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Asian Invasion 2019: As an adult in the room can I point out - there are NO LIONS IN NEW ZEALAND.  Never have been other than in the zoo.
Asian Invasion 2019
Contributing Writer
June 27th, 2022

OPINION: The Lion King reo Maori: Disney's classic tale is now a cultural taonga

Every second of this last week it appears New Zealand's team of $55m is shoving out pumped up nonsense about the Maori culture.

Matariki apparently means we cannot have sales in shops and "commercialisation".

Yet looking around there are no shortage of exploitation by Maori and other Maori aligned friends and consultants, of the weekend off.  A completely made up holiday.  The difference between this one and Easter and Christmas is us adults in the room actually know they are made up holidays based on story time.  Adults are being forced to run with this nonsense of Matariki and play along with it for fear of the town square throwing rocks in your face.

But putting this obvious observation of the nonsense to one side, this piece springs to mind as the most demented so far by Stuff, on The Lion King.

The Lion King's history is on Wikipedia.  An average cartoon classic made into a hit ironically with a fat, old, gay, pasty colonial in Sir Elton John contributing to a ripper of a song or three within the soundtrack.  I have since been informed it has intentional similarities to Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Yet Maori appear to have adopted the rather average tale, as now something they own themselves.

A Maori Taonga? Dear Lord

Embodying Māori indigeneity, it feels proximate, and you don’t need to speak reo Māori to appreciate it.

Say what? Lion King has absolutely nothing to do with Maori or New Zealand. Indigeneity or proximate? To what precisely?  

The main characters in the Lion King are LIONS.  

As an adult in the room can I point out - there are NO LIONS IN NEW ZEALAND.  Never have been other than in the zoo.

No Lions team. None.  It is not a story that can ever be a New Zealand one.

It has been dubbed 28 times before, even in Zulu, so Maori have not done this first.  From my memory of watching it the tale itself takes place funnily enough in fictional Africa.

Conceptually, The Lion King in te reo Māori is a perfect marriage, because the story a very Māori one: one of ancestral relationships, mana whenua, kaitiakitanga and kotahitanga. The “circle of life”, the ecosystem which connects all living things, is the vital essence (mauri) in te ao Māori.

What kind of hyperbolic word soup even is the above by the author of this review. It is not a movie about or for Maori, it is a cartoon about wild animals!

Yes because there are absolutely no other races of persons in the world without precisely the same "essence". We all have ancestral relationships, lands, we guard and protect then gain lands. We look at the sky and after  people historically and defend systems of governance.  None of this in translation is unique to Maori or indeed the English, the Chinese, Native Americans, Aboriginals. Maori do not have a monopoly alongside African Lions with a "circle of f'ing life".

This production is a lot more than its minutes on-screen: it is a result of the fight for te reo Māori to be recognised. For it to be given sovereignty in a multinational mass media conglomerate makes it all the more of a cultural taonga and an encouraging force of motivation for reo learners like myself.

Result of a fight for Te Reo to be recognised? Ergh no, it is a result of a suburban kitchen extension project for a well connected ex-wife of Taika Waititi. One also cousin of the new Minister of Justice, pitching for funds off the taxpayer to create an otherwise completely commercially unviable project in a language that the average New Zealand child will not fully understand.  Not content with a straight dub, costs and time are extended to remaking the cartoon and the music.  I doubt the following is the only public funds inserted given large Covid relief funds available on top for the "arts".

Opening at Matariki, Maori have ripped off the English version of the Lion King and reviewers are now encouraged very strongly to write glowing praise for fear of cultural cancellation.  I cannot see how you could review the film in any different way you would review the original score. The only reviewers who understand the full translation will already be fluent Te Reo speakers and therefore by definition will never criticise it or the simplicity of it.

It is still the Lion King, still about an animal not native to New Zealand or to Maori and still from the original completely fictional screenplay based in  fictional Africa that was originally released in English, written and put together by predominantly a bunch of white people.

Least of all this is pitched at kids who are too young to read the sub-titles.

Oh silly me, here is the kicker.

In Te Reo with no subtitles, The Lion King Reo Māori is now screening in select cinemas nationwide.


I don't know much about having children but I surely do know having seen them watch movies if they don't know what's going on they soon start getting bored as hell.  Taking your children to this non-subtitled movie when they do not speak Te Reo is nothing more than virtue signalling and they'll have checked out after the ice cream and popcorn have gone.

Never fear though, apparently Te Reo Frozen is on its way shortly. Ka Awatea Limited of Mahuta Corp could apply separately for more grants for that.  Expert consultancy for sister Princesses who end up having to arrest and exile a lover from the Kingdom and cut off trade links for the other. At least there could finally be a qualification of life experience attached to that one!

Article originally published on 'Asian Invasion 2019' and republished to The Platform with permission.