie Waititi, worked with Disney to dub the movie in te reo Māori. Kiwi cast and crew went to Los Angeles to record the voiceovers.

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.