Place strategy

A new generation of tamariki will sing ‘Wairea’ instead of ‘Let It Go’

Disney’s release of Frozen Reo Māori is another triumph in the regeneration of Te Reo, showcasing epic Maori talent and making history with the use of the Ngāi Tahu dialect in a film for the very first time.

With the hype and success of The Lion King Reo Māori still hot in the hearts of Maori and non-Maori audiences alike, the creative forces behind Matewa Media have been on pause. From Pride Rock to Arendelle, they forged ahead with the urgency of reviving a dying language, giving Disney’s acclaimed Frozen the long-awaited Te Reo treatment.

The most notable difference between the two is in the dialect. While the Lion King Reo Māori used the Tainui dialect for the Pride Rock lions, the Maori language version of Frozen appropriately shifts the focus to colder climes and the dialect of Ngāi Tahu, which are tangata whenua in You Waipunamu.

In what is a remarkable, never-before-seen and defying-probability milestone for the Ngāi Tahu dialect, their unique language has been portrayed on screen in film for the first time.

The full cast of Frozen Reo Māori reunited at the premiere at Tāmaki Makaurau on Tuesday night. (Photo: provided)

“The most important thing is that we are broadcasting our mita, we are broadcasting a key aspect of our identity, a big part of who we are, on the world stage,” says translator Kiringāua Cassidy.

He worked behind the scenes on the Ngāi Tahu parts of the dialogue alongside an all-star Ngāi Tahu team of reo advocate.s; Hana O’Regan, Thomas Aerepo-Morgan, Karuna Thurlow and Charisma Rangipuna.

Translators Ngāi Tahu also worked alongside Rob and Cilla Ruha, Hana Mereraiha, Pere Wihongi, and others on the songs for the film in a collaborative effort.

The impact of the settlement of Te Waipounamu was devastating for Ngāi Tahu, but over the years they have made exemplary gains in revitalizing the language as part of a wider cultural and economic regeneration of the tribe.

Their famous model of language regeneration, Kotahi Mano Kaika, Kotahi Mano Wawatahas been a point of reference for other iwi and indigenous nations around the world.

Established in 2000, the strategy set the aspiration of having one thousand Ngāi Tahu households speaking the dialect by 2025.

“My parents did not grow up with Te Reo, however, they graduated from Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo – The Maori Language School of Excellence. My siblings and I are the product of that, we are all native speakers of Te Reo under the Kotahi Mano Kāika strategy,” Cassidy explains.

Kiringāua Cassidy (front) with Thomas Aerepo-Morgan, Hana Mereraiha, Hana O’Regan, Tweedie Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley and Rob Ruha. (Photo: provided)

“The deep meaning of strategy is that we always have something to pursue, to dream of. When a generation passes, a new generation arises. We keep finding new things to dream of.

To hear his dialect in a film for the first time reflects the tireless efforts of those within Ngāi Tahu who have dedicated their lives to the regeneration of the language. “I was talking to Aunt Hana, she was saying she never imagined this would have happened, that a movie would have Kai Tahu’s main dialect.”

Te Reo from a cold climate

The most notable difference of the Ngāi Tahu dialect is the use of the “k” sound instead of the “ng” used by many North Island tribes. The film incorporates familiar sayings, with one line in particular being “Aoraki matatū ake nei”.

“This saying derives from our mauka, telling us that we have to stay strong like Aoraki does, no matter what, we keep our heads up and carry on,” says Cassidy.

For him, the successful release of the film represents the reversal of the tide which is an ongoing cross-generational responsibility to normalize Te Reo. “Our tamariki and mokopuna to come, they won’t know a world that didn’t have the Maori content that we have now, all the resources that we have now with three Disney movies, our own TV shows, our Maori social media networks , they won’t know anything different from what the new status quo is. This is going to have a huge impact on Tamariki Maori across the country and of course Kai Tahu’s future.

