Tremblay, who voices the titular Luca, and director Enrico Casarosa preview their dream Italian summer with this animated film.
Two months after the jazz-fueled Soul premiered on Disney+, Pixar is now previewing what the studio is working on next: Luca.
The teaser trailer for the animated adventure, helmed by first-time feature film director Enrico Casarosa, whisks viewers to a vibrant seaside town on the Italian Riviera where two best friends, Luca Paguro and Alberto Scorfano, are having the time of their lives galavanting around cobblestone streets, slurping delicious gelato, hopping across moonlit rooftops, and speeding down grassy hills on mopeds. “There’s just one thing,” Luca, voiced by the newly announced Jacob Tremblay, tells his audience.
Both boys — which includes We Are Who We Are star Jack Dylan Grazer as the voice of Alberto — are actually sea creatures from the ocean’s depths who take on human forms when they walk on land. It’s truly a fish-out-of-water story. No need for a sea witch to intervene when they can so easily go “up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun.” They just can’t tell anyone the truth because, well, everywhere they look they see paintings and statues of heroes posing over the remains of conquered ocean beasts.
Casarosa, an Italian filmmaker who grew up in Genoa, previously wrote and directed the Pixar short La Luna, which played in front of 2012’s Brave. He also served as a storyboard artist on Ratatouille, Up, Coco, and the Pixar short Piper. Luca, he says, is a “deeply personal story” for him.
“At the heart of it, it’s a story about friendship,” he tells EW. “So, I really was inspired thinking back about my best friend. I met him when I was 11. I was very shy and timid. My family sheltered me. I met this kid, who was very free. His family situation was a little bit messy, and he could do whatever he wanted. He was a bit of a troublemaker. So, he opened up my world, got me to get out of my comfort zone. I thought many people have friends like that [who] challenge you and make you find yourself. I thought there’s something so wonderful about how much they become architects of ourselves, how we find our identity.”
Alberto seems inspired by Casarosa’s childhood comrade. He’s a bit of a troublemaker himself. Casarosa also mentions “there’s very good reasons for his family to not want him to get in trouble,” an echo of how he describes the boy he once knew as a kid. Alberto becomes the one who drags Luca to the surface world. “We love that Alberto and Luca have this common passion of strange human things,” Casarosa says. “Alberto also has a bit of a weird sense of what these things are. He’s looking from afar, so he misunderstands a lot of things. He plays the expert, but he gets a lot of things wrong. That always gave us a lot of fun comedy.”
Tremblay believes the friendship between Luca and Alberto is “something special.” “They start off as strangers and Luca is almost scared of Alberto at the beginning, but they learn a lot about each other. They learn how to improve upon themselves, whether it’s being braver or being a better friend.”
The 14-year-old, who also voices another sea creature, Flounder, in Disney’s upcoming The Little Mermaid, says he connects with Luca over his curiosity to discover different parts of the world. On what he personally learned about Italy from making Luca, Tremblay says, “This might sound weird, but I did actually learn there are a lot of different types of pasta. There really is a really big variety. It’s crazy!”
While on land, Luca and Alberto meet a girl named Giulia, who “feels very righteous about injustice” and “has this strong intensity,” while also feeling “very much an outsider in her own way,” the director says. Joining them in the cast are Maya Rudolph as the voice of Luca’s mother, Daniela, whom Casarosa describes as a mixture of “toughness and warmth,” and Jim Gaffigan as the voice of Luca’s father, Lorenzo.
Populating the town are characters like Massimo, the mustachioed figure spotted in the trailer who’s voiced by Italian stage actor Marco Barricelli. The resemblance to Massimo and to the adult character in the filmmaker’s La Luna is no coincidence. “I always like to joke, ‘It’s the same actor. I’m just casting him for a different role,'” Casarosa remarks. Saverio Raimondo, an Italian stand-up comedian, voices “our villain in town.”
The vibrant aesthetic of the film was Casarosa’s effort to plumb his fond memories of “jumping off of rocks” during the summer in Genoa, and experiencing “watermelons and ice cream and all the amazing food we have in Italy and the music.” The sea monster twist was also pulled from regional folklore.
“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,” he explains of Genoa. “There’s a place where there was a sea dragon. ‘You don’t want to go there!’ It’s very tied to the fishing culture. There was this wonderful idea that it was just tall tales of fishermen telling each other there’s a monster just because there was good fishing. They didn’t want someone else to go in there.”
Luca is currently on the calendar for release in theaters on June 18, though it’s unclear how the on-going situation with the pandemic might affect those plans. Pixar’s Onward, which was in theaters for only a couple of weeks before the lockdowns hit last march, received an early home release on Disney+ and VOD platforms. Soul skipped theaters entirely and went straight to Disney+ in December.
The thought of people seeing Luca excites Tremblay. He was once obsessed with a Cars-themed Lightning McQueen Power Wheels toy as a toddler. Now, with Luca, he says, “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,” he adds. “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.”