The cast for the te reo Māori version of Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ has just been announced.
The team began casting the Māori versions of the characters back in 2021, hunting up and down Aotearoa to find the perfect performers.
After hundreds of auditions, Matewa Media and Walt Disney Animation Studios announced the fourteen actors chosen, and recording has begun.
Piripi Taylor, who was the voice of Māui in Moana Reo Māori, will play iconic father figure Mufasa,while Matu Ngaropo (currently on an Australian tour of Hamilton) will play his villainous brother, Scar.
Mataara Stokes plays the Simba, and Arihia Cassidy will take on the role of Nala. Tuterangi Ruha steps into the role of Young Simba, while Te NūTube star Te Haakura Ihimaera-Manly will play Young Nala. Rounding out the Pride Rock whānau is māmā Sarabi who will be voiced by Ngāpaki Moetara.
Directors of performance and music Rachel House and Rob Ruha had their work cut out choosing the actors.
"We had so many choices, but we love this cast. They all just fitted together beautifully," they said in a statement.
The cast will team up with te reo Māori experts from each rohe (region) to master the film's five different mita (dialects).
The filmmakers wanted to celebrate a variety of dialects in the film. The Lions will be speaking the Tainui dialect, drawing a parallel between the lions of pride rock and Kīngitanga, Rafiki will speak, Tūhoe, and Timon and Pumba in Te Tai Tokerau.
Producer Tweedie Waititi backed the project by calling the film a “massive kaupapa”, adding, “I’m so stoked with how all the mita is sitting within one film. I can’t wait for the motu to see it”.
“One of our biggest goals we set out to achieve is Kotahitanga (unity), and I believe this film is a celebration of that.”
The Lion King Reo Māori will premiere in Auckland on June 21, followed by screenings in cinemas throughout New Zealand and Australia on June 23.
The film will also be available for streaming on Disney+ later this year.