Cala Maria has a physical appearance reminiscent of a typical humanoid female character. She is a slender mermaid with fairly wide hips. She has pale lavender-pigmented skin, an exposed midriff, a small button-nose, and two scar-like markings on the bicep of her left arm (though how or why she got them is unknown).
On her head, she has a dead, purple octopus with pale lavender eyelids over X-crossed eyes, with a lighter purple coloring and pale pink suckers under the tentacles. The octopus clearly acts as her hair since the three tentacles in front of Cala's face are flipped back over her head, resembling curly hair-bangs in a pompadour, while the octopus's head vaguely resembles a hair bun. Although it appears to be dead, the octopus’s eyes clearly open during Cala’s “summoning” animation, revealing simple, black pupils.
Cala has big, pale turquoise eyes with sea-green eyeshadow and three short, black, triangular eye-lashes each. She also has thin, black eyebrows and light, rose-pink lips.
As a sign of her mermaid status, Cala wears a sky-blue sea-shell bra with no shoulder straps, and her lower body is replaced with a sea-green, fish-like tail with round scales, connected with a water-ripple-like pattern below the waist line and although we don't see her full body in the game, various merchandise has shown that the fin at the end of her tail is the same green color as the rest of her lower body and is shaped like two small waves split in two with three rounded tips on each side.
However, in her second phase, Cala Maria gets bitten on her belly and shocked by two eels, resulting in a much more menacing appearance—a gorgon-mermaid hybrid, greatly resembling the famous mythology figure, Medusa.
Her once pale-lavender skin turns to a mint-green color. Her fingers become longer due to her fingernails becoming claw-like. Her lips turn an emerald-green color, her tongue becomes forked and reptilian, and her teeth are now quite sharp, forming an eerie, Cheshire Cat-esque grin. The markings on her arm remain unchanged.
Her eyes become menacingly cat-like with yellow sclera and black, slit-shaped pupils, losing the irises completely.
Her tail takes on a more forest-green hue and the scales become sharper and more triangular. Her once sky-blue sea-shell bra is now a green bikini top made from either seaweed, moss, or grass.
The most distinctive part of her new form is the octopus on her head, which has now seemingly fused onto her head and has become a marginally different shade of purple. The tentacles each transform into menacing-looking snakes with lavender, segmented underbellies, yellow, cat-like eyes, and small fangs in their mouths. Only the snakes acting as her bangs are active, while the rest are asleep.
Cala Maria is said to be playful, but not to be trifled with. Cala Maria seems to be a flirty and vivacious being. She appears to have some interest in Cuphead and Mugman, as seen in her intro where she makes a sweet "yoo-hoo!" sound while fluttering her eyelashes and making a pose, and in the ending sequence in which she is staring at the brothers (although, as a siren, she could only be doing it to catch them off-guard as well). Her first phase death message only helps support this. However, she seems to become more cruel after she is forcefully transformed into a gorgon-mermaid, due to electric eels biting her hips and shocking her.
Cala also seems to have a strong connection with fish and aquatic animals, as she can summon them at will to help her, and also use the fish as weapons without them apparently caring much.
Cala Maria menacingly rises from the ocean, and then flips her octopus hair back while striking a pose and flirtingly calling for Cuphead and Mugman. It sounds like she says, “Yoo-hoo!” In the beta version, she was seen performing the same animation as in her Ghost Pirate attack.
"You are a cutie...I am not sure if I should catch and release!"
—Cala Maria, Phase 1 Death Screen
In this first phase, Cala has a wide of range of attacks at her disposal to corner the players and damage them. It is also important to note that she can only be damaged by shooting at her head at all times. Because of this, her first phase is often hard to beat for many players. Cala has two main attacks:
- When Cala sinks into the sea and pulls out a giant fish to attack, she will get either a yellow fish or a red fish. These fish, once they escape Cala's grasp, will damage the players if they inadvertently run into them.
