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Luca is a 2021 American Italian 3D computer-animated comedy family film directed by Enrico Casarosa in his directorial debut with screenplay by Mike Jones and Jesse Andrews, based on the sea monsters article books made by Chloe Aridjis. The cast features the voices including Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Jim Gaffigan, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Peter Sohn and Saverio Raimondo.

Set on the Italian Riviera in the 1950–1960s, the film centers on Luca Paguro, a sea monster boy with the ability to assume human form while on land, who explores the town of Portorosso with his new best friend, Alberto Scorfano, experiencing a life-changing summer adventure. Luca takes inspiration from Casarosa's childhood in Genoa; several Pixar artists were sent to the Italian Riviera gathering research from Italian culture and environment. The sea monsters, a "metaphor for feeling different", were loosely based on old Italian regional myths and folklore. Like La Luna, the design and animation were inspired by hand-drawn and stop motion works and Hayao Miyazaki's style. Casarosa described the result as a film that "pays homage to Federico Fellini and other classic Italian filmmakers, with a dash of Miyazaki in the mix too".

Originally intended to be shown in theaters, the film will instead be released on Disney+ on June 18, 2021 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The film is getting theatres on USA named El Capitan Theatres on released included Worldwide without Streaming service, and met with positive reviews and worldwide moderate box office returns with similar praises voice performances, animation, visual effects, transforming arts, and nostalgia feel.

Plot

In 1959, Luca Paguro, a timid young sea monster, herds goatfish off the coast of the Italian town of Portorosso. His parents Daniela and Lorenzo, fearing that humans might hunt him, forbid him to approach the surface. One day, Luca meets Alberto Scorfano, a fellow sea monster child who lives alone above the surface, claiming that his father simply is not around much. Alberto encourages Luca to adventure out of the ocean, showing him that sea monsters turn into humans when dry, but return to their true forms when wet. Luca follows Alberto to his hideout on Isola del Mare, where the boys connect while making and riding a makeshift, fragile Vespa. Upon discovering their son's actions, Luca's parents plan to send Luca to live in the deep sea with his uncle Ugo. In retaliation, Luca and Alberto run away to Portorosso to find a real Vespa and travel the world.

The boys run afoul of Ercole Visconti, the local bully and five-time champion of the Portorosso Cup, a local Children's Triathlon. Ercole tries to dunk Luca in a fountain, but Giulia Marcovaldo, a young girl, helps the boys escape. In hopes of winning the money needed for a Vespa, the boys and Giulia form a team for the triathlon, which involves swimming, pasta-eating, and biking. Unable to swim without revealing themselves, Luca and Alberto take on the biking and pasta-eating portions of the race, respectively, while Giulia takes the swimming race. Upon learning this, Ercole vows to beat them and continue his winning streak.

While the boys train for the race, and befriend Giulia's fisherman father Massimo (who was born with only one arm), Luca's parents head to the surface to find their son. Giulia teaches Luca about school, and the two bond over a love of learning, especially about astronomy. Alberto becomes jealous of Luca and Giulia's growing friendship. When Luca starts ignoring Alberto's advice, and tries changing their plans to going to school instead of traveling the world, he and Alberto fight. In anger, Alberto intentionally reveals his true form to Giulia. Luca feigns surprise at the transformation, and a heartbroken Alberto is driven off by Ercole. Giulia later sloshes a cupful of water onto a panicking Luca; seeing his true identity, she sends him away for his own safety.

Luca attempts to reconcile with Alberto, and discovers that Alberto's father abruptly abandoned him long ago, making Alberto think he was a bad kid who should not have friends. Luca sets out to win the Vespa on his own, to make things right. After several mishaps, Luca takes the lead in the bicycle race, but is forced to take shelter when it starts to rain. Alberto arrives with an umbrella, but Ercole knocks it away and both boys are revealed as sea monsters. They flee Ercole, who now intends to harpoon them to collect bounty money, but Giulia helps by smashing her bike into Ercole's, injuring herself in the process. Luca and Alberto turn back to help her, finally standing up to Ercole. They are defended from Ercole and the other fishermen by Massimo, who reveals that the boys are his friends. He also points out they have crossed the finish line and won the race. Other disguised sea monsters reveal themselves, including Luca's family, and the townsfolk happily welcome them. When Ercole refuses to accept the changes, his own henchmen Ciccio and Guido throw him into the fountain, fed up with his abuse.

