Pixar continues its embrace of inclusion and diversity by putting artists behind the camera. The Italian coming-of-age animated feature, “Luca,” from Enrico Casarosa (the Oscar-nominated “La Luna” short), is scheduled for release June 18, 2021. Produced by Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”), “Luca” concerns a young boy’s unforgettable summer on the Italian Riviera with his secret best friend — a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface — who share scooter rides, swimming, pasta, and Gelato.
“This is a deeply personal story for me, not only because it’s set on the Italian Riviera where I grew up, but because at the core of this film is a celebration of friendship,” said Casarosa in a statement. “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.”
Casarosa has been head of story at Pixar for nine years, and has worked on “Incredibles 2,” the Oscar-winning “Coco,” “The Good Dinosaur,” “Up,” “Ratatouille,” “Cars 2,” and “Cars.” “Luca” has its roots in his Italian-flavored short, “La Luna,” in which a young boy rows out to sea in an old wooden boat with his bickering Papa and Grandpa for a magical lunar adventure.
“It’s a personal story about me growing up by the sea in Genoa, and how my father and grandfather rarely speaking to one another,” Casarosa told me. “I can remember being 11 or 12 and getting caught in the middle at the dinner table with these very uncomfortable conversations. My grandfather lived with us, which probably had a lot to do with it.”
Clearly, Casarosa, who previously cited Hiyao Miyazaki and “The Little Prince” among his influences, enjoys juxtaposing character and setting for colorful and dramatic contrast, and has tapped a topical social theme of unity with this mixed-species friendship.
In “La Luna,” he crafted a painterly look with watercolors and pastels “to find graphic shapes and waves.” Judging from the first still from “Luca,” he has broadened that aesthetic.
As part of the new Pixar mandate in the post-John Lasseter era, director-turned-chief-creative- officer Pete Docter has emphasized both original storytelling and greater cultural authenticity, beginning with his next feature, “Soul” (November 20), the studio’s first Black-led musical fantasy about jazz and existentialism.
First instance, Oscar-winning “Bao” short director Domee Shi is also hard at work on her first feature, after being mentored by Docter, who has encouraged her to take advantage of her experiences growing up as a Chinese-Canadian in Toronto.