The te reo Māori version of Disney classic Lion King is set to delight audiences at its world premiere next week.
Fourteen Māori cast members took on the roles of some of Disney's most beloved animated characters, including Mataara Stokes as Simba.
“When they said I had it, I just started shaking. I was like, 'I've got the wiris'... I was just like 'I'm just going to lie down for a sec,'" he told Seven Sharp.
Te Nūtube super star Te Haakura Ihimaera-Manley, who voices young Nala, said she was "really excited" after getting the part.
The reworking has been a momentous task, especially for the team of translators, with each animal group speaking in a different dialect, or 'mita'.
“Our whānaunga down in Rotorua are speaking completely different to my relations from up north in Te Tai Tokerau, so what we’ve been able to do is have dialects reflect different animals," musical director Pere Wihongi said.
Stokes said hearing a mainstream film in te reo was "empowering".
"After every session that we would have, I would literally walk out and sit in my car and then cry, but not crying because I didn't feel good about what we did but felt good that we're doing something more than ourselves," he explained.
Lion King is the second Disney film to be reworked into te reo, after Moana was released in 2017.
Powerhouse vocalist Arihia Cassidy, who voices mature Nala, said the cast and crew "want the best for our kids and for our kids to hear their reo and to go into a movie theatre and to go in there and be like, 'man, nōku tera reo, kei te marama ahau ki nga kupu ra.' ('That's my language and I understand the words')".
"It's emotional because we know the struggle that our tipuna, our people have gone through. Hopefully, we normalise this that everything will be in te reo Māori."
Audiences can also expect to see a te reo Māori version of Disney’s Frozen in September.
The reworked Lion King film will have its global premiere at Auckland’s Civic Theatre on Tuesday, June 21.