What happens when a young sea monster looking for adventure, friendship and some pasta noodles hits the ground? Disney and Pixar’s “Luca” takes viewers on a breathtaking journey through a seaside town on the Italian Riviera to find out.
Available on Disney + (as well as Blu-ray and digital), “Luca” chronicles the entertaining journey of a sea monster and his friends Alberto (also a sea monster) and Giulia as they enjoy an unforgettable Italian summer. – while Luca and Alberto try to keep their sea monster genes a secret. Directed by Italian writer and director Enrico Casarosa, the team at Disney Pixar introduced viewers to the vibrant and colorful world of Italian beach culture through the charming, good-natured storytelling many of us associate with Disney films.
So what was a childless movie goer like me doing watching this children’s movie? Portorosso, the fictional town where Luca takes place, is based on the cityscapes of Genoa and Liguria, regions of Italy known for their colorful buildings, peaceful surroundings, and culinary innovations.
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The setting brought me back to my own Italian summer, which included seemingly endless days eating pasta with seafood overlooking the beautiful beaches of Finale Ligure, chasing trains to walk the cobbled streets of the Cinque Terre, and listen to old grandmothers joke about the best way to make pasta in city squares.
For Pixar Animation Studios art director Paul Abadilla, this is exactly the type of film that allows animators like him to bring their creativity to the forefront and take viewers on a fascinating journey straight to their homes.
“We understood very well that Luca is really told from the perspective of a child learning about this world and the possibilities of growing up,” Abadilla told me.
Among the brightly colored towns and character designs that the animation team brought to life, I was interested in one scene in particular. True to my culinary writing instincts, when Luca and Alberto are still disguised as fully human children, they inhale a green pasta dish called pesto trenette, visibly complete with chunks of potatoes and green beans. Trenette al pesto comes from the Liguria region and – according to Abadilla – was included to pay more homage to the regional cultures of Italy.
“As designers and artists, it’s part of our job to study, research and learn about the dish – and do our best to convey it to the screen – so that when people who are very familiar and raised with this dish see it on screen, they can have that feeling that they know so well, ”said Abadilla. “And even for people who aren’t familiar, we want to make their mouths water and really just capture the essence of this very iconic Ligurian dish.”
Trenette al pesto is made from trenette pasta, a type of noodle widely available in Italy. Here in the United States, where the trenette is not as easy to locate, it is often replaced with noodles such as linguine or spaghetti. Chopped green beans and potatoes add weight to the dish, while the rich, hand-made pesto provides the fragrant, crunchy sauce that defines the meal.
Trenette with pesto (Photo courtesy of Kayla Stewart)
Abadilla, who was responsible for designing the shading in the scene, took her artistic responsibilities to heart and made the pasta at home.
“It was my responsibility to do the research and convey the artistic direction of how the pasta looked and how we would see it on screen,” said Abadilla. “The fun part of this mission was the research itself. I had grown my own pesto in the backyard, and it was specifically the Genoese basil. When it was time to pick it, I had it. made – and I ground it by hand. It took a lot of patience – I had never made pesto until then – and it was truly a delicious learning experience. “
Trenette al pesto is a fairly simple dish to make. I really enjoyed making the pesto the old fashioned way with a marble mortar and pestle (pretend to hammer Ercole Visconti’s face in the mortar!). If you don’t have one, a food processor works just as well. I found trenette online, but if it runs out you can easily use a similar noodle like linguine or other long pasta of your choice.
For the full recipe, who better than Giulia herself to bring this delicious dish straight to your table? Here are his step-by-step instructions:
(Courtesy Disney / Pixar)
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