SPOILERS are ahead for Luca streaming on Disney+.

There’s something about Pixar movies that incites such an emotional reaction from its audience just about every time. Many of us will always remember the feelings that came with the ending of Inside Out as it illustrated losing grip of one's childhood wonder through Bing Bong or when Andy gave away Woody and Buzz in Toy Story 3. And the studio’s latest release, Luca has another one of those beautiful Pixar endings. How did they keep pulling this off?

Luca ends on a bittersweet note when Luca and Alberto go separate ways at the end of the summer. After sharing fond memories together in Portorosso, their paths split in two. Luca wants to go to school with Guilia and fulfill his hunger for knowledge, whilst Alberto decides to stay in the town to work alongside Guilia’s dad with fishing duties. It’s a simple end to the sea monster storyline but, somehow, it’s enough to send one reaching for the tissue box as the credits roll. CinemaBlend asked Luca director Enrico Casarosa about the process of finding the perfect ending, here’s what he said:

It took us a few screenings to find [the ending] and it actually came about after a good conversation I had with my best friend. We started talking about how friendships are so good for each other and when they’re so tight, you grow together, you see each other, you give each other confidence, but then because you are doing that, you grow up thanks to them and then very often your paths need to diverge. It’s needed in life and you have different destinies. And that sense of, ‘Ohh there’s something bittersweet here’ that we have these wonderful friendships that often we have to carry them with us and say goodbye. That made us start thinking about this kind of ending.

Luca is inspired by Enrico Casarosa’s own childhood living in the Italian Riviera and his experiences with his best friend (aside from the whole sea monster bit). Casarosa was much like Luca, more afraid and reserved, whilst his friend was daring and bold like Alberto. As the director shared with us, the ending of Luca actually came about when he was talking to his real best friend about the importance of friendship, including the cycle of growing apart. Casarosa expanded on reaching the finale to CinemaBlend (also in the video above):

All of a sudden it felt like we were saying something deeper about friendship. And it was very true to my experience of bittersweet emotion which I’ve experienced so many times. I’ve had to leave my country to chase my dreams and chase animation. So that gave me a real northstar. It was such an interesting emotion that I wanted to capture. And once we [story]boarded it, added Dan Romer’s score and it just started playing and making us feel feelings. We didn’t get it right away, but once we did find it, it gave us a huge sense of confidence that that was something to aim for.

There’s nothing more beautiful than an ending grounded in experience, and that’s likely why Luca’s last moments work so well. The Pixar filmmakers were aiming to capture the specific deep feeling of having to say goodbye to an important friend in order to grow in a way that grabs its audience with unexpected emotion. Much of Luca is so joyful and light that you almost don’t expect it to hit as hard as other Pixar entries like Soul or Wall-E.

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