Pixar’s Luca still reads like a queer romance — even its story lead thinks so

Fans of Pixar’s Luca — specifically those who ship the titular young sea monster and his best friend Alberto — are rejoicing on social media, announcing that “Luberto” (as the ship has been dubbed) has been declared canon. This conversation sparked when McKenna Harris, story artist on Luca and director of the companion short Ciao Alberto, shared a sequence of cute (and unofficial) art of Luca and Alberto in an Instagram story, ending with a picture of the two kissing beneath an umbrella.

“I had a whole sequence in mind of Luca and Alberto reuniting for four summers in a row culminating in a kiss,” Harris wrote.

A sketch of Luca and Alberto kissing under an umbrella with text that says “I had a whole sequence in mind of Luca and Alberto reuniting for four summers in a row culminating in a kiss” Image: McKenna Harris via Instagram

Just to clarify, Pixar has not actually confirmed that Luca and Alberto are a couple. Some people on social media are calling Harris the director of Luca, but Harris only directed the accompanying short. These images are unofficial, and even if Harris is more intimately acquainted with the characters than a typical fan artist, director Enrico Casarosa has not weighed in. Still, the fact that someone who worked on the movie also interpreted the relationship as romantic is validating to fans.

The movie’s first trailer sparked a lot of talk about the relationship between the two boys, especially since the Italian Riviera setting reminded some viewers of Luca Guadagnino’s beloved queer romance Call Me By Your Name. But when asked about the lead characters’ relationship ahead of the movie’s release, Casarosa denied they had any romantic feelings for each other, insisting that he wanted to focus on their friendship.

“I was really keen to talk about a friendship before girlfriends and boyfriends come in to complicate things,” he told Polygon in an interview ahead of the movie’s release.

Still, the queer themes in Luca are undeniable. Even though it isn’t explicitly a love story, Luca contains many parallels to the LGBTQ experience, particularly when it comes to the way Luca hides his identity from others and finds community outside of his judgmental family. Fans latched onto the movie’s found-family themes and strong friendships. Coupled with the movie’s recognizable queer themes, that sparked shipping interest — especially considering how scarce relationships like these are on the big screen.

Since Luca’s release in 2021, there have been a couple of more overt queer relationships depicted in Disney and Pixar theatrical animation, though they’re usually kept to the side of the story. Luca and Alberto’s relationship isn’t canonical, but just as with so many past Disney characters and relationships that feel queer-coded, it’s taken on new meaning for some fans. The whole dang movie is about these boys’ close, affectionate, emotional friendship, and that’s more fulfilling than the brief side couples in other Disney and Pixar movies. Now that someone on the inside seems to think so, too, fans have a reason to celebrate and revisit the movie with this new insight.