Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Real Reason Luca Looks So Different From Other Pixar Movies

Pixar's latest summer adventure is officially here. "Luca," which arrives on Disney+ on Friday, June 18, tells the story of two boys named Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer). They're two young sea-monster best friends who are suddenly able to transform into humans. Finding themselves on land, they make the most of their Italian-esque surroundings while trying to hide their true identities.

The 24th entry into the Pixar canon is helmed by director Enrico Casarosa. Although that name might not sound immediately familiar, you may remember his 2011 Pixar short "La Luna," which follows a young boy journeying to the Moon and won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

Now Casarosa has made a full-length film for the first time, and with its wholesome core friendship and fun, animated hijinks, "Luca" is classic Pixar fare. However, it also represents some major creative changes within the iconic studio.

Unlike many recent Pixar films, Luca was made using 2D animation

Most recent Pixar films have been made using CG animation, which is designed to make characters and settings as photorealistic as possible. But for "Luca," Casarosa convinced Pixar to let him do something old-school: Use 2D animation, just as he did for "La Luna." The filmmaker told Entertainment Weekly that he was particularly influenced by the style of Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki's beloved Japanese animated films, which include "Spirited Away" and "My Neighbor Totoro." "There was even a TV series when I was growing up in Italy, 'Future Boy Conan,'" Casarosa added. "I showed it to all the [Pixar] animators." 

"We watched a lot of [Future Boy Conan] in the beginning, and then we moved on to the greater Miyazaki library, which most animators at Pixar are familiar with and fans of," animation supervisor Mike Venturini told Entertainment Weekly. "It wasn't hard to describe to people what that aesthetic was."

As Venturini explained in a virtual presentation in March, they maintained an artisanal aesthetic in the film that was all about "bold illustrative choices and stylized timing of 2D animation while preserving the richness we've come to expect in a Pixar film."

Previous Pixar films like The Incredibles and Toy Story were also major influences

While most recent Pixar films have used CG animation, this certainly wasn't always the case. Some of the most beloved Pixar releases use 2D animation, and they also inspired the animation team behind "Luca."

"If you look at [Tom Hanks' 'Toy Story' character] Woody, his eyelids don't have complex shapes that our human characters [do]. We get a lot of emotion out of those films," Venturini explained. "'Incredibles' is something where you're stylizing your physicality. It's not as real as a film like 'Coco,' but it is more realistic than what we did on ['Luca']. So, we pushed this film a little further.

Casarosa's Pixar short "La Luna" also played a role in the new film's style. Producer Andrea Warren told Entertainment Weekly that its style was "very poetic," adding that "Luca" also sought to boil things down "to the essence of what they are — of the place, of the moment, of the feeling — and allowing those things to shine."

Lots of Pixar artists are experimenting with new styles

While "Luca" represents a creative shift at Pixar, the studio is currently in the midst of trying all kinds of new things. Last year, Pixar debuted a rare 2D short called "Kitbull" as part of "SparkShorts," its new short film series on Disney+. And the 2020 short film "Out" stylistically resembled a watercolor painting. No studio wants every project they release to look and feel the same, so between Pixar's new short films and experimental feature-length releases, it will be exciting to see what their animators come up with next.

"You just don't want to be stagnant," Venturini said. "We certainly, as artists, don't want to feel like we're doing the same thing twice. We're always looking for opportunities to either take an existing storyline and push it further in a sequel, or to just try something new. What the world is saying right now over the last couple of years, and certainly in our future, is we have a lot of up-and-coming directors, and the studio's putting a lot of weight behind getting their visions on the screen."

He added, "For the artists at Pixar, it's an exciting time."