Luca is a coming-of-age story where the titular character Luca ventures beyond his home under the seat to the picturesque seaside village of Portorosso, a town situated at the very edge of the ocean along the Italian Riviera. He and his new best friend Alberto meet Giulia and the three friends enter into a town race together. All the while, Luca and Alberto must hide the fact that they aren’t actually human! They’re sea monsters!
We spoke with the Luca cast and creators during a press conference about how they turned brought Pixar’s newest flick to life. Director Enrico Casarosa clearly drew a lot of inspiration from his own youth. “I was a shy kid, a little bit sheltered by my family. And when I met my best friend at 11, my world opened up. He was a bit of a troublemaker; he didn’t have a whole lot of supervision. And so, in those special summers when you’re growing up and finding yourself, I was him and getting dragged into troubles,” he said. “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 wanna be.”
“It’s amazing to have such a wide audience around the world, and we do think a lot about the messages that are in the film. And for me, that notion of the meaning of friendship really resonated. I think there are a few really beautiful themes in the film. One being ‘Silencio, Bruno!’ And how we all have these inner critics, and how you overcome that sense of doubt.” said producer Andrea Warren.
One of the strongest messages the film delivers is when Alberto teaches Luca how to fight his own self-doubt by telling his inner ‘Bruno’, “Silencio!” “I think it’s one of the most crucial things you could ever learn in your life. It’s just the e-the elimination of doubt,” said Jack Dylan Grazer, the voice of Alberto. “The overarching message in this film is being comfortable in your skin and not dressing the part for anybody but yourself, and just being at peace with your authentic self,” Grazer adds. “Also finding the right friend who can lift you up and-and help you evolve in that way.”
“For me, that Silencio Bruno part, I really like how it’s a good way of using your words to silence your anxiety about certain things,” said Jacob Tremblay, the voice of Luca.
Friendship and Family
Creating the story, friendship became a key pillar in the story of Luca. Casarosa discussed the importance of highlighting that friendship between the kids. He described the time in the kids’ lives as a time ‘pre-romance.’ “That was something that I was interested in as well because there’s just that moment that maybe we’re not thinking about boyfriends and girlfriends yet, which is really more about the friendships,” he said.
For the young actors, connection to their characters was not difficult as they all felt a connection to their characters. Emma Berman who voices the daring and enthusiastic Giulia found a bond with her character through their similarities. “She’s a very strong character. She’s determined, and she’s hardworking, genuine, and intense. But she’s also awkward, and quirky, and goofy. I had a really fun time playing her because I relate to her in a lot of ways. We’re both passionate about what we do, and we’re also very excited and joyful people,” she said.
But Luca isn’t free to just roam Portorosso with his friends. He is far from his underwater home and his mother, Daniela, and his father, Lorenzo, have come ashore to figure out where he’s run away to. Both Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan, who voice Daniela and Lorenzo respectively, are parents themselves and brought a little of their insight into their characters. “She’s not messing around,” Rudolph said. “That, to me, instantly, in this movie’s case, just equals love. That protection, that strong discipline is love and wanting to raise her family right. There’s a certain way that Luca’s family is meant to do things, and she wants to raise her son the correct way. But what you come to learn about her, is that she also is really protecting him from what she already knows to be dangerous in the world. And just like any parent, she’s a fierce, fierce protector.”
“I think Lorenzo is well-intended, but definitely distracted,” Gaffigan added. “I think that most parenting partnerships — it’s a negotiation on how to raise a child. So, I played Lorenzo — I mean, I’m kind of overwhelmed, hopefully well-intended as a parent. So, I kinda brought that in. Lorenzo might be distracted, but he’s not disinterested. The fun of Lorenzo is navigating the partnership with his wife in raising Luca and him finding the right path.”
Summer in Italy
Due to COVID-19, much of Luca‘s production was conducted from home. However in the beginning, when planning the film, the filmmakers conducted a research trip to Italy where Casarosa played host. Warren said that it was important to make sure the film had a good foundation, and in order for that to happen the setting and design of the little town of Portorosso was crucial. “Those were the two big foundations for the story. The story itself as well as the look of the film,” she said. “It’s all about capturing that feeling of the place, and I think that that team was able to come back and really be able to direct the work of their particular department to really capture that summer heat, and that town that’s been there for years and years.”
But when COVID hit, production had to change and Pixar was forced to adapt to the changes in the industry. Warren told humorous stories about the struggles of the adjustment period. “I’ll never forget you Jack, especially, in your mom’s closet. You know, and your arms hitting the hangers,” she said, explaining that the process was difficult on the technical side but that everybody was ready to make the necessary changes.
“It was definitely a stretch for me, a challenge for me as an actor and as just a human being,” Grazer said. “It got hot in there! And I bet my neighbors were really freaked out about the amount of screaming that was going on from my house. I don’t know what they were thinking.”
“There was something about it that was almost kind of comfortable, about recording at home, you know, where there wasn’t the commute, or you weren’t in an unfamiliar space,” Gaffigan stated, having set up shop in a home in Westchester during the pandemic. “It didn’t feel like a job. It felt like capturing someone’s vision and tone, which is always something funner than just trying to land a joke.”
For some, like Tremblay and Berman, they got to record some sessions within the studio, which meant no at-home soundproofing. “I was very, very lucky because I actually started recording before COVID hit. So, I was able to go into the San Francisco studio, and they gave me the tour,” he explained. “But then COVID happened and I was actually originally gonna record at my house, but the plans kinda changed and then I got lucky and then I was able to record at the studio in Vancouver.”
Despite obstacles, and despite the fact that none of the cast ever got to read together or meet one another in person, the team still managed to pull together an outstanding film.
Watch Luca now on Disney+ or in theaters.