Different dialects of te reo to be celebrated in Lion King

By Jessica Tyson

The Māori language version of Disney’s Lion King is to include four dialects of the language, Matewa Media co-director Tweedie Waititi says.

On Friday it was revealed that production was underway to create a te reo version of Lion King and Frozen. The production is being led by Matewa Media, which also created Moana in te reo in 2017, in collaboration with the Walt Disney Studios.

Waititi says, “One of the processes that we’re talking about at the moment is to celebrate different dialects. So we’re looking at spreading maybe four dialects into the Lion King."

While the chosen four dialects can’t be confirmed yet, the production team is about to head into casting, Waititi says.

“We’re also about to head into wānanga mode so that we can revision our vision for these two kaupapa. So the last kaupapa was to celebrate the reo and again we want to celebrate the reo.”

Waititi says the same “A team” from Moana Reo Māori will work on the production, including Rob Ruha, who will be the music director.

She says there are a few processes to go through to produce the film in te reo. 

“You send the script away to get translated and then obviously, when it's translated into te reo Māori it comes back three times longer, and so it’s having to do another edit to fit duration and then there’s another edit that happens for sync and then another edit that happens for flow.”

Disney and kapa haka

Waititi says Māori have also had a connection with Disney films like the Lion King, especially seen in kapa haka performances throughout the years.

One was in 1996 when kapa haka Waka Huia created its whakaeke (entrance) Te Arawa Mihi Mai Ra to the tune of Lion King’s waiata, Circle of Life.

“Even recently, before the announcement, Hato Hohepa year 13 girls dedicated their whole bracket to Disney waiata reversioned by themselves and so I think these films have a huge connection to te ao Māori and it’s just another way for us to celebrate the reo," she says.

Matewa Media co-director Chelsea Winstanley says it was always a dream of theirs to dub more Disney films that tāmariki love into te reo Māori.

“We are extremely thrilled to continue this journey with the Walt Disney Company. It clearly demonstrates its commitment as a company to diversity and inclusion.”

The Lion King Reo Maori will premiere in Aotearoa and Australia in June 2022 to align with Matariki, and Frozen Reo Maori will premiere in September 2022 to align with Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week).

 “Kia taorotia te reo Māori ki ngā uri puta noa, puta noa! For our language to thrive, it must reach the hearts and homes of our people,” Waititi says.