Disney has announced that it will be dubbing two popular films into te reo Māori (or simply Māori), the language indigenous to New Zealand, after the immense popularity of its Māori dub for the film Moana was released back in 2017. Māori has seen an upswing in popular interest among residents of New Zealand in recent years, even among those who do not come from Māori descent, and there has been a significant degree of cultural investment in the language’s revitalization and growth, after a decades-long period of decline.
According to a report from the New Zealand Herald, Disney is currently producing Māori-dubbed versions of The Lion King and Frozen. Disney is working with Matewa Media, a New Zealand-based company that specializes in producing and dubbing film and television in the language, to create the dubbed versions of these films. Matewa Media was also behind the 2017 dub of Moana, which was met with acclaim from all across the globe, including the New York Times.
Tweedie Waititi, the sister of acclaimed director and producer Taika Waititi (who is half-Māori himself), will helm the dubbed versions alongside producer Chelsea Winstanley. Waititi and Winstanley were also heavily involved in the 2017 Moana dub; others involved in the Moana dub will take on roles in The Lion King and Frozen dubs
“It was always our dream to dub more Disney films that our tāmariki (children) 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,” said Winstanley.
These dubs come at a pivotal time for the language — public interest in the language has been steadily growing for at least the last five years. In June 2021, a popular music chart for music sung in the language was launched, and numerous other efforts have taken place to increase the language’s use in New Zealand society.
“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,” Winstanley said.