At the Tuesday premiere, hundreds of whānau packed Event Cinemas in Newmarket’s Tāmaki Makaurau in a strong show of support for Matewa Media and its creative team, led by Tweedie Waititi and Oscar-nominated producer Chelsea Winstanley.

The tamariki were themed dressed and the Te Reo could be heard flowing naturally throughout the household through several generations. The hype and excitement continued in cinemas, where Maori children and their parents exclaimed in awe at Te Reo’s remarkable screen presentation in familiar and new sayings – and of course, the chanting. .

Oscar-nominated producer Chelsea Winstanley with a group of Frozen Reo Māori’s target audience. (Photo: provided)

Frozen Reo Māori brings together a star cast of Maori actors and singers, developing an ecosystem of performers, a Disney Reo Māori whānau.

Known for her role as lead voice actress in Disney’s Moana Reo Māori, Jaedyn Randell (Tainui) returns to take over the main role of Anna in Frozen Reo Maori.

“The feeling is the same and I’m still very grateful to be a part of it. Now I’ve grown up a bit and have a bit more experience. While Moana was young and grew into a wahine toa character, Anna is quite a mature character and I’ve matured a lot since Moana, so it was a natural transition between the two,” Randell explains.

Her performance, both actress and singer in the animated musical, is flawless. Her confidence and experience come naturally as she takes ownership of the character.

“Working with Rob Ruha is always fun, we’ve worked together many times to communicate well, I know what he asks for, what I love. It was cool trying to portray that excitement in his voice, so even if people don’t speak Te Reo, they know what emotions it expresses,” Randell says.

Awhimai Fraser and Jaedyn Randell star as Elsa and Anna who talk and sing the film’s reo. (Photo: provided)

Being at the premier to celebrate the achievements of the cast and crew with friends and whānau made it even more meaningful.

“It was really humbling. I love that they clap in the cinema. It’s not just awkward and silent, it’s so cool. The audience applauds the waiata and when their whānau appears on screen. is such a nice atmosphere,” says Randell.

It didn’t take long for the kids to cover the songs either, which proves the impact.

“At the second chorus, the main song for Elsa’s character, all the tamariki were already singing ‘Wairea’, so that was really cute. Seeing them in their outfits and taking over the cinema was special because it’s for them says Randell.

Accomplished actor Awhimai Fraser (Waikato, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Ngāti Pūkenga) stars as Elsa, showcasing the actor’s singing talents with soulful renditions of famous Frozen anthems such as Let It Go, masterfully performed as “Wairea”.

Maori opera singer Kawiti Waetford (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Rangi, Ngāpuhi) convincingly took on the role of the male lead, ice reaper Kristoff, demonstrating his acting range and Te Reo skills as a playful but reliable from Anna.

Pere Wihongi (Te Taitokerau, Ngāpuhi), who goes by the artist name PERE, makes his Disney acting debut as the comic snow character Olaf. A masterful musical composer and performer, Wihongi played a key role in The Lion King Reo Māori as vocal and singing coach and is also tutor to Angitu Kapa Haka. It brings the Maori language speaking Olaf to life, providing the necessary comedy and giving the character a uniquely Maori feel, as if te reo was still Olaf’s first language.

Along with actors from tribes outside of Ngāi Tahu, Kiringāua Cassidy recognized their talent and ability to do his dialect justice.

“They did really well, they were amazingly able to keep up with our mita. Specific words here and there, not just a ‘k’ for ‘ng’. I’m really proud of what the cast has achieved to express what our translation team has been translating this whole time. It’s been great,” says Cassidy.

Frozen Maori Reo hit theaters yesterday and is sure to be a hit with Maori-speaking toddlers and grandchildren across the country, who hear their language represented on screen, once again, in one of the most popular films of our era.

Although many people have encouraged Māori over the years to “let it go”, te reo Māori is arguably more visible and accessible than ever.

In terms of standardizing Te Reo and showcasing its unique dialects, in this case that of Ngāti Tahu, Frozen Reo Māori is cause for celebration for all who call this country home.


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