Tamatoa is the secondary antagonist of Disney's fifty-sixth full-length animated feature film Moana. He is a greedy, ruthless, narcissistic and selfish giant crab who loves to collect valuable objects for himself. He is also Maui's past arch-nemesis.
Tamatoa is dubious, unpredictable, possibly insane and endowed with boundless arrogance. His mood tends to shift at the drop of a hat, going from cheeky and comedic, to murderous and menacing in a mere matter of seconds. He is quite monstrous in both size and attitude, one of his most well-known traits being his sadistic, heartless and unpleasant habit of eating anyone around him, be they humans, sea creatures, or even gods — he even admitted to eating his own grandmother. His hatred towards Maui comes from the fact that Maui snatched one of his legs.
Tamatoa is also quirky, comical and entertaining, though in a dark, wicked and malevolent sense. He has a twisted sense of humor, specifically shown when he nonchalantly commented that it took a week to eat his grandmother and blamed the delay on her enormous size in a joking tone. He also takes pleasure in torturing his enemies both mentally and physically, as shown when he playfully - yet brutally - thrashed Maui across his lair, while crushing the demigod's ego at the same time. With an apparent lack of boundaries, Tamatoa has no qualms with mocking someone's dead loved one or exposing someone's deepest insecurities to amuse himself.
Above all, Tamatoa is also extremely narcissistic, arrogant, vituperative, uncompromising and manipulative. With a superiority complex, he views himself as beautiful and others as irrelevant and disposable. However, this is only surface-level, which actually serves as an antithesis between Tamatoa and the film's over arching message of identity and being true to yourself: Unlike Moana, Tala, and Maui, Tamatoa does not believe in inner-beauty or "listening to your heart" and instead, he views anyone who is not physically attractive or outwardly strong as insignificant and lesser than him, albeit perfectly fit for a meal. This is his biggest flaw and ultimately causes his downfall, as he underestimated Moana's intelligence (because she is a human), which allowed her to best the villainous, loathsome and ruthless crustacean. However, though he considers himself beautiful, he welcomes anything that will increase his power and (by extension) his social status, such as the heart of Te Fiti.
Tamatoa is first seen during Gramma Tala's story concerning the mother island Te Fiti and her life-giving heart. According to Tala, many thieves and scavengers sought the heart for its power, and among these ancient entities were Tamatoa and the pirate band Kakamora, though Maui was the only one capable of actually stealing the heart. In doing so, he was banished to a desolate island, while his fishhook was lost at sea in a battle for the heart against a wrathful and destructive lava demon known as Te Kā. The fishhook would be recovered by Tamatoa, who added it to his collection of treasures.
Later on, Maui is freed from his exile by Moana, who needs Maui to return the heart of Te Fiti to its rightful place. Maui reluctantly agrees, but needs his fishhook in order to accomplish such a goal. After defeating the Kakmora, Moana and Maui travel to Lalotai, where they find Tamatoa's lair. Moana is sent in as bait, covering herself in shiny objects to attract the crab. Tamatoa soon awakens, and examines the human that has entered his shell. Meanwhile, Maui reaches in to grab his hook. Although Tamatoa nearly notices, Moana is able to distract the crab by getting him to talk about himself through the villain song "Shiny". After Tamatoa brags about his shell and explains his love for all things shiny, he tries to eat Moana, only to pause when Maui reveals himself with his fishhook in hand. Tamatoa cowers in fear until he realizes that Maui is out of practice using his hook, crippling his ability to transform.
Tamatoa sadistically takes advantage of this by attacking and brutally thrashing Maui about his lair. When Moana tries to stop the cruelty, Tamatoa traps her within a cage-like plant. Soon enough, Tamatoa darkens his lair and his form becomes bio-luminescent, giving him a glowing yet menacing appearance. Tamatoa also admits that he's aware of Maui's horrible childhood when his parents abandoned him as an infant, but before Tamatoa could devour Maui whole, Moana escapes her cell and creates a phony duplicate of Te Fiti's heart by using a barnacle-covered in bio-luminescent algae.
She calls to Tamatoa to show him the shiny prize in her possessions, and the crab immediately discards Maui in favor of his coveted treasure. He chases after Moana, who drops the glowing barnacle in a crack on the ocean floor. As Tamatoa digs for it, Moana and Maui make their escape. It is not long before Tamatoa realizes that he has been tricked, and the enraged crustacean frantically chases after the duo. They launch themselves onto a geyser heading to the surface, and the impact of the shooting water knocks Tamatoa onto his shell, much to his dismay. Unable to move, he is left stranded on the ocean floor, asking if Moana at the very least enjoyed his song.
