We almost lived in a world where a Pixar film was fronted by two queer lead characters. Almost.
Enrico Casarosa, the director of Disney and Pixar's beloved 2021 animated film Luca, went on the record in a recent interview with The Wrap, opening up about how there were discussions about possibly making the film's two lead characters — the titular sea monster Luca and his fellow aquatic bestie Alberto — gay.
For those who have yet to see the film (it's gorgeous, you really should!), Luca is basically a quintessential coming-of-age story about an Italian teen sea monster named Luca (Jacob Tremblay) who spends his days with his family on their underwater farm herding goatfish. Like a lot of young folks, 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 came out as bi shortly after Luca's release), 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.
With themes that include keeping secrets from the ones you love, running away from home to be your most authentic self, and hiding your identity from society, 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.
Unfortunately, none of the tangible romantic chemistry between Luca and Alberto was ever made official in the film, and Casarosa is now talking about why that was, even though making the characters gay was reportedly a possibility.
"We talked about it and I mean, I think the reason probably we didn’t talk about it as much and, to a certain degree, we’re slightly surprised by the amount of people talking about romance is that we were really focusing on friendship and so pre-romance," Casarosa told The Wrap. "But it is a kind of love, right? There’s a lot of hugging and it’s physical and my experience as a straight man certainly wasn’t that. The things we did talk a lot about is what is the metaphor here for being a sea monster, for being different? And some people seem to get mad that I’m not saying yes or no, but I feel like, well, this is a movie about being open to any difference."
This isn't an unfamiliar sentiment from Casarosa, though. Last summer, when the film first premiered on Disney+ and the cast and crew were doing their press tour, Casarosa talked to Out at a press conference about crafting Luca and Alberto's close, loving on-screen dynamic, saying:
"In my first picture I realized we hadn’t done kids being kids, 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."
While it's no surprise (Disney has always been lagging when it comes to actual, meaningful LGBTQ+ representation in their many films), it's still disappointing nonetheless, especially when you see how many viewers picked up on what was going on between Luca and Alberto.
Maybe one day we'll get the animated queer Disney romance we deserve...
Luca is now streaming on Disney+.