How DisneyPixar has sold a coming-of-age story with an underwater twist.
Luca, directed by Enrico Casarosa, stars Jacob Tremblay as the voice of Luca Paguro, a pre-teen sea creature who dreams of exploring the world above. His best friend Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) helps him do just that, coming out to visit the small Italian village near their underwater home. They befriend a young girl named Giulia (voiced by Emma Berman), who joins the two — who can take human form when out of the water — in all sorts of adventures in her hometown.
The movie is the latest Pixar release coming to Disney+ as the result of the coronavirus pandemic, arriving with mostly positive reviews that have earned the film a 91% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and after a campaign that has emphasized the setting even more than the story.
You get a sense of Luca’s dual nature on the first poster (by Legion Creative Group), released in February. Above the water he looks human but very different in the part that’s still submerged.
The same message is conveyed on April’s second poster, but this time Luca is joined by Alberto and Giulia as they sit on the coast of the Italian village where the action takes place, many of the supporting characters in the background. It sells a bright, fun adventure with a cast of young characters on a design that looks like a travel poster.
Three more character posters came out earlier in June that put all three of the kids in the position of being half-submerged, but only Giulia needs a snorkel and looks the same underwater.
Luca and his friends are having a great time on the Italian Riviera when the trailer (6.9 million views on YouTube), released in February, opens. But as they engage in the kind of hijinks not uncommon for kids their age, they are hiding a secret that’s only visible when they are in the water. The trailer sets up the premise succinctly, if somewhat incompletely, but still makes it look quite charming.
More of the story is on display in the first full-length trailer (11.7 million views on YouTube) from late April. We see how Luca explores the surface world with Alberto and how the two of them first get into some trouble but then are rescued by Giulia. She and Luca become friends, getting into adventures all their own together as Luca and his brother try to avoid revealing their true nature to the townspeople.
Online and Social
Only a barebones website for the movie but there were social media profiles that shared regular updates and assets.
Advertising, Press and Promotions
Pixar announced the movie in July of last year.
In March of this year Disney announced the movie would skip theaters entirely and be available on Disney+ on its planned release date.
Casarosa was interviewed about the movie’s story as well as its unique visuals and approach to animation.
TV spots like this began running in May that sells the vibrant colors of the movie along with the adventures the characters have throughout the story.
A “Friendship” featurette had Gaffigan, Rudolph, Casarosa and others talking about the magical nature of friendships at a certain age and how the movie captures that magic.
The movie’s production designer Daniela Strijleva was interviewed about drawing inspiration from her own experiences in Italy to create the movie’s look and feel.
Another featurette included comments from Casarosa, Gaffigan and Rudolph about the research that went into creating an authentic Italian coastal town.
The first clip, released in early June, shows the moment Guilia brings Luca and Alberto home to meet her father and have dinner, an event that doesn’t go very well.
Casarosa was part of a publicity tour event in Italy.
Just days before the movie’s release a “blue carpet” premiere was held at the El Capitan theater in Los Angeles.
The official website lists a number of companies as promotional partners for the movie, but many of the links from that site don’t work and additional details on most of those weren’t readily accessible. The list includes:
- Blue Apron (details unavailable)
- Annie’s (details unavailable)
- Baubles and Sole (details unavailable but the company did frequently promote the movie on Instagram)
- McDonald’s, which put movie toys in Happy Meal boxes and offered downloadable activities online
- The Watermelon Board, which created a campaign encouraging people to enjoy their summer with some cool refreshing watermelon
There’s less of an emphasis on the story here than there is on the setting. That’s understandable since it’s an unusual and beautiful location but it means that the actual stakes of the movie and the characters we’re asked to care about are moved to the background.
But it is an enjoyable marketing push, one that positions the movie as a simpler, gentler Pixar release, one that may not reach the emotional heights of other titles but which does promise a good time in a gorgeous location.