Luca, a movie revolving around the adventures of two sea monsters, Alberto & Luca [who appear human when they dry off], who set out to explore the terrestrial world: the colourful town of Portorosso, driven by their fascination for Vespa: The scooter. It is a story of friendship, fun, and frolic along the Mediterranean coastline. 

It is a sweet love letter immersed in innocence to friendship & Italy as well through the plot of it…

While a deep narrative stays embedded in the film, highlighting the obvious difference between life under the deep waters and land, Most of the story runs in the colourful fictional town of Portorosso. The strong defiance of the town from sea monsters draws attention to privilege and its absence.

Luca’s underwater home:

The film portrays Luca’s family living in a modest underwater home where they spend their days farming kelp and herding goatfish. David Bianchi, director of photography, divulges that the filmmakers wanted to make this underwater world “appealing—but not too appealing”, for this is where we assimilate that the protagonist is driven towards life beyond the surface and wants to leave this place.   

An architectural review of Luca - Sheet1
Deepwaters where Luca and his family live ©https://www.pixar.com/luca
An architectural review of Luca - Sheet2
Deepwaters where Luca and his family live ©https://www.pixar.com/luca

Alberto’s hideout:

The transition between the underwater life and the adventures in Portorosso is the island where Alberto lives, a hideout in a salvaged old Roman tower that was abandoned long ago.

Story lead McKenna Harris suggests that the space may be indicative of Alberto’s troublesome past, and on the other hand, it also highlights every kid’s desire to have a space where imagination has no bounds. It has a charming aesthetic but is also quite unrefined, which leaves you inquisitive about what lies ahead.  

An architectural review of Luca - Sheet3
Alberto’s hideout in the abandoned tower ©https://www.pixar.com/luca

The fictional town of Portorosso:

Amidst the complex chaos of lives, Luca is an ebullient summer confection based in Italy; Portorosso, the setting of the film, is a vivacious amalgamation inspired by the five towns of Cinque Terra: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These five towns on the northwestern side of Italy were named World Heritage sites by UNESCO IN 1997.     

An architectural review of Luca - Sheet4
Real life locations that inspired Luca ©https://www.pixar.com/luca
An architectural review of Luca - Sheet5
Real life locations that inspired Luca ©https://www.pixar.com/luca

The culture & architecture of the real-life towns contribute majorly to creating vibrance on-screen that feels like a warm hug to the hidden inner child inside all of us.

Set in the 50s, the film showcases a photorealistic rendition of the Italian Riviera, composed in a palette of warm hues, whilst retaining the buildings extremely colourful in the film, just as they are in real life.

The color palette of the town:

Crafted in a handful of colours ranging from yellows and salmon colours to terra-cotta reds, the colours set the mood in a summer tone. However, interestingly, in Cinque Terre, they are limited to about ten hues while painting their houses. Italy, in general, is very rigorous about what colours you may use in a certain portion of a town; unsure of who the authority is, but it sure signifies the importance of colour to the culture. The makers have given the walls in the movie a lot of texture and life to them, casting a large shadow on them, giving the impression that it is hot outside. In doing so, the colour brilliance helps the viewer experience what they see visually as well as practically, almost as if they could smell the water.

The movie presents Italy’s stunning aesthetic with several colour bursts of Italian sceneries.

The movie also unveils the intangible street culture where the community folks mingle with one another through noisy neighbours spilling out into the open plaza for an afternoon chat with friends and children shout out to one another for a game of street soccer as cobblestoned alleys weave their way into squiggly alleyways of tall houses packed one after the other.

Inspirations from real life:

An architectural review of Luca - Sheet6
Real life locations that inspired Luca ©https://www.pixar.com/luca
An architectural review of Luca - Sheet7
Real life locations that inspired Luca ©https://www.pixar.com/luca

These scenes would be difficult to distinguish from actual sites if it weren’t for some of the crazy angles of the green shutters and other architectural details. These buildings’ numerous components don’t even feel animated due to their texturing. The same is true of the vegetation that highlights the cliffsides.

One of the most iconic locations in Cinque Terre is Vernazza, and the architecture and topography of Portorosso’s piazza were both influenced by Vernazza. Camogli, a little fancier town that has incredibly lovely architecture can be discerned in the buildings clustered around the town’s waterfront. An insight from the vintage 1950s postcard images, the town served as a major source of inspiration for the designs and hues of the buildings in Luca.

Another lovely town, called Tellaro, close to La Spezia, apart from the five towns has similar architecture and little details like a lovely mosaic of an octopus on the ground, and a tiny chapel, which served as inspirations while crafting the reel town of Portorosso too. Porto Venere, with its wall of structures right up against the water, is another beautiful town with structures so tall and narrow that they only have one pair of windows.

The colourful town of Portorosso© https://www.pixar.com/luca

Riomaggiore, a part of Cinque Terre, has an iconic red building on the brink of a mini harbor where the boats dock at the very end of the town that served as the basis for one of the key sets of the movie, Giulia’s residence. Elements like the little tree house just outside Giulia’s room could be interpreted as an abstract extension of Giulia’s personality of being adventurous and fun-loving.

Beautiful emerald greens and rich blues characterize the water’s hues. The beaches of Cinque Terra aren’t sandy, they have tiny pebbles!!.. All these details are vividly recognizable in the movie. In sooth, the Pixar adaptation of this locale resembles a diorama of the real thing, yet it retains all its beauty.

Directed by Enrico Casarosa, Luca swaddles All our childhood fantasies into an hour and a half of pure animated fun in the picturesque backdrop of the Italian hamlet of Portorosso, the kind of daydreams that would spark hours of adventure-building in our minds.

References:

Meredith Carey (2021). On Location: How Disney and Pixar’s ‘Luca’ Recreated the Iconic Cinque Terre [online].Available at: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/on-location-disney-pixars-luca [Accessed 07 August 2022]

Giardina,C. (2021). How Pixar’s ‘Luca’ Offers a Taste of Seaside Italy.The Hollywood Reporter.[Online].Retrieved from: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/pixars-luca-offers-a-taste-of-seaside-italy-the-best-new-places-to-stay-elsewhere-in-italy-checking-in-1234968119/ 

Ethan Anderton (2021). The Real-Life ‘Luca’ Locations That Inspired Pixar’s Summer Adventure [Online].Available at: https://www.slashfilm.com/582258/luca-locations-comparison/ [Accessed on 07 August 2022]

“Pixar Animation Studios.” Pixar Animation Studios, Available at: https://www.pixar.com/luca 

Author

Confident in expressions & creative in conception, Keya is an architecture student weaving ethereal stories in the existing social fabric through her words and illustrations. She ardently believes in the power of sustainable design to revolutionise the lives of people and influence it in the most intangible ways.

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