LUCA debuts on Disney+ on June 18th – no Premiere Access needed. If you have Disney+ you can start streaming now! This new Pixar film starts off as fantastical (we follow a family of sea monsters), but boils down to a simple and emotional coming-of-age story. Read on for what to expect, and some great behind-the-scenes info that will help you enjoy the film even more.
Do you remember those endless summer days when you were a kid? No school and hot, lazy afternoons full of friends, swimming, movies and fun? LUCA is meant to capture that spirit and bottle it in this new coming-of-age film set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera. While many of us can’t relate to growing up in Italy, we can relate to new friendships and how they shape us in our formative years.
“This movie is about the friendships that change us,” says director Enrico Casarosa. “It’s a love letter to the summers of our youth.”
Disney and Pixar’s original feature film LUCA follows Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), a young sea monster who is bored with herding fish. He has been told all his life that sea monsters should never go above the water’s surface, but that’s where all the interesting stuff happens! So when he is prodded out of the water by a new friend and sea monster, Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer / SHAZAM), Luca willingly goes with him to explore the seaside town of Portorosso where they encounter gelato, pasta and Vespas!
But Alberto and Luca must be careful, because if their skin touches water, they turn back into sea monsters. If they are dry, they look like human kids. Their secret must be kept at all costs, because humans fear sea monsters and vice versa.
Back to Vespas! This film is set in later 1950’s-early 1960s Italy, and the Vespa becomes Luca and Alberto’s symbol of freedom. They vow to own one someday. How to own one? Get money. How to get money? Win a race! They meet a human kid, Giulia (voiced by Emma Berman), and become fast friends with her. The three team up to train for the annual Portorosso Cup race to hopefully beat town bully and 5-time race winner Ercole (voiced by Saverio Raimondo).
LUCA is Pixar Animation Studios’ 24th feature film is directed by Academy Award® nominee Enrico Casarosa (“La Luna”) and produced by Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”). Award-winning composer Dan Romer (“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Maniac”) created the score.
LUCA Fun Facts
- Sea monster Luca has 3,436 scales on his body
- There are 221 and 223 individual controls on Luca’s and Albero’s mounths, respectively, to create the rounded mouth expressions used throughout the film
- Jack Dylan Grazer (voice of Alberto) recorded every single line of dialogue in his mother’s closet
- Giulia (pronounced “Julia”) has a distinct look – artists gave her triangle shapes everywhere they could, especially her hair and pants.
- Director Enrico Casarosa can be heard as the voice of the winning card player Portorosso, shouting “Scopa!” He is also the fisherman in the boat who yells “What’s wrong with you, Stupido!”
- All of the background kid voices you hear in LUCA are local children in Italy
LUCA Easter Eggs
- Pixar Ball Sighting!! Look for it on a rooftop as the Portorosso Cup bike race gets underway
- Pizza Planet Truck! You might spot this in the form of a Piaggio Ape parked on a street in Portorosso
- Look for a poster of Walt Disney’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA at the Portorosso cinema
- Pixar’s signature A113, the number on a CalArts classroom where many filmmakers studied, appears on a train ticket
- 94608 is seen as the train number in the film. This is the zip code of Emeryville – Pixar’s hometown.
- Look for Pixar-created posters of real-life films LA STRADA and ROMAN HOLIDAY – 2 films that inspired director Casarosa while creating LUCA.
Behind-The-Scenes: Sea Monsters of LUCA
To create the look of the sea monsters, artists studied medieval depictions of sea monsters that appeared in the Carta Marina—a Renaissance map dating back to 1539—as well as sea-monster sculptures throughout Italy, seen on fountains and benches, and even mosaicked on the ground.
“I really wanted these designs to be unique, a departure from their medieval depictions,” says Marsigliese. “However, I also wanted to stay true to their decorative origins. You’ll notice beautiful, irregular scale patterns—as if carved by hand. You’ll see different kinds of facial fins, scalloped crests, sharp spines and webbing, and curlicues within the tails. And as our sea monsters age, these features only grow bigger and bolder. They’re beautiful creatures, and combined with their iridescence and gorgeous colors, could pass for pieces of costume jewelry.”
Adds color & shading art director Chia-Han Jennifer Chang, “On all of the sea creatures, we played with lots of patterns like scallops with their scales. They have a handmade quality. In terms of color, they represent the Mediterranean sea—the blues and turquoises—with an iridescent quality.”
Chang says the sea-monster color palette is as bold and saturated as that of the human world, “but on the opposite side of the spectrum.”
According to character supervisor Sajan Skaria, the sea monsters’ hair paddles were complex. “It’s the sea- monster version of hair,” he says. “They’re individually modeled and they move around.”
Since the animation team had no reference footage of real sea monsters to help establish how Luca and his underwater family would move, they pulled reference footage of salt-water iguanas. “We looked at how their tails move when they swim,” says animation supervisor Michael Venturini. “Iguanas use their tails in a left right pattern, not up and down like a dolphin, and their arms and legs drag behind while they swim.”
The iguanas, however, didn’t wear clothing, so filmmakers had to figure out how to dress the sea monsters in a way that fit their environment. According to simulation supervisor Henry Garcia, his team worked closely with the characters department to get it right. “The sea monsters make their clothing out of seaweed—so it’s like woven kelp—with almost fringe-like bits all over that move as they float and swim,” says Garcia. “We actually have to move it around, so there are a lot of wind fields and other methods to push and pull the ‘cloth’ to get that tidal sway you’d expect underwater. Nothing is ever static—everything is alive and moving, and it takes a lot of effort to make sure it feels right and isn’t distracting.”
Filmmakers combined elements from their Italian research trips with Casarosa’s artistic influences and—in true Pixar style—anchored it all in the needs of the story. A closer look at details like the approach to water and the individual sets, showcases how it all comes together. “We wanted to bring a certain warmth, texture and handmade quality to the film,” says Casarosa. “We want to capture the bright colors—the beautiful blues of the sea and the sky. We really amp up saturation in this movie. I love to bring an organic feel to the overall look—like a painting or a sketch—that’s still immersive and very rich. We want to take people there.”
Indeed, after watching LUCA, I feel like eating pasta and gelato in the hot summer sun by the ocean. You will too!
Watch LUCA Now
LUCA is available now to stream on Disney+.