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Tamatoa is the secondary antagonist of the Disney's 2016 animated feature film Moana.
Tamatoa is a gargantuan coconut crab that hails from Lalotai, a realm inhabited by monsters. Living in a giant seashell within the realm's depths, Tamatoa loves all things shiny - his shell is covered in gold, artifacts and treasures as indication of this. He is an avid collector and hoarder, and his materialistic obsession has driven him into madness over time.
Tamatoa is also the longstanding arch-nemesis of acclaimed demigod Maui. The two appear to know each other extremely well, with Tamatoa even having knowledge of Maui's near-tragic beginnings. During one of their battles, Maui ripped off one of Tamatoa's legs which, according to Maui, plays a part in the giant crab's hatred for him. Despite his own physical prowess, Tamatoa fears Maui when the latter is equipped with his magical fish hook.
Tamatoa is a self-absorbed, 50-foot crab who lives in Lalotai, the realm of monsters. The conceited crustacean wants to be more than a “bottom feeder” and overcompensates for this perceived shortcoming by covering himself in all things shiny.
Tamatoa is unpredictable and possibly insane. 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's quite monstrous in both size and attitude, one of his most well-known traits being his sadistic habit of eating anyone around him, be they humans, sea creatures or even gods—he even admitted to eating his own grandmother.
Tamatoa also 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 dry 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 extremely narcissistic. With a superiority complex, he views himself as beautiful, and others as irrelevant and disposable. This is only surface-level, however, which actually serves as an antithesis between Tamatoa and the film's overarching 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". 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's a human), which allowed her to best the villainous crustacean. Though he considers himself beautiful, however, 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 sought the heart for its power, and among these ancient entities was Tamatoa, though Maui was the only one capable of actually stealing the heart. In doing so, he was banished to a desolate island, while his fish hook was lost at sea in a battle for the heart against a wrathful lava demon. The fish hook 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 eventually agrees, but needs his fish hook in order to accomplish such a goal. Moana and Maui travel to Lalotai, and the two soon 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, and although Tamatoa nearly notices, Moana is able to distract the crab by getting him to talk about himself through the 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 fish hook in hand. Tamatoa cowers in fear until he realizes Maui's hook is out of commission, crippling his ability to shapeshift.
Tamatoa sadistically takes advantage of this by abusing Maui throughout his lair. When Moana tries to stop the cruelty, Tamatoa traps her within a cage made from discarded bones. Soon enough, Tamatoa darkens his lair and his form becomes bioluminescent, giving him a glowing yet menacing appearance. He prepares to devour Maui, but Moana escapes her cell and creates a phony duplicate of Te Fiti's heart. 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 heart in a crevice on the ocean floor. While Tamatoa digs for it, Moana takes Maui's fish hook from him, and then makes her escape with Maui. It isn't long before Tamatoa realizes he's been tricked, and the enraged crustacean 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. Unable to move, he's 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 sings a melancholy version of "Shiny" before asking the audience for assistance, and quips that if his name were "Sebastian" and he had "a cool Jamaican accent", the audience would feel happy to help.
Spoilers end here.
In earlier concepts, instead of a crab, Tamatoa was conceived as a giant, headless warrior from an Oceanic myth.
Some of the animators that worked on Tamatoa consider him to be amongst the most enjoyable assignments of their career.
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.