Ahead of 2020, Pixar Animation Studios revisited a number of its famed characters, with sequels like Incredibles 2, Monsters University and Toy Story 4 accounting for many of its new movies. But after all those continuing stories, the studio has been recapturing the magic we loved from the beginning with more personal storylines, like Onward’s emotional road trip between brothers, Soul’s existential journey and this summer's Luca.
Pixar does not currently have any sequels in the works that we know of either – although the studio will explore the Toy Story franchise again with a spinoff movie called Lightyear, which follows the space explorer who inspired Woody’s best pal. Coming up next month is Luca, an original story about a young sea monster who decides to rebel and explore the surface, which happens to be off the coast of the breathtaking Italian Riviera. Luca is an especially personal Pixar movie because its director, Enrico Casarosa, grew up in the region and has fond memories spending summers with his own best friend as a kid in Italy. The La Luna filmmaker spoke with CinemaBlend about Pixar’s current trend:
Personal stories are so important because you need a connection to lead and I think we have a lot of awesome new movies coming your way we’re really excited about, the whole slate lately. I don’t know that there was a change of awareness of ‘we're going to change route here,’ there wasn’t anything like that. It was just a sense of what sparks. So, it really helped me as a new director having experienced something and having an instinct about what I was trying to tell, the story about my best friend and I and how these kinds of friendships help us grow up.
Luca is Enrico Casarosa’s first feature film after making an impression in 2012 for his Oscar-nominated short La Luna. His Pixar movie will directly follow two especially deep entries for the studio – Soul’s being the story of a band teacher named Joe Gardner who comes close to death and finds a new meaning to live, and Onward, which was inspired by director Dan Scanlon’s own grief with his late father. Luca producer Andrea Warren expanded on Pixar’s direction as well:
I think the way things can bunch up in how we release things is really often a coincidence of timing of what lands where and what works. There’s so many factors of what makes things land where they do. I think there’s always an appreciation for a good story that’s interesting to us to put the work of five years into making it. I don’t ever take that lightly because there is so much of an effort from everybody to put into it. It is fun though, there’s some new directors at the company now, it’s great to see those new perspectives and we do happen to have more of a bunch of newer types of stories between Soul and Turning Red coming after us.
It sounds like Pixar didn’t necessarily decide intentionally to shift its focus, but were naturally led to a unique era for the studio that will usher in a number of new voices after filmmakers like John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton provided their talents to early films for the studio. Back in 2018, Pixar also saw a major shift when Lasseter, the former head and chief creative officer of both Pixar Studios and Walt Disney Animation, left his position after allegations were made of his sexual misconduct.
With new names behind Pixar, it makes sense that it would usher in a new chapter for the studio, and in between exploring things like elven magic and sea monsters, the studio is giving its filmmakers some freedom to pitch narratives close to their hearts. Enrico Casarosa also shared with CinemaBlend how the Luca idea came to him and Pixar:
I pitched [Luca] at the beginning of 2016. First of all, I knew I wanted something in the setting of the Italian Riviera, I just love that place and I think there’s something really unique about my summers there. And then it was really about finding the right story for it. The other thing that I’ve always loved is about changelings, someone who can appear a certain way but then is really behind a facade. I love stories of foxes in Japanese folklore that can look human, but their true form is foxes. So those kinds of stories always fascinated me. And then also as a kid, in these little towns on the riviera, my memory of it was always wondering and imagining if there is more to these people around – is there more to the old man by the sea?