Luca and Alberto purchase a Vespa, but Alberto sells it to buy a train ticket for Luca, allowing him to go to school in Genoa with Giulia. Luca's family, Massimo, and Alberto see Luca and Giulia off at the train station, where they all promise to stay in touch.

During the credits, Luca meets Giulia's mother and attends school, showing off his sea monster appearance and later watching humans walk on the moon with Giulia on television. Massimo becomes Alberto's adoptive father, and Alberto and Luca's family enjoy interacting with the humans in Portorosso. In a post-credits scene, Ugo talks to a stray goatfish about how great his life is in the depths of the ocean.

Cast

Giacomo Gianniotti and Gino La Monica voice Giacomo and Tommaso respectively, two local fishermen (they reprised their roles in the Italian-language dubbing of the movie). Elisa Gabrielli and Mimi Maynard play Concetta and Pinuccia Aragosta, two elderly women who are actually sea monsters. Francesca Fanti voices a cop. Jonathan Nichols voices Don Eugenio, a local priest (voiced by Gino D'Acampo in the British version). Jim Pirri voices Mr. Branzino, a sea monster. Casarosa voices an angry fisherman and a Scopa player.

Production

Development

On July 30, 2020, Pixar announced a new film titled Luca as an "Italy-set coming-of-age story", with Casarosa directing and Warren producing. It is the feature-length directorial debut of Casarosa, who has previously directed the 2011 Academy Award-nominated short film La Luna. It is the first Pixar film to be made almost exclusively at crew members' homes because of the closing of Pixar campus in Emeryville, California, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Casarosa has described Luca as a "deeply personal story", being inspired by his childhood in Genoa, Italy, with the title character based on himself and Alberto on his best friend Alberto Surace (who voices a fisherman in the Italian dub version). Casarosa has stated: "my summers were spent on beaches ... I met my best friend when I was 11. I was really shy and I found this troublemaker of a kid who had a completely different life. I wanted to make a movie about those kinds of friendships that help you grow up."

He also declared that the film's core is a celebration of friendship:"Childhood friendships often set the course of who we want to become, and it is those bonds that are at the heart of our story in Luca. So, in addition to the beauty and charm of the Italian seaside, our film will feature an unforgettable summer adventure that will fundamentally change Luca".

According to Casarosa, the result is a film that "pays homage to Federico Fellini and other classic Italian filmmakers, with a dash of Miyazaki in the mix too". In addition of Fellini and Miyazaki's works, the films La Terra Trema (1948), Stromboli (1950) and Stand by Me (1986) were also cited as source of inspiration, and Aardman Animations and Wes Anderson's stop-motion films influenced Casarosa's artistic sensibilities.

To prepare for the film, Pixar sent several of the film's artists to the Italian Riviera for a research trip, during which they took photos of the area's landscape and peoples. The film is rooted in the 50s and 60s, that Casarosa has described as a "golden age that feels timeless", with the music and designs inspired from that period "to capture a little bit of this timelessness of summer."

The sea monsters featured in the film were pulled from Italian myths and regional folklore, including the Tellaro octopus and local "little legends about sea dragons, creatures that either come to help or get into trouble". Casarosa said: "I always found the old sea monsters on maps really fascinating. The mystery of the sea was so represented in the weird creatures that we used to draw. And that area has a lot of wonderful myths". Production designer Daniela Strijleva stated: "We were really inspired by old sea maps. Some design details that carried through to the final film are things like the shapes of the fins of the sea monsters, how decorative their scales are, and the curves of their tails." Casarosa also stated that the sea monster is a "metaphor for feeling different".

