Disney and Pixar's latest animated film Luca is now streaming on Disney+, and LGBTQ+ fans are hooked on it.
The movie is a quintessential coming-of-age story about an Italian teenage sea monster named Luca (Jacob Tremblay) who spends his days with his family on their underwater farm herding goatfish. Like a lot of adolescents, he dreams of a life that is bigger, grander, and more exciting than the boring, humdrum one he is currently experiencing, but because of his parents (his mother, played by Maya Rudolph, is overprotective and his father Lorenzo, played by Jim Gaffigan, is more interested in taking care of his prized crabs than taking interest in his son's life), he feels trapped underwater. Luca is starting to feel a lot like the modern-day Ariel until he meets fellow teen sea monster Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), who introduces him to the surface world and all of its infinite possibilities. Alberto shows Luca that once they are on the surface and completely dry, they can transform into human versions of themselves, and the two seek out new adventures and friendships via the nearby Italian coastal town of Portorosso.
Affectionately dubbed Calamari by Your Name by the New York Times, it's not hard to see why the film is getting so much love from queer audiences. With themes that include keeping secrets from the ones you love, running away from home to explore and be yourself, and hiding a huge part of your identity from society (just to name a few), there's a lot in Luca that LGBTQ+ people can relate to, but the thing that REALLY has fans all over the world fawning over the animated flick is the definitely the dynamic between the two main characters.
Though the argument can be made that more movies need to show platonic male friendships (that's definitely a good thing), after seeing the way Luca looks at Alberto whenever he introduces him to something new for the first time (like a Vespa) or the way Alberto gets jealous whenever someone else is getting Luca's attention (especially form their new human friend Giulia, played by Emma Berman), they have a fondness for each other that queer viewers can easily recognize and read as something more than just friendship: a young, budding, queer romance.
But was that intentional? Well, according to the film's director Enrico Casarosa, not quite. In fact, he even said that Luca is actually more about friendships, if anything, and that he created the film to be about a time in kids' lives before romance was even a thing on their radar.
"In my first picture I realized we hadn’t done kids being kids," Casarosa said at a press conference when asked by Out about crafting Luca and Alberto's close, loving on-screen dynamic. "So that was kind of part of me thinking about that. It’s also specifically a little bit pre-romance. That was something that I was interested in as well because there’s just that moment that maybe we’re not thinking about boyfriends and girlfriends yet, which is really more about friendships."
"Those were the things that I wanted to see, and certainly it came just from me experiencing it. We wanted to make sure that we found a Giulia to get there in the mix because it was really important to also find the other point of view. We also don’t see enough of, you know, girls being close. Luckily we have a wonderful movie coming next year from Domee Shi, Turning Red about the coming-of-age of a girl, so that’s also something that I love about Pixar. We can find diverse movies from different voices and we’re starting to really embrace that effect that they can look a little different and have a different tone."
This isn't a far cry from what Casarosa told Polygon back in April when he said, "I was really keen to talk about a friendship before girlfriends and boyfriends come in to complicate things."
"This was about their friendship in that pre-puberty world," he told the website.
While it's a little disappointing to hear that any queerness viewers see in Luca is unofficial and subtext (after all, how many movies are there where two young, heterosexual characters of the opposite sex get to be cute and in love and it's officially canon??) it's still not stopping fans from relishing in the impact a film like this can have on young queer kids who can grow up and see a little bit of themselves represented on screen.
So will we ever get to see meaningful (and explicit!) queer representation in a Disney/Pixar film aimed for young audiences? We can only hope! Until then, we'll have to keep yelling "Silenzio, Bruno!" to the inner cynics in our head that are getting more and more impatient for that day to finally come...
Luca is now streaming on Disney+.