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LUCA 31 POST JULY/AUG 2021 TRANSFORMATION Pixar's Luca creates a 2D aesthetic using its robust 3D pipeline BY KAREN MOLTENBREY W e all know someone in our life who pushes us beyond our comfort zone to try new things, even when that little voice inside our head tells us we can't or we shouldn't. Enrico Casarosa, director of Disney-Pixar's Luca, is not one who is afraid to try new things. Casarosa, inspired by his own childhood on the Italian Riviera, challenged the studio's celebrated masters of the 3D animation domain to try something different for Pixar's 24th feature release by incorporating a 2D cartoon aesthetic within Luca's 3D structure. Indeed, a fish-out-of-water story — in more ways than one. In Luca, young, shy, introverted, rule-following 13-year-old Luca is befriended by free-spirited teen Alberto, who introduces him to the "finer" things on land, as the two spend an unforgettable sum- mer on the Italian Riviera, living a carefree, adven- turous life as two young boys should. However, these two young boys have a big se- cret: They are actually sea monsters. Above water, they appear human; below the water (or wet), their true nature becomes apparent. Living this double life is risky, as the local human townspeople are often on the lookout for sea monsters after years of reported but unsubstantiated sightings. Despite warnings from his parents, Luca, along with his friend, are determined to enjoy the human world filled with gelato, pasta, scooter rides and more. The Vespa-obsessed Alberto has been living above the surface for some time, and his exagger- ated knowledge of this unique world impresses his newfound friend. "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. The inspiration [for the sea monsters] was sea life, like octopuses, which are able to cam- ouflage and change the way they look," explains Casarosa, who also had a friend like Alberto, who pushed him beyond his comfort zone while grow- ing up in Genoa, a port city on the Italian Riviera. In fact, the character Alberto is inspired by Casarosa's childhood friend — also named Alberto. The film invokes a feeling of nostalgia through its warm, painterly, watercolor style and whimsical animation. While the goal was to give the film a timeless look, the story is set in the late 1950s/early 1960s during the Italian Golden Age of cinema and music — a period Casarosa is particularly fond of (despite growing up in the 1980s). And, there are homages to those period movies in the form of posters and signs throughout the CG town. "The towns [around where I grew up] are stuck in time," Casarosa explains. "They're so picturesque." The watercolor aesthetic carries with it 2D influences, giving the film a highly-stylized look, especially compared to the more realistic CGI typi- cally exhibited in Pixar films. Looks can be deceiv- ing, however. This is a 3D film, although rather than having everything appear straight, even and realis- tic, as computers are tuned to do, the filmmakers wanted Luca to be caricatured and imperfect, so you can feel the hand of the artist. "The most technically-challenging part for us was achieving the visual style that we wanted for this film," says character supervisor Beth Albright. "It is something that's very different than what we've done in other Pixar movies." It might be different compared to the studio's oth- er features, but the underlying aesthetic is actually an expansion of the look Casarosa used for his com- ing-of-age short film La Luna. Casarosa's film style is influenced by Japanese animation and artistry. "[For Luca,] Enrico would draw these sinuous simple shapes of reflections in the water that looked like traditional woodblocks," says produc- tion designer Daniela Strijleva. "With that in mind, we were challenged with simplifying the look of a 3D film, which was super fun to do, hitting a certain level of caricature that's true to Enrico's style. It's very expressive and lyrical." While the film contains a high degree of 2D influence, Casarosa made it clear that he wanted to create something new and different for Luca. "He was very specific that it shouldn't look like stop-motion, anime or anything else, and that we had the power of the computer with us so we could create something new," says character super- visor Sajan Skaria. "And that's something we like to do at Pixar. While we were inspired by all of that, we had the tools to craft it our way." A DIVERSE CAST OF CHARACTERS Luca has a wide range of characters, some of whom live underwater and others on land. Luca's A custom rig helped Pixar control character changes.

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