Disney filed for copyright registry of the names "Portorosso" and "Isola del mare" ("Sea island"). The DisInsider initially reported that Portorosso was going to be the title character's surname and possibly a reference and wordplay to Miyazaki's film Porco Rosso (1992). In the final film, Luca's surname is Paguro (Italian for "Hermit crab"), while Portorosso is the name of the village in which the film is set.

Animation & Design

To create the setting of the movie, Portorosso, Pixar sent several of the film's artists to the Italian Riviera for a research trip, including on the Cinque Terre, during which they took photos of the area's landscape and peoples. During the research trip, Deanna Marsigliese, the film's art director, noted that they were watched by curious onlookers and chose to incorporate that into the character designs. Isola del mare is inspired by the Italian island Tino.

According to production designer Daniela Strijleva, it took a year to design Luca because they wanted to get to know him: "Enrico always wanted Luca to be a bit of an introvert and someone who was curious, but it took us a bit longer to figure out that Luca is a dreamer. He has a strong imagination and a really evolved inner life. That's when the character came to life for me." A clay figure of sea monster Luca was sculpted to assist with the design process for the character.

Casarosa described the characters' transformation scenes as "a big effort" due to the many iterations done. He also stated that another big effort was finding a different look: "So, you're using the same tools roughly and you're not completely reinventing, but you're trying to bring some warmth, some texture, some imperfection. The computer naturally kind of wants to be a little bit realistic and perfect. So, for me, it was like, why don't we bring some painterly vibes to our pictures? How do we bring texture so that it's a little more imperfect? And watercolor paper. I love to draw and I love to see the hand of the artist showing through and being a little bit expressive - in the world, because we were also wanting to take people to [see] Italy in this wonderfully enhanced and stylized way, but also in performances and the characters, wanting to make them feel a little bit handmade".

Animation supervisor Mike Venturini stated: "Enrico, as a director and as an artist, was inspired in his youth largely by Miyazaki's film library, starting with one of his first projects … Future Boy Conan. That was one of Enrico's favorite things as a kid. So, initially, we watched a lot of episodes of that show. And they use a multi-limb style; it's boys being silly with a really broad physicality. He really liked that and hoped we could be influenced by that in some way. Then we kind of expanded our universe into the rest of Miyazaki's film library, which a lot of the animators on the show were already familiar with. So, on a larger feature film scale, we were looking at what were some of Miyazaki's characteristics. That's what inspired us to try things." In addition of Miyazaki's works, Casarosa stated that Aardman and Anderson's stop-motion movies also influenced his artistic sensibilities: "Some of that ends up in my drawings, that sketchy and expressive style. We wanted to bring that to the film because it felt like this is a kid's world. This is a playful world. And it felt true to the story to go in that direction. I love the immersion of 3D, but I sometimes I feel it can go towards coldness. So, I wanted to bring the warmth of imperfection. That's why some of the silly drawings made us laugh when we started boarding them and then put them on a screen."

Casarosa and the team began testing new animation concepts, hoping to bring playful silliness to the characters by taking away some of the typically large amount of detail. Areas of immediate focus were using a more 2D pose style, wider mouths with rounded, rather than angled corners, and multi-limb motions that brought a sillier feel to character movement. Referring to the multi-limb motion, Casarosa said: "It's an old-fashion cartoon technique in some ways ... It came out of the drawings, the essence of someone running extremely fast. We wanted to use the multi-limb technique in areas of the film where the characters were doing extreme physicality, where it would add to the personality of the silliness of the moment. There were only so many chances to use it. I wish there were more. But it was so much fun to use it when we could."

Writing

On July 30, 2020, Jones announced that he would co-write the screenplay with Andrews, and that he was proud of it.

It is the first Pixar film to involve Andrews, while Jones had previously co-written Soul (2020) and is also credited as a Senior Story and Creative Artist at Pixar.

Jones stated: "To force a writing partnership is not an easy thing. Jesse and I ended up having a really great meeting of the minds about what we really wanted to say with this movie. Jesse had been on it for two years before me. He had really put in the time. This is about the greatest summer in these two boys lives and Jesse's voice with both of those boys was just so wonderful and hilarious and special and emotional. I felt in many ways that I'm just helping Jesse 'plus' that by trying to kind of apply a little bit more of story foundation."

