This summer, Pixar Animation Studios and Disney+ are taking movie fans on a journey to the beautiful Italian Riviera. The latest film from Pixar, Luca, is about a young sea monster who lives off the coast of Italy and is afraid of what exists on the surface. He then meets Alberto, another sea monster that shows him their species appear as humans when they’re on dry land, and that there’s nothing but wonder awaiting him in the countryside. The daring new friends set off an the adventure of a lifetime, spending the summer learning all there is to know about the beauty of life above the water.
Luca and Alberto are the central characters of the film, but the setting itself also takes on a major role. Director Enrico Casarosa spent a lot of summers in Italy as a child, and the film is based loosely on his experiences with his lifetime best friend. Given the connection to the material, it was important for Casarosa and the rest of the creative team to bring Italy to life in the most beautiful and authentic way possible.
ComicBook.com recently had the chance to attend a virtual presentation on the making of Luca, and the filmmakers explained just how they went about delivering a Pixar version of one of the most breathtaking places in the world.
“It was our goal to transport the audience to Italy. And most of us didn’t grow up in Italy, so we wanted to make sure that the team was inspired by the setting. So, we did what you have to do. We ate a lot of pasta. We at a lot of gelato. Of course, that’s one of those trials and tribulations of the job. And some folks in our team went to Italy,” producer Andrea Warner explained. “But we also really enjoyed watching Italian films from the period in which the film takes place. One of them was Big Deal on Madonna Street.”
“We had such a good time also seeing all of these wonderful movies, neo realism, it was so much fun to go see De Sica, Fellini, Raspanti. It was really fun to dive into the golden era film in Italy,” added Casarosa. “One thing that we wanted to make sure to get right, was the specificity, of course, of the town and culture. I grew up there. I moved out here in the twenties. But we wanted to make sure that we had consultants to also check in.”
Casarosa went on to say that part of the reason he wanted to set the story in that specific period of time in Italy was to capture the bright colors and vibrant aesthetics of the towns, making the movie look like something out of a storybook.
“I love the 1950s and 1960s Italy for many reasons,” the director said. “So, we wanted to make sure that that was part of our movie. But I wanted also an expressive, playful, this is kids having fun. And I wanted it to be like jumping into a kid’s books.”
When you see the film, you’ll know what Casarosa is talking about. All of the different buildings in Luca are made with imperfections. Nothing in the film looks uniform or cookie cutter, which was one of the main goals for the production team in balancing the look of Italy and the whimsy of the story.
“Enrico and I wanted everything to be caricatured, imperfect, and where you feel the hand of the artist. So, when we draw too realistically, when we get stuck, we have to think a little differently. We change our perspective,” said production designer Daniela Strijleva.
Of course, not all of Luca takes place in small Italian towns. Given that Luca is a sea monster, quite a bit of the film takes place underwater, in the Mediterranean Sea. Even though sea monsters aren’t real (that we know of), it was still important to bring the beauty and majesty of the open water to life. Part of the fun of seeing something as interesting as a sea monster is watching them exist in places that we know exist, but still feel a bit magical, like the majestic blue Mediterranean.
“In contrast with the human world, which is really warm and sunny, the sea monster world is more like the deep blues and greens of the Mediterranean,” Strijleva said. “So, life under here is quiet. The visual language is very organic. As you can see, there are no straight lines. And everything is moving.”
It’s clear that Luca is going to look a lot different than anything else Pixar has put out to this point, and it just might have the potential to be one of the most gorgeous of the bunch. We’ll find out when it arrives on Disney+ on June 18th.