Disney and Pixar’s original feature film Luca is a fun and heartwarming story about friendship, stepping out of your comfort zone and two teenage sea monsters who experience a life-changing summer. This movie is about the friendships that change us. Its a love letter to the summers of our youth told in the drop back of the beautiful sights and sounds of Italy — those formative years when you’re finding yourself.
Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Luca is a story about one boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, Alberto, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply held secret: they are both sea monsters from another world just below the water’s surface.
In celebration of the movie’s Disney+’s release, Disney and Pixar held a press conference with Jacob Tremblay (voice of Luca) Jack Dylan Grazer (voice of Alberto), Maya Rudolph (voice of Daniela, Luca’s mother), Jim Gaffigan (voice of Lorenzo, Luca’s father), Emma Berman (voice of Giulia), director Enrico Casarosa and producer Andrea Warren.
Set in the late 1950s-early 1960s, captures the magic and adventure of summertime. The Italian seaside setting was created in a stunning painterly style Enrico championed, and stems from his childhood. Growing up in Genoa—a port city on the Italian Riviera, it’s s a very specific coast surrounded by mountains that rise up from the ocean.
“The towns are stuck in time—they’re so picturesque. I always imagined them like little monsters coming out of the water.” So for Luca he used Sea monsters as a metaphor. “I was a shy kid, a little bit sheltered by my family. And when I met my best friend at 11, kind of 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 kind of summers when you’re growing up and kind of finding yourself, I was kind of following him and getting dragged into troubles. It really made me think about how much we find ourselves with our friendships, or how much friendships help us find a bit who we wanna be,” Enrico finished.
Luca Paguro is a bright and inventive 13-year-old sea monster with endless curiosity—especially when it comes to the mysterious world above the sea. Although he’s been warned his whole life that the human world is a dangerous place, he longs for something beyond his quiet farm life where he herds goatfish day after day. So when another sea monster with actual experience above the surface takes Luca under his fin, his eyes open up to a whole world of possibilities. He’s never been to the surface so when viewers meet him, he’s beginning to feel that his world is a little too small for him. He starts to grow his confidence, venturing farther and farther from the underwater meadow. Once a rule-follower, suddenly Luca is introduced to a new world where his curiosity flourishes. He begins to explore and celebrating another culture, while learning to honor and share his own.
Jacob Tremblay lends his voice to Luca. There’s an earnestness about Jacob he brings to the role, playing anxious and polite—someone who’s timid and wants to please and Jacob has a lot in common with his character. “I can get pretty nervous sometimes but, like Luca, I’m able to overcome that. I also have an
amazing imagination like Luca. I relate to that a lot.”
Told from Luca’s point of view. This film is a portrait of a child that becomes more intimate as his confidence grows, ultimately getting allowing the viewer to feel closer to Luca as the third act evolves. “When you get to meet him at the beginning of the movie, Luca’s a bit more of a timid kid. He wants to be able to explore the human world, but his parents have a lot or restrictions for him. But meets his great friend Alberto who helps him kind of step out of his comfort zone.” Luca becomes so fascinated with the human world, yet he’s reluctant to go there while he “wants to explore what’s off-limits, but his parents are very, very strict and they want to protect him,” said Jacob.
Luca is a shy, polite, introverted, rule-following kid who has a secret desire to see the world and learn all he can, but he’s been told his whole life that sea monsters should never go above the surface of the water where all the interesting stuff seems to be happening. So it’s no surprise that Luca harbors a secret fascination with all things human. His curiosity is especially sparked when he discovers items that have floated down from the surface.
Since Luca knows nothing of the surface these items are glimpses of another world—as if it were an object of an extraterrestrial landing on Earth. He’s a young imaginative kid, so when he meets Alberto—who has actual knowledge of these objects—it’s incredibly intriguing to Luca. Indeed, Alberto, a fellow sea monster, has ventured beyond the surface, making him the subject of intense respect as far as Luca is concerned—at least once he gets over the shock of it all. Because, it turns out, sea monsters have the ability to blend blend in with humans.
“Alberto literally drags Luca out of the water, and we discover that these sea monsters have the magical ability to transform into human form when they’re dry,” says Enrico. “Our inspiration was sea life like octopuses that are able to camouflage and change the way they look.” The result? Carte blanche to roam the land where humans dwell. And while Luca quite enjoys this freedom, he realizes that the danger his family has warned him about is not entirely unfounded. “There’s a big misunderstanding between humans and sea
monsters,””says Jacob. “They all fear each other. Sea monsters strictly avoid the surface, and humans are eager to hunt down sea monsters and prove they exist.”
Luca and Alberto embrace their new surroundings with one caveat top of mind: stay dry. If they get rained on or splashed, their secret could be revealed. Their sense of adventure—risks aside—is symbolized in large part by an image of a Vespa scooter that hangs in Alberto’s hideout. It represents escape, freedom, friendship and the promise of exploring the amazing world around them.
“I think the aspect of curiosity is across both of them but Alberto definitely has no restrictions. He’s so eager, and he’s so yearning to explore and fulfill all these fantasies and curiosities that he has. I think he’s a huge part inspiring Luca to go to Portorosso to get the Vespa, and [more],” Jack chimed in.
Inspired by the creatures from old maps dating back to the Renaissance, as well as scientific illustrations of fish from the region and Japanese dragons and serpents, artists created sea monsters that were believable, appealing and, importantly, expressive— because the story revolves around a burgeoning friendship between Luca and Alberto.
Adds Warren, “There’s a lovely theme about wanting to be a part of something outside of our immediate families—wanting to experience cultures beyond our own. Luca discovers the power of exploring and celebrating another culture, while learning to honor and share his own.”