Casting

On February 25, 2021, with the release of the teaser trailer and poster, Tremblay, Grazer, Berman, Rudolph, Barricelli, Raimondo (it) and Gaffigan were announced as part of the cast. Martin and Gianniotti were announced on April 28 after the official trailer and poster were released.

Tremblay voices the title character; Casarosa stated that working with him was "such a pleasure", and "I love how earnest and innocent he is naturally. And he's playful and he's not afraid to try stuff so it was so much fun to improvise with him ... he's actually one of the few actors we had time to work with before the pandemic, so there it was so much fun." According to Tremblay: "[Luca] really wants to explore the world and I can really relate to that, especially now. I really want to get back out there and just learn about different cultures, just like Luca. He really wants to go to this town in Italy and learn about their culture and become part of it."

Casarosa stated that Grazer, who voiced Alberto, brings "a natural confidence and vulnerability" to the character, "who's a free-spirited teen sea monster with unbridled enthusiasm for the human world." Giulia, an "outsider, misfit girl", is voiced by newcomer Berman. Rudolph and Gaffigan, playing Daniela and Lorenzo, did get the chance to improvise, with Casarosa highlighting the depth and warmth they bring to the roles: "She's a stern mother. She's a difficult and very controlling mother, but there's this other warmth to her that balances it."

Luca supporting cast includes actual Italian actors: Raimondo voices Ercole; Barricelli, who has a "booming voice", voices Massimo; Gianniotti voices Giacomo; Lorenzo Crisci voices Guido; Massironi voices Mrs. Marsigliese; Gino La Monica voices Tommaso; and Francesca Fanti voices a cop.

Raimondo was chosen by Casarosa after seeing his Netflix stand-up comedy show Saverio Raimondo: Il satiro parlante. Voicing Ercole, Raimondo was inspired by the character Odd Henderson from the short story The Thanksgiving Visitor and by Giuseppe Anatrelli's performance as Luciano Calboni from the Fantozzi film series.

Tremblay stated that the relationship between Luca and Alberto "is gonna bring back a lot of memories when people watch this and I'm hoping that when people watch this, they'll be able to forget about COVID [...] It's so cool I get to be part of someone else's childhood. I think especially now the story is really special because, for me, I haven't really been able to see my friends because of COVID, of course, and this movie is all about friendship. So, when people see it in theaters, I hope they'll be able to remember hanging out with friends during summer vacation and just having a blast."

Pixar mainstay John Ratzenberger is absent from the film's credits and all official cast listings, making Luca the second Pixar film not to feature his credit after Soul. Casarosa later stated that Ratzenberger was not included in the film, citing his desire to start a new tradition where Peter Sohn (who voices Ercole's henchkid Ciccio) would appear in every Pixar film.

Music

On April 1, 2021, Dan Romer was revealed to be the film's composer. The soundtrack includes songs by Mina, Edoardo Bennato, Gianni Morandi, Rita Pavone and Quartetto Cetra, and excerpts from operas by Giacomo Puccini and Gioachino Rossini.


Track listing:

No. Title Length
1. "Meet Luca" 4:08
2. "Did You Hide?" 1:04
3. "The Curious Fish" 1:39
4. "You Forgot Your Harpoon" 0:39
5. "Phantom Tail" 2:09
6. "Walking Is Just like Swimming" 2:02
7. "Vespa è libertà" 1:42
8. "You Hold the Ramp" 0:59
9. "Silenzio Bruno" 0:41
10. "That's the Dream" 2:05
11. "The Bottom of the Ocean" 1:52
12. "Take Me, Gravity" 1:44
13. "Portorosso" 1:36
14. "Signor Vespa" 1:17
15. "This Isn't Any Old Race" 2:55
16. "Buonanotte, Boys" 1:27
17. "Land Monsters Everywhere" 0:55
18. "Buongiorno Massimo" 3:03
19. "The Out of Town Weirdo Tax" 1:48
20. "Rules Are for Rule People" 1:08
21. "How Humans Swim" 1:03
22. "Not Our Kid" 0:49
23. "Telescope" 2:46
24. "Beyond the Solar System" 1:02
25. "We Don't Need Anybody" 1:54
26. "The Sea Monster" 3:33
27. "I Wish I Could Take It Back" 4:01
28. "The Portorosso Cup" 7:34
29. "How to Find the Good Ones" 5:14
30. "Go Find Out for Me" 1:39

