Chelsea Winstanley, the New Zealand producer whose credits include Jojo Rabbit and What We Do In The Shadows, has opened a public casting to find voice actors from the Maori community for her re-dubbing of Disney classic The Lion King.
Lion King Reo Māori will celebrate a variety of mita (dialects) through different characters, including: Lions (Tainui); Timon and Pumbaa (Te Tai Tokerau); Rafiki (Tūhoe); Zazu (Taranaki); Hyenas (Ngāti Kahungunu); and Chorus (open to te motu whānui).
Tweedie Waititi, who previously produced the Maori version of fellow Disney animation Moana back in 2017, is also working on the project. The team said they were using Te Reo Māori experts in each rohe (region) and were open to considering non-experienced voice actors during the online auditions.
The Lion King Reo Māori is set to premiere in New Zealand and Australia in June 2022 to align with Matariki (Māori New Year). A Maori version of Frozen is also in the works from Winstanley and Waititi.
As with Moana Reo Māori, the duo will be working with Rachel House (Moana) who will act as performance director and with musical director Rob Ruha (Moana Reo Māori).
“We are truly excited to bring the Māori versions of The Lion King and Frozen to Kiwi audiences following on from the successful release of Moana Reo Māori. 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,” said Kylie Watson-Wheeler, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of The Walt Disney Company Australia & New Zealand.