- The red fish that spits out three bursts of fire fishes in 6-way spread formation, with some fire fishes parryable. In Simple mode, it will shoot two bursts only, a burst of five fire fishes then a burst of four. In Expert mode, the red fish will shoot out four burst of fire fishes that spread in five or six alternatively, with one burst having no parryable fire fishes at all.
- The yellow fish spits out an electrified dolphin that homes onto the players. The moment the dolphin stops chasing the player(s), it will turn into three dolphins biting each other's tail, forming a ring. In Expert mode, the yellow fish will shoot two homing dolphins, but they last shorter.
- Cala can summon three ghost pirates by spewing them from her mouth. These ghosts will charge at players once the players are in sight, and they are harder to dodge if accompanied with puffer fish or other sea creatures. In Simple mode, they charge at a slower speed and Cala takes more time in spewing them. In Expert mode, they charge at a faster speed.
Cala can supplement these attacks with sea creatures that she summons to aid her and corner the players as she executes her other attacks:
- Seahorse: A literal sea horse appears from the water that will drink from the sea and spit out a pillar of water upwards at the players while moving around. While the water stream can not damage them, it will constantly push them up, making it harder to avoid Cala's upcoming attacks. The sea horse itself can be disposed of by shooting at it, after which it will wave its hand and stick its tongue out in defeat. Hitpoints = 80/90/100
- Turtle: A sea turtle with a red bowler hat and a cannon installed within its shell appears, traveling towards the left side of the screen. The cannon on its back shoots out bombs that will explode and release bullets in eight directions. In Simple mode, the bomb will just explode in the four cardinal directions. The turtle itself can be disposed of by shooting at it, after which it will hide back in his shell and raise a white flag in defeat. Hitpoints = 140/150/180
- Puffer fish: Waves of puffer fish will float from below in a random pattern as players frantically avoid them, while also avoiding Cala's attacks. Some of these puffer fish can be parried which makes it easier to dodge. The puffer fish itself can be disposed of by shooting at it, at which it it will completely deflate and fall back into the water. In Simple mode, they come in easier patterns. In Expert mode, they come in harder patterns. Hitpoints = 10/10/10
After taking enough damage, Cala Maria will gasp in shock as two electric eels appear and bite her flanks, shocking her in the progress. While being electrified, her octopus tentacles turn into "snakes", her fingernails turn into claws, her skin turns to a greenish tint, her seashell bra turns into one made of seaweed, her tongue turns into a forked tongue, her teeth sharpen, and her eyes become yellow with slit pupils, making her resemble a gorgon, or as an example, Medusa, as she laughs mischievously, thus beginning phase 2.
"You dare to gaze?! How 'bout stone boots so you can swim with the fishes!"
—Cala Maria, Phase 2 Death Screen
Hitpoints = 665/625/900 In this phase, Cala Maria will not attack the player, but instead, the electric eels will attack on her behalf as she taunts the player. These electric eels constantly appear around her and shoot five-way split bullets at players. Some of the bullets can be parried. If players don't destroy them fast enough, it will become a bullet hell situation as more eels surface and fire. Hitpoints = 40/45/45
While the eels are attacking the players, Cala will occasionally shoot a gaze at them, turning them to stone á la Medusa. Players can avoid petrification by not moving or shooting at all, or escape the stone by tapping the directional buttons, but they have to be fast since they will be an easy target for the eels to hit. Player(s) being petrified needed 22 inputs to set free from it in all settings of the game.
After she takes enough damage, her body will turn to stone and crumble as her head floats into a cavern. In Simple mode, her entire body including the head will turn to stone with a shocked expression and her snakes looking shocked and in pain as well, ending the battle without entering the cavern.
"Holy mackerel! Is that your best effort?"