Italian songs

The film score features Italian songs:

  • "Un bacio a mezzanotte" by Quartetto Cetra
  • "O mio babbino caro", opera by Giacomo Puccini, sung by Maria Callas
  • "Il gatto e la volpe" by Edoardo Bennato
  • "Andavo a cento all'ora" by Gianni Morandi
  • "Tintarella di luna" by Mina
  • "Fatti mandare dalla mamma a prendere il latte" by Gianni Morandi
  • "Viva la pappa col pomodoro" by Rita Pavone
  • "Città vuota" by Mina
  • "Cavatina: Una Voce Poco Fa" by Budapest Failoni Chamber Orchestra, from The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini
  • "Largo al factotum", from The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini

Release

Theatrical and streaming

Luca was originally set to be theatrically released in the United States on June 18, 2021 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. However, on March 23, 2021, Disney announced the cancellation of the film's theatrical release, and it instead streamed worldwide on Disney+ in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film also played a one-week theatrical engagement at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre from June 18–24, 2021. In international markets where Disney+ is not available, it was released theatrically.

The film premiered on June 13, 2021 in Italy at the Aquarium of Genoa, with a three-day run by the non-profit organization MediCinema to raise funds for the Istituto Giannina Gaslini and other entities in the Ligurian territory.

Marketing

In November 2020, some concept art of the film and the clay figure of sea monster Luca were shown in the second episode of Inside Pixar. In December 2020, an early look to the film was screened at Disney Investor Day, and the clips and some screenshots were later leaked online. On January 18, 2021, the first official image from the film was released by Empire. On January 19, a promotional still was released on the cover of Italian magazine Il Venerdì di Repubblica, featuring Luca, Alberto, and Giulia on a Vespa in one of the scenic backdrops from the film.

A series of books based on the film was published on May 14, 2021. Funko produced a line of Funko Pops based on the characters of the film. A line of action figures and toy packs by Mattel was released on July 1, 2021.

In June 2021, Trenitalia unveiled their Luca-themed livery for a Caravaggio train.

To promote the film's release, McDonald's launched its promotional campaign by including one of eight toys free with the purchase of a Happy Meal.

Home media

On July 1, 2021, it was announced that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment would release Luca on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on August 3, 2021 in the United States.

Themes

Casarosa stated that the movie is a celebration of friendship, and "a love letter to the summers of our youth - those formative years when you're finding yourself", inspired by his childhood in Genoa, with Luca based on himself and Alberto on his best friend of the same name, Alberto Surace. Casarosa stated: "My best friend Alberto was a bit of a troublemaker, [while] I was very timid and had a bit of a sheltered life — we couldn't have been more different ... Alberto pushed me out of my comfort zone, and pushed me off many cliffs, metaphorically and not. I probably would not be here if I didn't learn to chase my dreams from him. It's these types of deep friendships that I wanted to talk about in Luca, and that is what's at the heart of this film."

The sea monsters, based on old Italian myths and regional folklore, were defined by Casarosa as a "metaphor for feeling different", explaining: "We were also a bit of 'outsiders', so it felt right to use sea monsters to express the idea that we felt a little different and not cool as kids". Producer Andrea Warren expanded: "We always liked the idea that the metaphor of being a sea monster can apply to so many different things. There is a theme of openness, showing oneself and self-acceptance, as well as community acceptance. Confronting the idea that there's more to sea monsters than they realized. You know that they've only seen it through one perspective, one lens, and so I think that that's a wonderful theme in the film, which is that those ideas weren't right and that there's more to learn." Casarosa agreed: "We hope that 'sea monster' could be a metaphor for all [manners] of feeling different — like being a teen or even pre-teen — any moment where you feel odd. It felt like a wonderful way to talk about that and having to accept ourselves first, whatever way we feel different."