Along Luca’s journey as a human he meets Guilia Marcovaldo, an outgoing and charming adventurer with a love of books and learning. She only spends summers in Portorosso, so she hasn’t cultivated many friendships, which makes her an easy target of the town bully. But when two new kids show up who clearly need an ally, Giulia is more than happy to oblige—especially when they agree to team up with her in a local race she desperately wants to win.
She is full of fire and very eager to defend these two strange boys from the town bully. Giulia is a very special character. She’s certain about what she believes and she’s bold in asserting those beliefs. She’s also funny and lively—she has so much passion for finding out how the world works, she becomes a catalyst for Luca. There a sense of boldness the lies within Giulia’s passionate personality with her bright red hair, crooked nose and giant fisherman’s pants the reflects her strong will and sense of independence.
Following an extensive search, newcomer Emma Berman was called on to help bring Giulia to life. She happily infused the character with that joy. “Giulia is a really awkward, quirky, goofy and determined character,” says Emma. “I relate to her because we’re both pretty outgoing, we love to make new friends, and we like to learn new things and go on adventures. “It’s easy to get into her head,” continues Berman. “I live in the excitement of the moment of voicing a character for Pixar. And all of that excitement just goes straight into my heart.”
“It’s been such an awesome time working with Enrico and Andrea. And I’m just the luckiest person in the whole entire world ever to exist in this planet. She’s a very strong character. She’s determined, and she’s hardworking, and genuine, and intense. But she’s also awkward, and quirky, and goofy. And I had a really fun time playing her because I relate to her in a lot of ways. That we’re both passionate about what we do, and we’re also very excited and joyful people” said Emma.
While there are numerous reasons to fall in love with the tale of Luca, for Maya it was the idea of voicing a strong protective mother that attracted her to the role of Daniela Paguro. “She’s a very serious mom. She’s not messing around, and 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.,” said Maya.
Luca’s loving mother, who’s determined to keep her son safe, regularly warns Luca of the dangers beyond the sea and the land monsters who live there. Daniela is no pushover: If she thinks Luca is breaking her number one rule— don’t go near the surface—she’ll go to great lengths to stop him.
“When we first talked to Maya about the role, she really related to the multiple roles that Daniela plays as a mother,” says Warren. “As a mother myself, I really wanted to make sure that Daniela’s harshness was balanced with equal amounts of warmth.” Adds Rudolph, “I’ve definitely seen my mama bear come out when necessary with my children, so that was a pretty easy element of Daniela to relate to. When your children are pushing boundaries, you want to show them that you love them, but you’re serious. That can be an incredibly difficult balance, but one that every parent understands. Daniela has a very sweet, recurring mantra with Luca, saying, ‘You know I love you, right?’ I think that’s really important for her character because she is not embarrassed toshow how strong she is, and she’s not embarrassed to show how much she love her son,” said Maya.
“There’s a certain way that Luca’s family is meant to do things, and she wants to raise her son the correct way [and] 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. Just like any parent, she’s a fierce, fierce protector; which some might say is tough love, but I think she gets all the passes. Because you know she loves her son. There’s no question, it’s already in the formula. It’s just a matter of ‘You listen to your mama, and you do what you’re supposed to do.’ I think deep down, she knows her son is going probably going to explore. But she’s just trying to protect him because it’s the scariest thing in the world to let your babies run out in the world and explore. I think all parents go through that at some point. It might be one of the most terrifying aspects of having children, is knowing that they have to go out into the world. It’s less about your child than it is about what the dangers of the world are.” said Maya finished.
While Lorenzo Paguro is Luca’s well-meaning but sometimes distracted dad. He’s not as tuned in to his son’s growing fascination with land monsters as his wife is. But Lorenzo loves Luca deeply—he’d even trek to the dangerous human world to find his wayward son if needed. Jim Gaffigan who lends his voice to Lorenzo “is somebody who understands the role of a father,” says Warren. “Jim has five kids, and it’s something he talks about a lot in his standup, podcasts and all of his work. He really embraced the role. And he and Maya Rudolph really brought a fun energy to Luca’s parents.”
Adds Gaffigan, “From a parent’s point of view, it’s a story about giving up control—loving a child so much, you let them become who they want to become.” But, continues Gaffigan, “Luca” is about a lot of things—from friendship to finding your own path and how that affects your friendships. “That’s what’s so amazing—it’ll hit different people in different ways. It really captures a childlike imagination and a love of learning.”
“I think Lorenzo is well-intended, but definitely distracted. And I think that most parenting partnerships, it’s a negotiation on how to raise a child. So, I played Lorenzo [as an] overwhelmed well-intended parent. 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.
Luca features many themes such as family, friendship, acceptance, bravery, and discovery. For Jacob this movie is “a good way using your words to silence your anxiety about certain things.” While Jack takeaway “overarching message [of] being comfortable in your skin, not dressing the part for anybody but yourself, and just being at peace with your authentic self. [By not] having to hide or be ashamed of who you truly were born to be. [We’re] born to shine and [to] also finding the right friend who can lift you up and help you evolve in that way.”
“Its amazing to have such a wide audience around the world, and we do think a lot about the messages that are in the film. For me, that notion of the meaning of friendship really resonated. I think they are a few really beautiful themes in the film. One being sort of Silencio Bruno, and how we all have these inner critics. And how you sort of overcome that sense of doubt. Enrico and I keep saying, you surround yourself in life with some Albertos. I hope that some of those messages really reach the audiences, and especially reach kids,” Andrew ended.
Luca releases on Disney+ on June 13th.