Walt Disney Studios & Pixar director Enrico Casarosa says his film Luca — now streaming on Disney+ — isn’t necessarily the queer allegory LGBTQ+ fans wish it was.
Disney and Pixar’s Luca (2021) premiered on Disney+ on June 18 — at no additional charge to subscribers — and since then, many fans have interpreted the latest Pixar film as a clear allegory for the queer experience. The coming-of-age story about a sea monster in his early teens dreaming of a life beyond his Italian underwater goatfish farm explores themes that have resonated with the LGBTQ+ community. When Luca (Jacob Tremblay) is introduced to Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) and the excitement of life on dry land, his eyes are opened to endless opportunities to be who he wants to be.
Some see Luca as a sort of remix of another classic Disney film, The Little Mermaid (1989) with the lead character dreaming to escape a life underwater to be part of another world. However, the lead character also has to deal with things familiar to many in the queer community — exploring who you are apart from your family life, hiding your true identity out of fear, and keeping secrets from those closest to you. Luca’s sea monster parents — voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan — are initially fearful for their son’s experience beyond the safety of their home under the sea.
Sure, the relationship between Luca and Alberto may be entirely platonic, but the themes explored in their relationship are unmistakably familiar to queer audiences. The New York Times in their review of Luca, saw the queer allegory plainly, offering the cheeky alternate title of Calamari By Your Name — a reference to Call Me By Your Name (2017), the Academy Award-winning gay coming-of-age film starring Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer.
Despite Disney fans drawing connections between the film’s narrative and LGBTQ+ themes that queer audiences are championing, Luca director Enrico Casarosa says that wasn’t necessarily his intention. He says his original vision for the film to explore the time in a child’s life before romance of any kind is even a thought. Casarosa — seasoned story artist and director of the acclaimed Pixar short La Luna — explained his point-of-view to Out, when asked about Alberto and Luca’s relationship, 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 about pre-romance. That was something 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.”
Even if director Enrico Casarosa didn’t necessarily intend to include a queer subtext in Luca’s plot, that doesn’t diminish the affirming queer story that so many in the LGBTQ+ community have embraced. Fans have taken to social media to celebrate the representation they see in Luca.
Another story making headlines this week related to a Disney property’s perceived representation of a gay relationship involved Marvel’s new Captain America, Anthony Mackie. When asked about the relationship between Mackie’s Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, the actor was less than enthused by fans inserting a homosexual subtext. Mackie has come under fire for the offensive, and frankly confusing comments he made in an interview with Variety, stating:
“There’s so many things that people latch on to with their own devices to make themselves relevant and rational. The idea of two guys being friends and loving each other in 2021 is a problem because of the exploitation of homosexuality.”
As Disney continues to prioritize diverse representation in their films, it seems like Mackie’s comments may be out-of-step with today’s audience expectations.
Do you feel Luca represented a queer coming-of-age allegory? Let us know in the comments!