Cala Maria is a giant, lavender-skinned mermaid with a (presumably) dead octopus on her head, acting as a 'hair'. She wears a seashell bra, has pale aqua eyes, and has what looks to be gills on her arms, if not scars.
In her second phase, however, Cala Maria takes the form of a gorgon mermaid, with the octopus tentacles on her 'hair' turning into snakes, her eyes becoming yellow and cat-like, her teeth becoming sharp, her tongue turning fork-like, and her skin turning a shade of light green. The seashell bra she once wore is now made of seaweed or possibly grass.
Cala Maria is a flirty being that seems to have some type of interest in Cuphead and Mugman, as seen in her intro where she makes a sweet "yoo-hoo!" sound while fluttering her eyelashes. Her first phase death message only helps prove this. However, she seems to become more cruel once she is forcefully transformed into a gorgon mermaid by her own electric eels biting her hips.
Cala also seems to have a strong connection with fish and aquatic animals, for she can summon them at will to help her, and also use them as weapons without the fish caring much.
"You are a cutie...I am not sure if I should catch and release!"
—Cala Maria, Phase 1 Death Screen
In this first attack, Cala has a wide of range of attacks that she can combine 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, which spits out an electrified dolphin that homes onto the players, or a red fish that spits out jellyfish in 6-way spread formation. These fish, once they escape Cala's grasp, will damage the players if they inadvertently run into them.
- 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.
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 water upwards at the players while moving around. While the water stream can not damage them, it will constantly push them up, making it hard to avoid Cala's upcoming attacks.
- Turtle: A turtle appears that has a cannon installed within its shell travels to the left side of the screen. The cannon on its back shoots out bombs that will explode and release bullets in all eight directions. The turtle itself can be disposed of by shooting at it, which it will raise a white flag in defeat.
- 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.
After taking enough damage, two electric eels appear and bite Cala Maria’s hips, electrocuting her in the progress. While being electrocuted, her octopus tentacles turns into "snakes", her fingernails turn into claws, her skin turns to a greenish tint, her seashell bra turns into one made of seaweed, and her eyes become yellow with slit pupils, making her resemble Medusa. This transformation commences the second phase of the battle.
"You dare to gaze?! How 'bout stone boots so you can swim with the fishes!"
—Cala Maria, Phase 2 Death Screen
In this phase, Cala Maria will not attack the players, but instead, the electric eels will attack for her. These electric eels constantly appear around her and shoot five-way split bullets at players. If players don't destroy them fast enough, it will become a bullet hell situation as more eels surface and fire.
While the eels are attacking the players, Cala will occasionally shoot a gaze at them turning them to stone like Medusa . Players can escape by tapping the directional buttons, but they have to be fast because they will be an easy target for the eels to hit.
After taking enough damage, her body turns to stone and crumbles as her head floats into a cavern commencing the final phase.
In Simple Mode, her entire body including the head will turn to stone, 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. The snakes will spit out bubbles with skulls inside moving up and down and Cala retains her stone gaze as means to freeze them and damage them by the bubbles, corals or the spikes.
Once taking enough damage, Cala is defeated as she looks away in sorrow while one snake sadly plays the violin.
- 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.
- In the E3 2015 demo, the music for Botanic Panic was the same as Cala Maria's battle music in the final version.
- Cala Maria and Captain Brineybeard are the only nautical bosses in the game.
- Her name is a pun on "calamari", a type of cooked squid, as well as "calamaria," a genus of dwarf burrowing snakes. This foreshadows her transformation into a Gorgon 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 "stone boots". This is a reference to cement shoes, a method of execution that criminals, especially the mafia, used to kill their victims by weighing them down with cement and throwing them into water so that they drown.
- She is based on Eliza, the first 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.
- 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.
- In the good ending, her size is roughly equal to Cuphead and Mugman, which is odd, considering she is huge during her boss fight.
- When transforming into her third phase, her body turns to stone and her arms fall off, making her resemble the famous statue, the Venus de Milo.
- When she summons a sea creature to help her, the eyes on the octopus on Cala Maria's wig will be open instead of having dead, crossed eyes, meaning that the octopus is possibly undead.
- 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.
- 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 her old, unused intro animation.
- In her 3rd phase, her death screen seems to have a neck after her whole body turned to stone and broke. This may be an error.
- Her third death screen is a double meaning; "Holy mackerel" is a slang phrase meaning "Holy cow", and mackerel is a kind of fish, which, given her aquatic nature, would make sense.
- Although it may not look like it, Cala Maria is based off of Betty Boop from the Betty Boop cartoons, as seen in one of the beta sketches for her design (the Betty Boop cartoon in the beta sketch is specifically her first appearance Dizzy Dishes). In a Betty Boop Opening, Betty Boop says "Yoo-Hoo!" while winking. In Cala Maria's Intro, She happens to call out "Yoo-Hoo!" While flipping her octopus wig out of her face. Another example of Cala Maria being based from Betty Boop is in the cartoon Where's Freddy aka Betty Boop's Lifeguard (1934) where Betty Boop turns into a mermaid.
- Cala Maria's eyes in the first phase seem to be based from a cartoon female moth from the Silly Symphony cartoon Moth and the Flame as evidenced in the same beta sketch as the Betty Boop scene in Dizzy Dishes.
- 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.
- Her 1st phase death screen depicts her making the "Off with the head" gesture, which hints that she was merely trying to seduce Cuphead and Mugman so she could kill them off guard, which is a subtle reference to the deceptive nature of Merpeople in ancient mythology.
- This also foreshadows her head coming off in the third phase.
- It also references how mermaids(sirens, merrow) would draw sailors in with beauty, and then they would perish at sea
- It could be argued that 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 and the other mermaids, 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.