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Gramma Tala

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I'm the village crazy lady. That's my job.
―Tala explaining her 'weird' behavior to Moana

Gramma Tala is the tritagonist of the 2016 animated feature film, Moana.


Tala is Moana's grandmother. Like her granddaughter, she has a love for sea exploration, having come from an ancestry of South Pacific navigators. Described as the "village crazy lady", Tala has a special connection to the sea and the legends passed throughout South Pacific generations. She shares this connection with Moana, and a relationship closer than her parents in some ways.

Tala is said to be the "keeper of the ancient stories", having deep knowledge and understanding of her heritage and culture. She is also aware of the growing darkness that threatens her people, and looks to Moana to someday utilize her wayfinding talents to liberate the world.[1][2]

Official description

Moana’s confidante and best friend, who shares her granddaughter’s special connection to the ocean. Although her son Tui, the chief of Motunui, is a no-nonsense leader, Gramma Tala most definitely dances to the beat of her own drum.[3]

Role in the film

Tala begins the film with an opening narration detailing the day Maui flew to the mother island, Te Fiti, and stole her life-giving gem heart in an act of supposed heroism. As Tala explains, this brought darkness upon the world, and if the heart is not returned to its rightful place, all of humanity will fall victim to a slow, and painful death at the hands of the lava demon Te Kā. The children gathered to hear Tala's story are terrified, but Moana is captivated. Tala's son, Chief Tui, arrives to settle the crying crowd, claiming the stories are nothing more than works of fiction. Tala nevertheless insists that what she says is true and that someone must brave the ocean to save the world. Meanwhile, at the shores of the sea, Moana is chosen by the ocean to return the heart, and is granted the jade stone. When Tui picks her up to take her back to the village, Moana drops the stone, and it falls into Tala's protected possessions.

Over the years, Moana and Tala share a close relationship. While Tui encourages Moana to discard her love for the sea in favor of her duties as future chief, Tala encourages Moana's calling. Eventually, however, Moana chooses to abide to her father's wishes and focuses on her duties until word gets out that the resources on the island are mysteriously dying out. She suggests the people sail beyond the reef to find more fish, but Tui forbids anyone from doing so. He claims Moana only wishes to journey past the reef because of her love for ocean exploration, and though Moana denies, a part of her feels her father's suspicions are correct.

She then takes a boat and sails into the ocean with Pua in attempts to find more fish. Before she can pass the reef, she nearly drowns. She saves herself and makes it to shore, where Tala arrives and inspects the wound on her granddaughter's foot. Moana laments that she is not ready to explore the seas, and Tala suspiciously accepts her granddaughter's wishes. When Moana asks why her grandmother is acting in odd behavior, as if there's something that needs to be said, Tala takes her to the entrance of a hidden cave. She tells Moana to journey inside, bang the drums, and discover why she has such a strong connection to the sea. Moana discovers her ancestors were once great voyagers and asks why the voyaging stopped. Tala explains that once Te Fiti's heart was stolen, darkness and corruption spread across the seas, rendering it too dangerous to voyage.

To keep their people safe, the chiefs of the past forbade anyone from leaving the island, and over the course of a millennium, the people of Motunui have forgotten their roots. More importantly, the danger has not decreased, and Tala shows Moana signs that prove their island is the next to die. Though Moana is horrified, Tala reveals that she has the heart of Te Fiti in her possessions, and explains that the ocean chose Moana as the one capable of saving the world. Moana accepts the responsibility, and Tala shows her the way to Maui through a constellation resembling his fishhook. Moana excitedly runs off to gather her people for help, while Tala, feeling weaker than ever before, takes a moment to rest while having one final look at the starry sky.

Shortly afterward, Moana finds Tala's cane on the ground and is informed that her grandmother is dying and receiving medical care, but nothing can be done to save her. Tala weakly encourages Moana to save her people, but the latter is reluctant to leave her grandmother's side. Tala promises that, no matter what, she will always be with her granddaughter, and passes down her necklace with the heart of Te Fiti inside. A heartbroken Moana leaves the hut and packs for her travels with the help of her mother. She takes one of her ancestor's boats and sails off towards the reef. As Moana looks back at the island, she's able to witness Tala's light go out, indicating that her grandmother has died. Tala's spirit takes the form of an illuminated manta ray, and guides Moana to the open ocean, beginning the journey.

Though Moana successfully manages to find Maui and convince him to sail to Te Fiti, their battle with Te Kā ends in disastrous failure. Maui's hook is severely damaged, and he blames Moana for the devastation before leaving her alone at sea, believing there's no hope in restoring the heart. Moana, feeling she's failed her people and wayfinding ancestors, sends the heart of Te Fiti back into the sea.

Suddenly, Moana is visited by her grandmother's spirit. Tala comforts Moana and apologizes for putting so much pressure on her in the first place. She lovingly supports Moana's decision to turn back home, but Moana feels hesitant to do so. With her granddaughter feeling lost and confused, Tala sings "I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)". The song leads Moana down a path of discovery; she accepts her love for the sea, and her people, ultimately deciding that she is neither bound to one or the other. With reinvigorated courage and inspiration, Moana dives into the sea and reclaims the heart of Te Fiti. When she returns to the surface, Tala is gone.

Moana nevertheless sails to Te Fiti and is successful in restoring the heart with Maui's help. With the island saved, Moana returns home and embraces her parents. She earns the role of Chief of Motunui and declares that her people are now free to voyage the seas as their ancestors did years before. Tala is reincarnated as a physical manta ray and swims alongside Moana's boat as their family celebrates the return to their roots.


  • Tala was not present in the first version of the movie. The idea of a grandmother character came from writer Pamela Ribon.[4]
  • In a pencil test by Randy Haycock, Tala mentions that her deceased husband visits her as a shark, similar to how she visits Moana as a manta ray at the end of the film.[5]



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