Some have seen Luca and Alberto hiding their true sea monster identities as an allegory for people who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, feeling as though they need to hide their true selves in order to be accepted. Casarosa said this was unintentional and that his original vision for the film was to explore the time in a child's life before romance, but he has since welcomed and embraced the interpretation, after the film's release, also stating: "While I identify with pronouns he/him and I am a straight man, the themes of diversity, acceptance and inclusion in our movie are dear to my heart".

Casarosa has stated that some people have interpreted the story as being a metaphor for refugees and immigrants as well. While he admitted that this was unintentional too, he was welcome to all interpretations: "We were aware making the movie that this was a wonderful journey of owning your own identity, and coming out with it – whichever that identity is. I thought that everyone would bring their own identity to it."

Reception

Audience viewership

According to Nielsen ratings, following its opening weekend, Luca became the most-watched content on Disney+, with a 1.57 billion minutes of viewing time in its first days on streaming. Nielsen reported that the movie topped the weekly streaming Top 10 list for the June 14–20 week, and ranking at No. 2 on the overall streaming rankings after the TV series Manifest on Netflix. The film continued to play well in subsequent weeks, logging 1.15 billion minutes of viewership between July 21–27 (equal to about 1.2 million total watches), the second-most for an original film behind The Tomorrow War.

Box office

By July 2021, the film has grossed $23 million worldwide, with its largest markets being Russia ($7.3 million), South Korea ($2.9 million), Hong Kong ($2.8 million), Poland ($2.3 million) and the United Arab Emirates ($1.8 million).

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% based on 276 reviews, with an average rating of 7.30/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Slight but suffused with infectious joy, the beguiling Luca proves Pixar can play it safe while still charming audiences of all ages." According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 71 out of 100 based on 52 critics, the film received "generally favorable reviews".

Alonso Duralde of the TheWrap wrote: "Luca is sweet and affecting, capturing the bond that strangers can build over a summer, and how that friendship can endure. And like its shape-shifting protagonists, it's got plenty going on beneath the surface." From The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney said that "the real magic of Luca is its visuals. The character designs are appealing both in the marine world and on land, and the richness of the settings in both realms is a constant source of pleasure. The play of light on the gloriously blue water's surface is almost photorealistic at times, while a sunset spreading its orange glow over rocks on the shoreline makes you yearn to be there."

Charlie Ridgely, writing for ComicBook.com praised the film for its uniqueness, feeling that it highly deviated from Pixar's usual narrative formula and clichés but it didn't make it "lesser" than other of the company's classics like Toy Story and Up, highlighting the animation, the design of the Italian Riviera, the score and the story.

However, Phil De Semlyen, writing for Time Out, branded the film a "letdown", writing "Charming but slight, Luca definitely isn't Pixar firing on all cylinders. The studio's trademark daring, pin sharp sight gags, and big ideas are missing from a fishy coming-of-age yarn that's a little damp around the edges."

Future

The cast expressed interest in returning for a sequel, and presented different ideas of what it would be about, among which was the joking suggestion they frequently made of giving Uncle Ugo a spin-off series. Casarosa expressed interest in doing a sequel that would be similar to The Parent Trap, which would center upon Luca and Giulia's attempt to reunite Massimo and his wife. Shortly after the film's release, Disney+ sent a survey to subscribers asking about their opinion of the movie and asked "how likely would each household member [want] to watch another movie involving the characters and world of Luca if it became available," implying that the studio intends to produce a sequel at some point.

Trivia

  • This is the second full-length Pixar film to skip the theaters and being instead released exclusively on Disney+, following Soul.
  • This is also the last Disney/Pixar film to use the 1995 logo.
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