Disney and Pixar are going to take us all on a fantastic journey this June to the Italian Riviera. Luca is a rich and vibrant look at the magic that kids can conjure during the summer. Directed by Enrico Casarosa, the film follows Luca (Jacob Tremblay) and his best friend Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) and they have the summer of their lives full of pasta, gelato, and scooter rides through Portorosso. They have so much fun that they find it difficult to go back into the sea where they live (did I mention that they were sea monsters?). Casarosa’s film is a love letter to Italy and Italian culture.
AwardsWatch was lucky to take part in an early press event promoting Luca, at which the first 30 minutes of the film was shown. One of the first things which came to mind was how taking on a project of this magnitude certainly comes with a lot of stress. When I asked Casarosa about what was the one element of the film which caused him the most sleepless nights, his response was, “Story. I always feel like that’s the trickiest thing to figure out. And I think, you know, it does take us a while to make our movies, and we care so deeply about getting the story right. And I think that it takes a tremendous amount of effort to do that. I would say that that was the thing that kept me up sometimes, really trying to get the nuance of it right, and to really capture the spirit of Luca, his character, and his journey that we wanted. I come from storyboarding, I’m from story. But even with that expertise, it’s still the hardest. They’re hard puzzles, and it takes a long time to put them together. Our process, by now you might’ve heard about it, but we put up a storyboarded version, like a blueprint of our movie, roughly every three to four months. And every time we do this, we look at it, and it’s almost like, if we’re building a Vespa, we put it together, we look at it, and we’re like, ‘Okay, the wheel is actually running, but everything else is a mess. Let’s disassemble it, rewrite it, reassemble it, and we look at it.’ We did that many, many times through the last four years. You’re putting your heart out there, and you get the feedback, but there’s a lot of great feedback. There are wonderful directors here that give us feedback”.
What stood out to me is how much care and attention to detail went into this project. During the virtual press day, the film makers shared that before they even attempted to put this story together that they took countless numbers of trips to the Italian Riviera to photograph and scout different setting before they began constructing the film. There was this sense that they saw no room for error in preparing for Luca.
Another thing which stood out was how they went completely against the grain with this film. In speaking with the producers, the director, and animation team, rather than shoot for that photorealism which is something Pixar is known for, they went with an approach of what they called “elegant simplicity”. How would that impact something like that lighting in a particular scene? When I asked Enrico about it he stated “I think it’s like finding a balance between richness and design. There are a few different elements here. The one that we really took a lot of care of is the surface—there’s lyricism to beautiful lapping waves. Also, how we support an emotional moment with effects? That’s something I care a lot about. I think effects can really support an emotion. In act two, you’ll see we’re doing a lot of work to support turmoil, chaos, and difficulty. But really, at the heart of it was just having some control over texture, the texture of the beautiful sea so that we could capture something of the place. I think it’s a bit of a stylistic choice that I tend to not love things that are overly detailed. Yet there’s still richness. There are still beautiful underwater scenes. But, for example, another thing that we found under the water, is that the place is actually, when you swim around that area, the visibility is not very far. There’s enough beautiful aqua murk there that the water is pretty dense. And it just makes it so that you don’t see beautiful shapes a little further away. And that actually worked really well in our world.”
While members of the press were only shown the first 30 minutes of the film before this event, Luca was so vibrant, bold, and filled with moments of pure joy. Much like Soul, Luca looks as if it’s going to a special experience for the entire family to enjoy.
Luca begins streaming exclusively on Disney+ June 18.