Tamatoa is last seen after the credits, where he is still trapped and struggling to get off his shell, but to no avail. He asks the audience for assistance, and sarcastically quips that if his name was "Sebastian" and he had a Jamaican accent, the audience would feel happy to help him out (the reference to the supporting character of the same name from Disney's The Little Mermaid). It is unknown if he ever got back up or if he starved.
Powers and Abilities
Colossal Strength: Tamatoa has an incredible strength greater than that of Maui. He defeated the mighty demigod without difficulty and effortlessly, and he can easily dig with his clamps and demolish walls.
Camouflage and Bio-luminescence: Like a normal crab, Tamatoa can camouflage himself in the environment underwater or dry. In the dark Tamatoa becomes fluorescent, making himself more terrifying.
Immortality: Tamatoa defines himself as having no age which means that he is immortal. He was more than 1,000 years old at the time of the film. This is also stated in the French dub of shiny, "Je n'ai pas d'âge", which means "I have no age".
Intelligence: It isn't hard to see that Tamatoa is not an ordinary crab, as he is able to know what a search engine is. Also being able to talk human speech and know what a human is in general means that he has an above average intelligence considering that he is a decapod, or more specific, a coconut crab.
Ooh-hoo-hoo; What have we here? (Moana gasps) It's a sparkly... shiny... Wait a minute. Ugh, it's a human! What are you doing here in the realm of the mons- Just pick an eye, peep. I can't... I can't concentrate on what I'm saying if you keep- pick one! Pick one!
~ Tamatoa meeting Moana.
You're a funny looking thing, aren't you? (Moana: Don't! That's my grandma's!) "That's my grandma's!" I ate my grandma! And it took a week because she was absolutely humongous! Why are you here!?
~ Tamatoa admitting to have eaten his grandmother while attempting to steal Moana's necklace.
(Moana: HEY! I've got something shiny for ya!) The heart of Te Fiti... You can't run from me! Oh, you can. You keep surprising me. There's only so far you can get on those two little legs. [laughs] The power of creation... for a crustacean! Where is it? WHERE IS IT!?
~ Tamatoa being tricked by Moana.
Yes! I have the- wait a minute. Ah! I see, she's taken a barnacle and she's covered it in bioluminescent algae... as a diversion! [growls] Come back here!
~ Tamatoa realizing that he had been tricked before going after Moana and Maui.
Hey! HEY! ...Did you like the song?
~ Tamatoa after being knocked onto his shell by the geyser.
Shiny... I'm so shiny. Didn't help me though, did it? Still upside-down here. Just need a little push! (sighs) Can we be real? If my name was Sebastian, and I had a cool Jamaican accent, you'd totally help me. You would, you know you would!
~ Tamatoa's last words during the after-credits scene.
The name "Tamatoa" means "trophies" and "two" in Maori.
In earlier concepts, instead of a crab, Tamatoa was conceived as a giant, headless warrior from an Oceanic myth.
The artist Ian Gooding compares the design of Tamatoa's upward spiraling seashell lair to the architecture of the Guggenheim museum in Manhattan, New York City.
The YouTuber, Schaffrillas Productions seems to use Tamatoa as a de facto mascot for his channel, using the character in his profile picture and certain videos.
Tamatoa breaks the fourth wall twice; first when he tells the audience to look up what a decapod is during "Shiny", and later during his after credits scene, where he asks the audience for help.
When Tamatoa rants during the after credits scene, he directly mentions and references Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, the Disney film that was directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, both of whom later directed Moana.
He is the only villain in the film who speaks and sings, as opposed to the others (who are all mute).
Tamatoa's character is a tribute to the late David Bowie, as his song was supposed to sound like Bowie, and that is also the reason why Jemaine Clement voiced Tamatoa, considering that Clement did a parody on classic Bowie-genre songs once.
Tamatoa is also the only villain in the film to not have been met on the surface.
Despite being the secondary antagonist, Tamatoa only has around from five to eight minutes of screen-time, which is much more than the Kakamora, but less than Te Kā.
Genie's lamp from Aladdin was shown on top of his shell; more specifically during the first shot when Maui called Tamatoa a "Crab Cake" and then recovered his fish hook.
Despite being in the film for less than ten minutes, he was one of the most popular characters from Moana.
Tamatoa makes a subtle cameo appearance in Ralph Breaks the Internet, appearing on Moana's sweatshirt with the catchphrase "Shiny!" written above him.
Tamatoa is believed to represent the Coconut crab, a species of terrestrial crab native to the islands throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans. Coconut crabs are also known as "Robber crabs" and "Palm thieves" for their tendency to steal shiny objects.