Moana crew show ‘how far they’ll go’ for an authentic waka experience

The cast and crew of the Māori version of Disney's 'Moana' sail Auckland's Waitemata Harbour in a traditional waka (canoe).

The Māori language version of Disney's hit movie Moana has hit the big screens in Aotearoa this week, with some of the cast and crew marking the occasion by embarking on their own waka experience in Auckland on the Waitemata Harbour.

The Aotearoa premiere of Moana was held on Monday to mark the beginning of Māori Language Week or Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori .

Waka Quest’s Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, the captain of the oceangoing waka Haunui, gave the group a tour of the traditional Māori voyaging canoe, and shared his experiences of traditional sailing and navigation using the stars.

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerry says he hopes that the film will spark a desire for people to seek out places such as the Auckland Maritime Museum and the sailing waka experiences to learn more about New Zealand’s rich sailing history and Māori culture.

“I want our youth to be passionate about this movement; the stories and the songs, so they aren’t lost like others have been,” he says.

“So they hear about these canoes crossing the Pacific Ocean from one side to the other, and they hear that they aren't just stories but factual accounts from our ancestors."

Piripi Taylor, who’s the te reo voice of Māui, and Jaedyn Randell, 16, from Tokoroa, who was cast as the voice behind the young Polynesian princess, Moana, were part of the Disney group taking part in the experience.

"He mea nui te pūmau, te tautoko tonu i ēnei taonga tuku iho a kui mā, a koro mā, kia kite ai wā tātou tamariki i ngā hua e puta ana i ērā mahi,” says Taylor.

[Translation: “It's important that we hold fast to these treasures that have been passed down from our ancestors, so that our children can see the great things that result from these practices.”]

For Jaedyn Randell the experience has given her a greater understanding of the journey of her ancestors and the story she’s been telling as the voice of Moana.

“It’s been awesome to learn about the waka, and after voicing the movie, being able to now put it all together with the information we have learned through Hoturoa.”

A prominent proponent of te reo is Kiwi film director Taika Waititi (“Boy”, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “Thor: Ragnarok”).

Waititi says translating mainstream films into the Māori language had been a dream of his and his own Matewa Trust’s first major project is of Disney’s latest blockbuster Moana, which is based on Waititi’s original screenplay.

"For indigenous audiences to hear films in their own language is a huge deal, helping to normalise the native voice and give a sense of identification. It also encourages our youth to continue with their love and learning of the language, letting them know their culture has a place in the world," he says.

The Māori version of Moana was released this week for Māori Language Week (11-17 September).  Māori Language Week will have many activities around the country, including a street parade in Wellington, open lectures, the Māori music awards as well as book and record launches.

ATEED General Manager – Destination, Steve Armitage, says: “ATEED, on behalf of Auckland Council, has been working closely with many of Auckland’s Māori tourism operators, like Waka Quest, to further develop Auckland’s cultural experiences.

“Over the past few years in particular, Auckland’s Māori tourism operators have successfully carved out their own unique cultural offering and put the region on the map as a destination where visitors are able to experience Māori culture.”


Auckland is home to one-third of New Zealanders and has the world’s largest Pacific Island population. This vibrant multicultural mix infuses the region's cuisine, music, art and culture with colour and diversity. The subtropical climate promotes casual coastal living and outdoor adventure and activity.

Perched on a narrow isthmus between two harbours, Auckland is the ultimate marine playground, with everyday life revolving around the sea. With the sea at its doorstep, there are so many ways to get out onto the city's sparkling harbours. As well as providing transport to outer suburbs and islands, the sea influences everything here, from cuisine, industry, culture and design to leisure pursuits and sports activities.

The region’s diversity of people and landscapes gives an extra dimension to visitors' experience. Within half an hour of the fashionable boutiques and cafés of downtown Auckland, they can be sipping wine at an island vineyard, hiking through rainforest or exploring a black sand beach on the rugged west coast.