Even charming sea monsters need to come of age sometime: such is the cute theme behind Enrico Casarosa’s feature directorial debut “Luca.” Following the success of his Oscar-nominated “La Luna” short, Casarosa has again teamed up with Pixar for an eye-popping new vision of young life in Italy. Set during an unforgettable summer on the Italian Riviera, the latest from Pixar centers on the bond between the titular 13-year-old protagonist (voiced by “Wonder” star Jacob Tremblay) and his best friend, Alberto (voiced by “Shazam’s” Jack Dylan Grazer).
And while that might sound like fertile ground for a Pixar feature, “Luca” comes with a twist: both of the boys are sea monsters who become human on land, where they share scooter rides, swimming, pasta, and gelato, while hiding their secret. As Casarosa recently told IndieWire, the film was inspired by his own coming of age and best pal. “‘Luca’ was about my best friend, Alberto,” he explained in February. “I was very shy and timid and sheltered by my family, and I met [Alberto], who was very free, his family wasn’t around a whole lot, and he was able to chase around and get into trouble.”
Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”) produces and the voice cast also includes Maya Rudolph (as Luca’s mother, Daniela); Emma Berman (as Luca’s friend, Giulia); Marco Barricelli (as Giulia’s father, Massimo); and Jim Gaffigan (as Luca’s dad, Lorenzo).
The film also comes with a timely lesson about the need for inclusion and understanding, especially when it comes to growing kiddos like Luca and Alberto. “The other side of being a kid is that you always feel like you’re the outsider,” Casarosa said. “Me and my friend felt like such losers when would hang out. And I love how the sea monster is a wonderful metaphor for feeling different.”
For the film’s warm animation style, Casarosa explained that he expanded on the 2D look of “La Luna,” with a vibrant depiction of the coastal fishing village that resembles an illustrated book. And the characters are reminiscent of stop-motion. “We tried to bring some warmth to the computer animation,” he said, “so we really worked hard to make it more stylized and bring textures that are handmade.”
Disney releases “Luca” on Disney+ on June 18. Check out the film’s newest trailer below.