Acceptance, friendship, and identity in Disney Pixar’s Luca

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Caterina Pye '23

The animated film, Luca, explores themes of acceptance while following the adventures of two sea creatures.

Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures produced the movie, Luca, which streamed June 18, 2021.  The film contains commentary on societal issues while also including themes of comedy, fantasy, and friendship portrayed through the main characters, Luca and Alberto.  These two characters are sea creatures, however, when on land, they appear as humans.  The Italian Riviera’s towns of Portofino and Cinque Terre inspired Director Enrico Casarosa’s creation of the fictional town Portorosso in Luca.  The movie follows the adventures of Luca and Alberto and their discovery of the joys and dangers of the human world.

The movie scored a 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.  Critics called it “slight but suffused with infectious joy.” The audience rating is slightly lower, with a rating of 87 percent.  Some claim is not as creative as other Pixar films but does contain beautiful animation and a story that all ages would love, according to rottentomatoes.comLuca is an early contender for the 2022 Academy Awards and a nominee for the Hollywood Critics Association for best picture, according to imdb.com

Luca and Alberto attempt to build their own Vespa.  Courtesy of  PIXAR

Mr. Jacob Tremblay voices the character of Luca, a sea monster who learns to avoid the human world because of the danger it holds.  One day he comes across a stranger, Alberto, who encourages him to come to the shore where they both turn into humans.  After hearing of his visit to the surface, Luca’s parents threaten to send him to the depths of the ocean, but instead, he runs away and ventures out of the water.  The world outside of the water amazes Luca and Alberto and they display a comedic view of it, calling a Vespa scooter “the greatest thing that humans ever made.” Despite the joys of the human world, Luca and Alberto fear revealing their identities as sea monsters.   

The Italian Riviera inspired the town of Portorosso in the film Luca.  Caterina Pye ’23

As the pair explore Portorosso, they encounter an outgoing girl named Giulia.  She informs them of the town’s annual triathlon that consists of swimming, cycling, and eating pasta.  Luca and Alberto team up with Giulia once they learn that the triathlon’s prize is a Vespa.  While competing in the triathlon, Luca and Alberto examine their respective selfhood and explore the wonders of Portorosso.  They struggle with revealing their true identities as “scary sea monsters” in light of Portorosso’s mistreatment of sea creatures.  At first, Giulia is unaware of who Luca and Alberto truly are, but eventually learns about their identities and accepts them.  Luca balances the human and sea monster facets of his identity and learns not to let his fears prevent him from exploring the human world. 

The themes Luca demonstrates relay messages that resonate with all audiences.  The film emphasizes the common societal fear of struggling to fit in and discovering oneself.  The portrayal of Portorosso as an unsafe place for sea creatures represents an overarching issue in the real world.  While many minorities groups feel unwanted in society, Luca shows hope in its final scenes as the town of Portorosso embraces Luca and Alberto as both humans and sea monsters, according to pelhamexaminer.com

In an interview with comic and culture magazine, The Beat, Mr. Casarosa discussed the difficulties that come with finding oneself when growing up.  He described the influence of friendships and how people can inspire others. He also discussed the aspects of his own childhood that relate to the movie.

“I was a shy kid, a little bit sheltered by my family. And when I met my best friend at 11, 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 summers when you’re growing up and finding yourself, I was him and getting dragged into troubles,” Mr. Casarosa said.  “It really made me really think about how much we find ourselves with our friendships, or how much friendships help us find a bit who we wanna be,” according to comicsbeat.com

Featured Image by Caterina Pye ’23