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Tala Waialiki
Gramma Tala
Background Information
Feature Films Moana
Video Games Rhythm Run
Disney Crossy Road
Voiced by Rachel House
Animated by
Designer Jin Kim
Randy Haycock
Inspiration
Character Information
Species
Other Names Gramma (by Moana)
Mother (by Tui)
Village Crazy Lady
Personality Wise, quirky, supportive, independent, tranquil, stubborn, loving, spunky, eccentric, spirited, warm, spiritual, mischievous
Appearance
Occupation Keeper of the Ancient Stories
Alignment Good
Home Motunui
Family Moana (granddaughter)
Tui (son)
Sina (daughter-in-law)
Friends Ocean
Enemies
Likes Sea exploration, Moana's passion and drive, the ocean, South Pacific history, manta rays
Disikes The loss of identity within her culture, being told that her stories aren't true
Powers and Abilities
Weapons
Quote "When I die, I'm coming back as one of these [manta rays]. Or I chose the wrong tattoo!"

"There is nowhere you could go that I won't be with you."

I'm the village crazy lady. That's my job.
―Gramma Tala

Gramma Tala is the tritagonist in the 2016 film Moana. She is the mother of Tui, the mother-in-law of Sina and the grandmother of Moana. When Gramma Tala dies, she comes back as a stingray, just like the one in her tattoo. Gramma Tala's clothes also have manta ray patterns on them. Gramma Tala uses a cane to walk.

Background

Tala is Moana's grandmother and the mother of Motunui's village leader Tui. Like her granddaughter, she has a love for sea exploration, having come from an ancestry of South Pacific navigators. Unlike the other villagers, Tala has not forgotten her roots (or chose to ignore them, as in Tui's case). She hopes to see her people someday return to their former greatness as master wayfinders.

Tala is said to be the "keeper of the ancient stories", having deep knowledge and understanding of her heritage and culture. Tala tells the stories of the past. 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.

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."

Essential guide description

Free-spirited Gramma Tala is happy to stand out from the crowd. The villagers consider her quirky but they like to listen to her tales. Tala is lovable and light-hearted, and shares a close bond with her granddaughter Moana.

Personality

Tala is spirited, eccentric, and independent. She is fiercely devoted to the idea of being true to yourself and "listening to your heart." As such, she never adhered to normality for the sake of fitting in, making her somewhat of an outcast, though she holds the reputation of "village crazy lady" with prideful awareness. She is also mischievous and playful, at one point noting that she can keep secrets from Tui if she so pleases; although he is chief, she is still his mother.

Her independence nevertheless makes her a beloved and respected figure to Moana. The two share an extremely close bond, and Gramma Tala provides support and guidance throughout Moana's life. With her last remaining strength, she urges Moana to begin her journey to restore the heart of Te Fiti without delay. After her death, Tala appears to Moana in the form of a manta ray, as she told Moana she would, then appears later in her human form during "I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)" to offer her granddaughter unconditional love and wise counsel, helping Moana through her moment of deepest self-doubt.

Role in the film

Tala-tells-the-tale

Tala telling the story of Maui and Te Fiti to Motunui's youth.

Tala's role in the film is as a keeper of cultural knowledge, which she transmits to younger generations. She is also a catalyst for Moana's journey and an example of a wise, loving, supportive elder.

Tala opens the film, narrating the story of the day Maui flew to the mother island, Te Fiti, and stole her life-giving heart. Tala explains that this brought darkness upon the world, and if the heart is not returned to its rightful place, all of the humanity will fall victim to a slow, painful death at the hands of the lava demon Te Kā. The small children gathered to hear Tala's story are terrified, but Moana is captivated. Tala's son, Chief Tui, arrives to settle the crying tots, 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 shore, 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 possession

Over the years, Moana and Tala share a close relationship. While Tui encourages Moana to quell her love for the sea in favor of her duties as future chief, Tala encourages Moana's calling.

When Moana crawls onto shore after her first disastrous attempt to take a boat and sail with Pua past the reef in an attempt to find more fish, Gramma Tala apears and, not missing a thing, inspects the wound on her granddaughter's foot. Moana laments that her father is right about sailing beyond the reef, and decides it is time to put her stone on the mountain. Tala accepts her granddaughter's wishes so quickly Moana becomes suspicious that there is something Gramma Tala wants to tell her. Tala takes her to the hidden entrance of a cave. She instructs Moana to go inside, bang the drum, and discover why she has such a strong connection to the sea. Moana returns after a vision of their ancestors as great voyagers, and asks why the voyaging stopped. Tala explains that once Te Fiti's heart was stolen, darkness and danger spread across the seas, leading the ancient chiefs to forbid anyone from leaving the island. 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 had the heart of Te Fiti in her possession since the day the ocean gave it to Moana, and confirms 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, weak and in pain despite the energetic demeanor she puts on for her granddaughter, takes a moment to rest while having one final look at the starry sky.

While arguing with her father on the way to the boat cave, Moana finds Tala's cane on the ground she and her father rush to the hut where Tala is receiving medical care, but nothing can be done to save her. Tala summons her waning strength and 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 witnesses Tala's light go out, indicating that her grandmother has died. Tala's spirit appears in 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 begins "I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)". The song leads Moana to accept both her love for her people, and 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.

After Moana restores the heart of Te Fiti with Maui's help, returns home, and accepts her role as Chief of Motunui, her people are now free to voyage the seas as their ancestors did years before. Tala appears again at the end of the movie in her manta ray form, swimming past as Moana leads her people beyond the reef, voyagers once again.

Trivia

  • Tala was not present in the first version of the movie. The idea of a grandmother character came from writer Pamela Ribon.
  • Gramma Tala becoming a manta ray after she dies is loosely based on the myth of Taotao Mo'na, which implies that ancestral spirits can come back in the form of animals to haunt the island.
  • 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.
  • In the reprise of the deleted ballad "More", Moana mentions that Tala was the one who named her.
  • Originally, there was a scene where Tala and Tui had a late-night discussion regarding Moana's dream to be a navigator. It put the focus on Tala and Tui's relationship and conflicting personalities and was also the scene used for Rachel House and Temuera Morrison's auditions for Tala and Tui's voice roles, respectively. Though it served the two characters well and was beloved by co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements, the scene was cut.

Gallery

Moanalogowater
Moana Wikia has a collection of images and media related to Gramma Tala which can be found at Gramma Tala/Gallery.


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