Pack your bags and prepare for the virtual Italian Riviera getaway of a lifetime with Disney-Pixar’s latest animated feature LUCA. Incessantly charming, this adorable film serves up a satisfying fairy tale that is an absolute delight.
Put another way, the film is a bit of a modern-day genderbend of THE LITTLE MERMAID that feels familiar without being a re-tread. Central protagonist Luca (Jacob Tremblay) lives life as a bored fish herder under the overprotective watch of his parents Daniela (Maya Rudolph) and Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan) who warn of the dangerous humans above their watery world. When Luca meets fellow fish-boy, adventurous Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), he finds himself on a fish out of water journey to Portorosso where they meet tough-as-nails Guilia (Emma Berman) as well as her strong-willed but loving father Massimo (Marco Barricelli) and their mustachioed cat Machiavelli. Luca and Alberto find themselves in deeper trouble while also under the constant threat of having their secret identities revealed. Oh and there’s a big bad bully, some Vespas, and a ton of heart and humor.
MouseInfo had the chance to learn from the cast and crew recently about creating this beautiful new film and we’re happy to share some of the interesting elements we learned.
Not Just Another Buddy Film
Pixar is a studio known for its well-crafted buddy-films and LUCA is absolutely no exception to the tried-and-true format. However, we learned that they really aimed for deeper more substantial type of friendship. The filmmakers shared that they were aiming for a STAND BY ME type of relationship with the characters, focusing specifically on realistic bonds of true childhood friendships.
The film’s trio of friends recalls memories of grade school friendships including not just unadulterated glee but also the conflicts that arise within friend groups such jealousy and betrayal. Younger viewers will hopefully take away that the power of forgiveness can repairs bonds, and that the best friends you will make in life will love you for you without having to put up a façade.
There’s an endearing scene for instance, in which Luca learns “facts” from Alberto such as the stars in the sky actually being fish which forms an immediate wonder and admiration for Luca (and also serves as launchpoint to one of a few really gorgeously rendered fantastical sequences that are clearly inspired by Hayao Miyazaki films.)
The Creative Approach
Director Enrico Casarosa says he was inspired by his own childhood growing up in Genoa, Italy and that as a shy child meeting his best friend at age 11 led to his own adventures. “[In] those special kind of summers when you’re growing up and kind of finding yourself, I was kind of following him and getting dragged into troubles. It really made me really think about how much we find ourselves with our friendships, or how much friendships help us find a bit who we want to be.”
Casarosa takes a more stylized visual direction in LUCA which is markedly different from any Pixar film before it. While still a computer-generated animated feature, the character design is reminiscent of the Aardman Animation “claymation” films like WALLACE & GROMIT and CHICKEN RUN which emote a warm sincerity. His previous Pixar short LA LUNA also echoes a similar approach. The animation is quirky and feels lovingly crafted.
Adding to the idyllic aesthetic, producer Andrea Warren noted that the expressionistic watercolor inspiration was intended to “really capture [the] beauty and that wonderful feeling of summer.” Classic songs by Antonio of Italy and Edoardo Benatto during many of the film’s montages also help to transport us to a different era.
The summation here is a film that’s beautiful both in form and approach. It’s truly unfortunate that Disney decided to bypass theatrical release on this one and opt instead for a nearly-exclusive run on Disney+. Even so, LUCA should easily follow in the footsteps of other modern Pixar hits to become a family favorite with undeniable repeatability for those families still spending a majority of their time at home.
Be sure to stick around for the post-credit scene with a minor character you’ll definitely want to cringe-watch again!
See it for Yourself
A special limited run theatrical engagement is also taking place at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre starting on the same day.