While Pixar Studios has been closed for over a year now, the team at Pixar has been working remotely, completing various shorts and feature-length films. As you may recall, last September, We Live Entertainment covered an early press day for Pixar’s SOUL, where we learned how the animation team did a good chunk of the post-production work on SOUL from the comfort of their homes. During the LUCA early press day, which took place virtually on March 30, 2021, we learned a lot about the making of this film, including the fact that the majority of the film was made during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Broken up into six presentations, I, along with several other journalists, had the opportunity to learn and ask questions about how the team behind Pixar’s LUCA bought to life their latest outing during what can be best described as a truly unique period of time.
This article will be covering the first two presentations of the event, with the remaining presentations being discussed in late May.
The first presentation featured director Enrico Casarosa and producer Andrea Warren (Producer) chatting about the story and how they came up with the film’s plot and setting.
Enrico Casarosa grew up in Genoa, Italy. Geona is a city that is located next to the Italian Riviera. On the riviera, there are five small towns, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, and these towns serve as the setting for LUCA.
As a child, Enrico spent his summers on the Italian Riviera. As a young boy, he became a big fan of the myths and the stories he heard about the unknowns of the seas that fishermen would tell. This served as the inspiration for the plot of LUCA as the sea monsters in the film can disguise themselves as humans whenever they are on land.
Like most of their films, Pixar’s LUCA tells a very personal story and one that is centered around friendship. The characters in LUCA are loosely based on Enrico’s childhood friendship with Alberto. Enrico spoke about the two of them being so radically different from one another. Enrico labeled himself as shy and timid growing up, while Alberto was brave and a bit of a troublemaker. However, they formed a friendship because they challenged one another and felt like outcasts. This aspect of their personalities strengthened their bond. The film explores finding friendships, how they change us, and how they allow us to grow.
Producer Andrea Warren joined the project in 2017 and was a big fan of Enrico’s short film, Luna.
When beginning pre-production, Andrea, Enrico, and the rest of the pre-production team shared stories about their childhood and friendships. These types of stories make up the heart of LUCA, so Andrea and Enrico wanted to make sure everyone working on the film would connect with the characters and their story.
When researching prep for the film, some people on the team went to Italy while others watched Italian films and emerged into the culture in other ways, such as eating various Italian cuisines. Capturing the Italian culture was very important for Enrico when bringing this story to life. The dialogue, language, and even the street signs were critical to making the film feel authentic.
Over 1,200 kids auditioned for the voice roles of Luca Paguro, Alberto Scorfano, and Giulia. Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Emma Berman were ultimately selected to voice these characters because their personalities perfectly matched the characteristics of the characters they auditioned to voice for the film.
Comedians Jim Gaffigan and Maya Rudolph were cast to play the mother and father of Luca. These two were cast because they are both parents of five children and, just like the younger talent, had similar characteristics that matched the characters they were bringing to life.
Casting Italian actors to voice the Italian characters was actually much easier to do during the pandemic. The supporting Italian voice cast includes Italian comedian Saverio Raimondo and opera singer Marco Barricelli.
The bulk of LUCA was done from home, from the animation to the voice recording. Warren says it was quite a miracle that it even came together because everyone was juggling their families and their home environments while focusing on making the film.
All of the voice actors recorded their lines from their own homes and mainly in closets. The actors were sent Ipads and microphones to record their lines on. They used various clothing that was hanging in their closets to block out any noise as they recorded.
When composer Dan Romer recorded the score for the film, he recorded separate parts of the audio on different days because he wasn’t in a professional studio. He recorded everything separately (i.e., string) before they were mixed.
The second presentation was centered around the art and look of the film.
Production Designer Daniela Strijleva spoke about how she created the film’s unique look. Like Enrico, she spent some of her childhood living in Italy, so she felt connected to the story and the location. She felt that she had a shared experience with Enrico.
Daniela joined Luca in late 2016. She went to Italy twice and met Enrico’s parents during her first research trip. Also, on the trip, they walked around Enrico’s childhood neighborhood and other locations that he frequently visited growing up.
Drawing and sketching were key points of focus during the trip. Photos were essential to bringing the details to life in an authentic way. For the human world, it was important to get the piazza right. Those who aren’t aware of what a piazza is are an open public square surrounded by buildings. Daniela and Enrico made the piazza feel almost like a theater stage but very realistic to what a piazza would look like in Italy. To capture the authenticity of the time period, hundreds of signs were created to represent those in Italy during the 1950s. The color palette of the small town is warm and sunny.
As for the sea creature setting, it is tranquil, but everything is moving. The color of this world is mainly blue and green.
The characters came to life thanks to the sketches done during their trips to Italy as well as Italian films.
Old sea maps with drawings of sea monsters served as inspiration for the design of the sea monsters. They didn’t want these sea monsters to feel like real fish but rather non-realistic versions of monsters.
Color and light were so important to this film, especially because it takes place during summer. Through various paintings, they could bring the characters’ emotions to life, especially with Luca.