Updated: Aug 20
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
New best friends Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay) finally get airborne with their scrap scooter by riding down an island hillside.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2021, PG for rude humor, mild profanity, some thematic elements and brief violence; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Our Italian Inspiration” featurette
ONLY SEVEN weeks after its exclusive run streaming on Disney+, Pixar’s 24th animation feature “Luca” jumped onto 4K Ultra HD on physical disc and digital for purchase and rent. The warmhearted charmer set in the late 1950s-early ‘60s is a summer coming-of-age tale of two boys on the Italian Riviera.
Some Pixar staffers were unhappy over Disney’s decision to forgo “Luca’s” theatrical release. One anonymous Pixar artist told IndieWire, “These movies are crafted for the big screen. We want you to watch these movies with no distractions, no looking at your phone.”
Last year, Disney pushed Oscar-winner “Soul” onto Disney+ since theaters had shut down due to COVID-19 issues. The Academy of Arts and Science allowed movies scheduled for theatrical runs, although moved to streaming and PVOD, to be eligible for its annual awards. It’s unclear if this rule will be applied for the upcoming 2022 Oscar nominations. If not, it would leave the delightful and highly praised “Luca” without the same opportunities.
(1) “Luca” premiered on Disney+ on June 18, but arrived on physical disc on August 3. (2) Giacomo and Tommaso are night fishing when a strange creature suddenly begins swipe items from their boat. (3&4) Luca Paguro is a sea monster who farms goatfish for his family.
In the featurette “Our Italian Inspiration,” director Enrico Casarosa says “Luca” was inspired by his childhood in Genoa on the Italian Riviera. “I spent many summers on these beautiful beaches on the coast,” he says. Casarosa left his home country to chase his animation dreams in the U.S. “You miss your home, but with this [Luca] I’m trying to embrace my roots … and the memories of running around as a kid.”
The Cinque Terre – five small towns along the coast in Northern Italy – provided his visual backdrop. “The towns come out of the sea like little prehistoric sea creatures hanging onto the rocks,” Casarosa says. Quaint buildings and homes are sandwiched between steep mountains and the sea, preserving timeless communities.
“There’s something we wanna capture about summer first of all ... the heat, the water, the flavors, all the wonderful little details of an Italian summer.” — Enrico Casarosa, writer/director
Several key artists took multiple trips to Italy in 2019, according to production designer Daniela Strijleva. “Everyone brings different questions to the table,” she says. “You go to the location, you get inspired by the people; you get inspired by the setting; you get inspired by the color, and by all of the other artists.”
Art directors Jennifer Chang and Don Shank cataloged much of the “quirky and unique” architecture, and texture of the buildings and landscape. “There was a lot of what we called ‘lean, sag and twist,’” Shank says. While Character Art Director Deanna Marsigliese focused on the people and the local characters, visiting the harbor in the early morning. “I love how they work on their boats … mend the nets. It’s kind of communal activity,” she says. Everyone also seemed taken by the vivid colors of the laundry drying in the wind from balconies and windows, so nicely incorporated into “Luca.”
(1) Luca arrives home for dinner with his mother Daniela (Maya Rudolph), father Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan), and his grandma Paguro ( Sandy Martin). (2) Luca’s mother warns him about the dangers of being near the surface. (3-5) Luca’s first out-of-water experience as he changes into a human. He meets Alberto another sea monster who has been collecting human items and taking them to his island hideout.
“Secretly a Sea Monster” highlights 13-year-old Luca’s – voiced by Jacob Tremblay – journey to figure out who he is. “He’s this amazing creature who can be a sea monster or a human,” Strijleva says. His parents, voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan, warn that he could be hunted or killed by humans, but Luca still dreams of a world beyond his underwater home. It’s similar to Ariel’s hopes in “The Little Mermaid.”
Anytime Luca’s skin is in water or splashed, it shows a green- and purple-scaled fish boy with a long tail. Above the water, he’s human, becoming a day tripper on land and meeting the confident Alberto, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer. Casarosa’s best friend growing up was a real-life Alberto. “He was definitely full of passion and not afraid of anything,” he says. Luca and Alberto decide to hit the nearby coastal town of Portorosso and intermingle with humans. Their biggest hope is to ride a Vespa. Their adventures lead them to the scrappy Giulia (Emma Berman), her fisherman father (Marco Barricelli), and the town bully, Ercole (Saverio Raimondo).
A third featurette, “Best Friends,” features interviews with the teen cast including Tremblay, Grazer and Berman. Casarosa describes youthful friendship as, “The time when we’re learning ourselves and finding friends that you have some adventure with, and challenge.”
Using the latest computer technology, Casarosa and Pixar mastered the animation in TRUE 4K (1.85:1 aspect ratio). That’s been the Pixar standard since “Toy Story 4” and the results are STUNNING! The added resolution provides the finest detail and texture for the distant hillside homes, close-ups of town residences, and Luca’s 3,436 scales. The director was inspired by Japanese woodblock prints that recall the look and feel of Studio Ghibli. Most of the final animation was done by the artists at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The HDR10 and Dolby Vision (digital) is graded with intense, varying postcard colors of blue, turquoise, yellow, orange, and green. Under the sea, the palette is much bolder and more saturated, while the daylight scenes on land are brighter and softer.
(1) Alberto’s dream Vespa. (2) The guys finally get airborne with their scrap scooter, but it quickly falls apart. (3) The two boys build a fire and look toward the stars from Alberto’s hideout. (4) Alberto shows Luca a cave on his hideaway island.
The 4K (disc & digital) features the eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, with height speakers delivering a sprinkle of effects and a perfect Italian-themed score from composer Dan Romer (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) showcasing accordion, mandolin, guitars and pizzicato strings. Romer provided many of the guitar and accordion sequences.
Because of the pandemic, the 82 piece orchestra was recorded separately by sections – strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion – then mixed together. Similar guidelines were applied to the voice actors, and recorded at home. Grazer set up his microphone in his mom’s closet.
The soundtrack also features a number of familiar Italian tunes starting with the charming “Un Bacio A Mezzanotte” from Quartetto Cetra; the Puccini classic, “O Mio Babbino Caro” performed by Maria Callas; “Il Gatto E la Volpe” by Edorado Bennato, and “Andavo a Cento All’ora” by Gianni Morandi. Final credits roll with the Italian version of Gene McDaniels’ “Lonely Town” performed by Mina.
“Luca” celebrates friendship, family, and the joys of summer fun – making it a perfect watch for everyone. And, yes, an addition for your growing 4K library.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
Alberto and Luca hit Portorosso
(1) The boys sneak into the fictional town of Portorosso. (2&3) The wonderful faces of the coastal community. (4) Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo) arrives on his shiny red Vespa.
(1) The scrappy Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman) gives Ercole some choice words. (2) The boys have dinner with Giulia and her father (Marco Barricelli). (3) The boys sleep outside of Giulia’s apartment and morning dew causing them to turn into their sea monster bodies. (4) Luca’s parents arrive in Portorosso to search for their son. (5&6) Luca trains for the upcoming Portorosso Cup Triathlon. He'll ride the bicycle and Giulia will swim and eat the pasta. (7) Giulia and Luca explore the stars with a telescope.