—Cala Maria, Final Phase Death Screen
In this phase, players traverse through a cavern filled with corals as they avoid getting hurt by them and the spike columns that randomly appear. In Expert mode, the scrolling section itself becomes faster in this phase, making it harder to dodge the spike columns, which also appear more often. The snakes will spit out bubbles with skulls inside that move up and down. Cala retains her stone gaze as means to freeze the player and damage them by the bubbles, corals or the spikes. Note: The tactic of not moving or shooting to avoid turning to stone, in phase 2, won't work in this phase.
Once she takes enough damage, Cala is defeated. During this cutscene, she looks away in sorrow while one snake sadly plays the violin.
|Cala Maria's introduction.|
|Cala Maria cackling as she disappears into the sea.|
|Cala Maria's reaction to her fish slipping from her fingers.|
|Cala Maria summoning a random sea creature for assistance.|
|The turtle enters.|
|The seahorse enters.|
|Cala Maria breathing in and unleashing ghosts from her mouth.|
|Cala Maria screaming in pain as she is turned into a gorgon.|
|Cala Maria cackling as a gorgon.|
|Cala Maria shooting a petrifying gaze.|
|Cala Maria's body turning to stone and breaking apart.|
|Cala Maria firing a petrifying ghost from her eyes.|
|Normal Mode||Expert Mode|
- Cala Maria was first teased at the E3 2015 trailer. Since then, no gameplay of the boss battle was shown, it is just a .gif where we can see the creation process of her idle animation.
- She and Captain Brineybeard are the only nautical bosses in the game.
- Before her name was revealed, fans nicknamed her "Surf Mama".
- When defeated in Simple mode, part of an ear can be seen, but in Regular or Expert no ears are seen when she is shocked that the player(s) defeated her
- In the E3 2015 demo, the music for Botanic Panic was the same as Cala Maria's battle music in the final version.
- Her name is a pun on "calamari", a type of cooked squid, as well as "calamaria," a genus of dwarf burrowing snakes.
- The reference to snakes foreshadows her transformation into a Gorgon (a serpent-haired monster) for the second and third phases of the battle.
- Her first death screen mentions "catch and release". This is referred to how fishermen don't keep the fish they catch when they're in a competition or having fun.
- Her second phase death screen mentions the words "stone boots". This is a reference to cement shoes, a method of execution in which criminals, such as the mafia, killed their victims by weighing them down with cement and throwing them into a large body of water, thereby drowning them. It also doubles as a reference to the common saying "Sleeping with the fishes".
- In the good ending, her size is roughly equal to that of Cuphead and Mugman, which is quite odd, as she appears to be gigantic during her boss fight. This could imply that she has the ability to change her size at will, or it could be a simple oversight.
- When transforming into her third phase, her body turns to stone and her arms fall off, making it resemble the famous statue, Venus de Milo.
- When she summons a sea creature to help her, the eyes on Cala Maria's octopus wig will be open instead of having eyes with X’s in them, possibly meaning that the octopus is undead or pretending to be dead.
- During her first phase, when the ghosts are released, Cala Maria will make a sound very reminiscent of a fog horn.
- The animation she uses to fire the ghosts appears to be from her old, unused intro animation.
- In her 3rd phase, her death screen seems to depict her with a neck, even though that was a part of her body which turned to stone and crumbled. This may be an animation error.
- The 3rd phase death icon is really the 2nd phase icon.
- The phrase on her third death screen is a double entendre: "Holy mackerel" is a slang phrase meaning "Holy cow", and a mackerel is a type of fish.
- This phrase is most likely presented as a nod to Cala Maria’s aquatic nature.
- Cala Maria, along with Captain Brineybeard and Ribby and Croaks, are the only bosses to have a custom death animation on Simple mode.
- When defeating her in Regular mode, her snake hair can be seen connected to her body, stating that the octopus is physically connected to her as hair, which goes against some artists believing that the octopus is a wig.
- However, it is possible that the octopus is initially not attached to her, but becomes part of her body when she changes forms.
- Her 1st phase death screen depicts her making the "Off with the head" gesture, which could mean that she was merely trying to seduce Cuphead and Mugman so she could catch them off-guard and kill them, which is a subtle reference to the deceptive nature of Merpeople in ancient mythology.
