‘Luca’ proves Disney’s Pixar wasn’t brave enough to fully commit to their first queer animated film

Luca and Alberto
Luca and Alberto seem to be a little more than friends. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • “Luca” follows two boys who are sea monsters, trying to navigate a town that hates sea monsters.
  • “Luca’s” director said it’s about friendships, but many viewers feel there is a strong gay subtext.
  • While the sea monster allegory will speak to queer people, it’s a missed opportunity for Disney.
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Pixar’s charming new movie “Luca” breezes its way through gorgeous animation and a quaint story paired with a quietly powerful message – one of acceptance that speaks to a lot of queer people.

While the implications of queerness are there, particularly in the friendship between Luca and Alberto, it’s disappointing that Disney’s Pixar wasn’t brave enough to fully commit to their first queer animated tale.

Luca Alberto gay
Luca and Alberto are physically comfortable with one another. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Alberto and Luca’s relationship is laced with gay-subtext

Luca is immediately taken by the free-spirited Alberto when he meets a fellow sea-monster off the coast of Portorosso.

They’re casually physical with one another, sleeping side by side under a star-filled sky, wrapping their arms around each other’s waists, and watching the sunset together. In fact, they spend a lot of the film embracing one another – teasing that their relationship could blossom into something more.

Luca Alberto farewell
The handshake between Luca and Alberto lingers for more than a few seconds. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Their relationship matures further during the ending scene when Alberto chooses to stay behind in Portorosso while Luca gets on a train to leave for school. Their touching farewell handshake lingered a bit.

“You got me off the island, Luca,” Alberto says, suggesting that he might be talking about feeling alone. Even in their animated eyes, you can see the heartbreak. It’s beautiful, tear-inducing stuff.

Alberto Luca Island
Alberto and Luca share a touching farewell during the movie’s climax. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Alberto chases after Luca’s train, and it becomes clear, to this writer at least, that the movie is about that dreamy, youthful first love.

The comparisons to “Call Me By Your Name,” a film where two young men fall in love, are well earned: the Italian sea-side setting, the hazy beauty of the summer scenery, and the tale of two boys experiencing love for the first time.

Yet, despite achingly obvious similarities, “Luca’s” director shut down these comparisons.

Call Me By Your Name pool
‘Call Me By Your Name’ was directed by Luca Guadgnino. Sony Pictures Classics/Warner Bros. Pictures/Memento Films International

The director said ‘Luca’ is about platonic friendships, continuing Disney’s trend of not fully embracing queer stories

Enrico Casarosa told Yahoo Entertainment that “it truly goes without saying that we really willfully went for a pre-pubescent story. This is all about platonic friendships.”

This may seem refreshing to some, to see a Disney movie explore friendships as opposed to a fairy-tale love story, but its a shame that this decision has come when a gay romance could’ve so easily and naturally be explored.

Making Luca and Alberto explicitly gay or queer wouldn’t have felt contrived. It would’ve been a meaningful confirmation of what is already a story rich in gay subtext.

Le Fou Beauty and the Beast
Josh Gad played Le Fou in 2017’s ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Sadly, this continues Disney’s trend of shutting out the LGBTQ community.“Beauty and the Beast” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” both featured blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “gay moments:” a dance between two men and a kiss between two women.

“It was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film,” JJ Abrams told Vanity Fair before “Skywalker’s” release.

But these easily-missed scenes don’t count as representation. They don’t put in any of the time, effort, or thought needed to properly feature LGBTQ stories and characters. What we got instead was forgettable.

Luca Alberto vespa
Luca and Alberto on their make-shift Vespa. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The metaphor is still clear and queer youth will benefit

The sea-monster allegory is plain to see: a group of beings are hated by others simply because they’re not understood. They’re then forced to live in fear of being discovered, pretending to be something they’re not.

Luca eventually outs himself in order to save Alberto, and the two stand defiant in front of the townspeople exposing themselves for who they truly are.

What follows next is touching sequences of the townspeople accepting them, culminating in two elderly women outing themselves as sea monsters too.

Luca two women sea monsters
Two women join Luca and Alberto in coming out as their true selves. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

No longer do they, or any other sea-monster, have to live in fear. They can live as their authentic selves openly and be accepted without fear of persecution.

It was a really nice moment that made me ugly cry.

“Some people, they’ll never accept him,” Luca’s grandma says. “But some will. And he seems to know how to find the good ones.”

Luca grandma and parents
Luca’s grandma and parents in Portorosso. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Luca Alberto cat
Luca, Alberto, Giulia, and Machiavelli the cat. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Luca family acceptance
Luca and his family. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Queer kids will still feel comforted by this story because the scene plays out like an allegory for coming out and being gay, even if Casarosa said it isn’t.

-young_nova (@young_nova88) June 18, 2021

-ClassicMovieGay (@jblikesmovies) June 19, 2021

What would have made it even more powerful, though, is if the movie explicitly embraced the undeniable queer subtext through dialogue or if the boys shared a kiss when Luca leaves Portorosso.

Some will argue that Pixar made the right call to be more ambiguous so that more people can take different things from the movie, but I feel queer audiences have been robbed of a golden opportunity for tangible representation.

Luca Alberto train
Pixar came so close to a perfect movie for LGBTQ audiences. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

As great as “Luca” undeniably is, the film would’ve been the natural fit in this tale of two boy for Disney and Pixar to finally give LGBTQ audiences a story for them, depicting their experiences.

Instead, Disney seems happy to let audiences interpret the movie their own way – (almost) satisfying LGBTQ audiences with a movie that feels gay but actually isn’t, without being brave enough to present an openly queer story.