Premiered In: Moana (2016)
Voiced By: Jemaine Clement
Seeing as I had my own start by reviewing Disney Villains followed shortly by Disney Princesses before moving on to the films proper, I shall again follow that order with what has to be one of my favorite Disney Villains of… Hrm… Y’know, now that I think about it, has there really been an official name made for this most recent era of Disney films? Lemme check that real quick…
… Huh. Well, “officially” starting in 2009 with The Princess and the Frog, this era of Disney Animated Feature Films has been titled as the Revival Era, which I admittedly can’t disagree with entirely as the decade before was rather… lackluster save for a few diamonds in the rough. Still, with the hope that this is an era that’ll go for new lengths before leaping to newer heights, I myself shall refer to the more recent CGI films as the Disney Digital Era.
Stepping down from my little soapbox let me speak of the newest member of Disney villainy, the enormous crab of glimmer and glam, Tamatoa. Now, admittedly, Tamatoa is technically speaking not the primary antagonist of the film but the one whom is also not truly a villain in and of themselves either. Thus the role of actual in-film villain falls to Tamatoa though his is likely the most unique amongst all Disney Villains thus far, at least those in the feature films category.
To start with, Tamatoa does not have any form of lackeys to call his own, which in itself is not altogether unique. Shere Khan for example may have an applicable courtesy with his fellow Jungle Book villain Kaa but the snake is far from being the tiger’s sidekick. Likewise, and in more recent films, Mother Gothel may have conned the Stabbington Brothers into working with her but that’s all that there relationship was, a con.
More to the point though, Tamatoa doesn’t want, or need, lackeys to begin with because he, contrary to all Disney Villains past, has everything that he could ever want, or so he believes. Whereas most villains such as Scar or King Candy (AKA Turbo) had to take what was not rightfully theirs, or like Maleficent and Ursula acting out of vengeance for past wrongs, Tamatoa is a self-admitted hoarder of all things glim and glamorous and that is literally all that he claims to want.
By Maui’s own admittance, and from a few key lyrics in Tamatoa’s song that he sings with gusto upon Moana’s request despite suspecting it to be a distraction, which it is, we know that Tamatoa was at least inspired by the mortal-turned-demigod Maui. More specifically, Maui’s enchanted tattoos that appear on his skin whenever he achieves a great deed be it for good or for ill, including his own victory against the ginormous crab that resulted in the decapod losing a limb as a result.
Wanting to turn his own body into a work of art, Tamatoa had spent countless years finding and hoarding up every piece of gold and shiny treasure he could find and affix it to his shell with two pieces being beyond the weight of gold already resting upon Tamatoa’s back.
One such treasure was Maui’s magical fishhook, which had been lost centuries ago by the demigod, and could allow Maui to transform himself into a vast variety of animal forms and is both sharp and sturdy enough to cleave through molten rock. The other, less noticeable treasure brings a lot of questions to mind as to when this film takes place but there’s no denying the facts.
Somehow, someway, Tamatoa has found Genie’s lamp.
Moving on from that bomb of an easter egg, from start to finish for all of his scene in the film, Tamatoa is shown to be a unpredictable, and quite possibly insane, individual though this may be in part due to his own self-isolation from his fellow monsters. He can go from being murderous and menacing to comedic and, dare I say, outright cheeky at the drop of a hat. He also admits to eating anyone be they human, deities, and other creatures of the deep. He even admits to having eaten his own grandmother, which he admits took a week due to her enormous size.
… Now that mind sound incredibly disturbing, and frankly it really, really is, but one must remember that Tamatoa is, for the most part, a type of coconut crab, which are omnivorous and have been noted as scavenging the carcasses of their fellows. Heck, real coconut crabs have no known predators except humans, of course, and other coconut crabs! Then again, considering that coconut crabs can grow to be over three feet in length, that’s not that surprising…
Of all Disney Villains, Tamatoa is perhaps the most narcissistic of them all and yes I do include the likes of the Wicked Queen in that regard. He has a superiority complex that outsizes his own body and views anything that is not beautiful as being irrelevant and disposable.
However, despite all the treasures that he has accumulated and his proclamations of being the most beautiful thing there could ever be, there is an obvious desire for more from Tamatoa and it’s made all the more apparent by the film’s overarching message of identity, self-worth, and embracing the person you are on the inside. By the end of the film, Tamatoa is the only character to be shown to spurn this ideal and the consequence of it leaves him still stuck on his back alone and empty in the Realm of Monsters.
He even goes so far as to contemplate the uselessness of his treasure-laden shell and laments that if he were of a different name and possessing a certain manner of accent that people, that is to say the audience, would be more helpful towards him.