- This also foreshadows her being decapitated in the third phase.
- It also references how some mermaids (such as sirens and merrow) would draw sailors to them with their beauty, then leave them to perish at sea.
- "Yoo-hoo!" is a commonly used cliche in old cartoons in which an attractive woman uses that phrase to flirtingly call out to a man who is interested in her. This line was also made famous by Minnie Mouse.
- The idea of a seashell bra or any other lewd apparel was normally not allowed in the sort of cartoons that the Cuphead game was modeled after.
- Taking the setting into consideration, however, it is possible that the game is set before the Hays Code was enforced.
- In her death screen during second and third phase, she has lavender skin from the first phase as opposed to green in-game. This could be an animation error.
- There is code for an unused blue fish that would have shot a spinner at the player, which would start off with a bubble and the tails appear shortly after. They will start spinning around and travel mainly on a straight line with the ability to slightly shift its path. The most likely reason it got removed was the difficulty of dodging it in addition to the other attacks she uses.
- The script for the blue fish appears to be finished, meaning it was scrapped later in development. this attack can be seen here.
- As soon as the electric eels bite Cala Maria’s hips to electrify her before going to the second phase, there is a coloring error, as Cala Maria's pink lips briefly turn red before turning green when she becomes a Gorgon-like monster.
- Coincidentally, her level has an extremely similar name to a level in Crash Bandicoot: Twinsanity by the name High Sea Hi-Jinks.
- Prior to update 1.1.3, none of the fire fishes nor the electric bullets could be parried. This was probably done to make it easier to get parries for a perfect score.
- The laughs emitted by the petrifying poltergeists are the same laughs emitted by Djimmi The Great when he shoots his skull in his first phase.
Inspirations and similarities
Cala Maria is homage to some of the most famous, fun-loving female characters from classic animation, including the iconic Betty Boop and Popeye's leading lady Olive Oyl. Additional references included Disney's 1938 Silly Symphony short Moth and the Flame and the mermaid boss from Fantastic Parodius aka Fantastic Journey. In her Merdusa form, her expressiveness and attitude is inspired by Madame Medusa from The Rescuers.
- Her first phase form is based after Eliza, the second boss from Gokujou Parodius. In her early design sketches, Cala Maria wore a ship on her head much like Eliza. However, this was scrapped due to being difficult to animate.
- Cala Maria's second form in terms of video games is based on the version of Medusa from Sexy Parodius of the Gradius series.
- Her floating head form in the final phase is a reference to Medusa being decapitated by Perseus in Greek mythology, which has also been referenced in other video games featuring Medusa, such as the Medusa Head, a recurring enemy and boss in the Castlevania series as well as Lar, the final boss from Chariot: Three Wonders.
- The fact that this is an air battle against her in her final phase might be inspired by the battle with Medusa in chapter 9 of Kid Icarus: Uprising.
- The setting of her fight is similar to the Silly Symphony, King Neptune. In the short, a mermaid is held hostage by pirates and the sea creatures, along with Neptune himself and the other mermaids, try and save her. In her fight, she’s a mermaid who is trying to defend her contract and soul from Cuphead and Mugman. Sea creatures come to help her out, and while there are no other mermaids in the fight, the eels fighting for her in Phase 2 can be seen as stand-ins.
- The turtle enemy Cala summons bears a striking resemblance to the character Toby Tortoise from two of Disney's Silly Symphonies cartoons The Tortoise and the Hare and Toby Tortoise Returns.
- She has a similar name and color pallete to Celia Mae from the Pixar film Monsters Inc., another gorgon-based character who even has snakes for hair. Likewise, Grim Matchstick's color-scheme is similar to that of Mike Wazowski.
- Cala Maria's "Yoo-hoo!" line, as well as her other laughs and grunts are voiced by little-known actress Denise Hatton.