Set in Portorosso, a fictional seaside town on the Italian Riviera, in the late 1950s-early 1960s, Disney/Pixar’s original feature film “Luca” is a fun and heartwarming story about “the friendships that change us,” says the film’s Italian director Enrico Casarosa, who grew up in Liguria’s regional capital of Genoa and was largely inspired by his own childhood memories for the story. “It’s a love letter to the summers of our youth—those formative years when you’re finding yourself.”
Luca, the protagonist, is a shy, bright sea monster who takes human form (as a teenage boy) once he emerges from the water. Above surface he meets Alberto, another teenage see monster, and with him, shares a summer filled with adventures - as well as lots of gelato, pasta and Vespa rides (in the film - but also in real life for anyone who has been a teenager in Italy up until the 1990s - the Vespa symbolizes escape, freedom, friendship and the promise of exploring the world).
“I spent my summers in smaller towns along the coast,” says Casarosa, who, with “Luca,” is at his feature-length directorial debut and was previously nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the animated short film “La Luna.” “The Cinque Terre is really close to where I grew up. These five little towns are lovely— stuck in time, really, because they’re so small. They’ve retained that old, seasoned look—so wonderful and picturesque. I moved to the U.S. in my twenties, and as often happens, the more you’re away from your roots, the more you value those roots.”
Some of the film’s production team members and artists traveled to Italy’s Cinque Terre with Casarosa in order to experience firsthand the light, the colors, the texture, the views, the landscapes, the water, the vibe, and even the flavors, of the Italian Riviera and be able to portray the essence of the place.
“It seems in these coastal towns, there’s always a trattoria, a gelato shop, a wonderful bar where you can have coffee,” says Casarosa, who joined Pixar in 2002. “It was really fun to be able to bring that feeling of specificity and Ligurian vibe to the background of our film.”
“It’s a very specific coast because it’s really steep—the mountains rise up from the ocean,” the 49-year-old director continues. “I always imagined the towns like monsters coming out of the water.”
Hence the sea monsters theme - although the monsters depicted in the movie are far from scary.
“Sea monsters are a metaphor, really, for feeling different or excluded,” Casarosa explains. “I love the sense that all of our characters in some way feel different or unusual.”
“Luca” debuted on Disney+ on June 18, 2021 in the United States and is released in theaters in countries where the streaming service is not available.
Some of Luca’s FUN FACTS:
The character of Alberto is inspired by director Enrico Casarosa’s own childhood best friend, also named Alberto.
Filmmakers traveled to Italy to research the local culture, architecture and overall feeling of the film’s setting. Food was a welcome highlight of their research. Director Enrico Casarosa, who’s a native of Italy, even treated team members to dinner at his parents’ house in Genoa.
All of the background kid voices in the film were recorded by local children in Italy.
“Luca” director Enrico Casarosa was inspired in part by Italian films of the 1950s, including “La Strada” and “Roman Holiday,” among others. Pixar-created posters for both appear in the film.