With its Disney+ release, Pixar’s Luca automatically joins its shared universe. For more than two decades, every movie released by the animation studio has been carefully connected to one or more of its predecessors — and Luca is no different. The movie joins the Pixar shared universe through a series of references and Easter eggs.
Luca is a coming-of-age story about two Italian sea monsters, Luca and Alberto. Luca dreams of life above the surface, but his protective parents won’t let him experience it himself. But when he manages to sneak onto the land, he meets Alberto and discovers a shocking secret — sea monsters transform into humans when they are dry and on land. Armed with this information, Alberto and Luca explore a small seaside town and have the best summer of their lives.
While Luca‘s connection to the shared Pixar universe isn’t overt, it’s still there. Subtle Easter eggs and solid fan theories prove that Luca has a solid place within the shared universe. Let’s take a look at every way the movie belongs.
The Pixar Shared Universe Explained
The Pixar shared universe stems from the popular fan theory by Jon Negroni simply dubbed, the Pixar Theory. While it’s never been confirmed as canon by Pixar, Negroni’s theory has been widely accepted by fans. The setting of Pixar’s canon is spread over millions of years, starting with Good Dinosaur taking place about 65 million years in the past and ending with the Monsters, Inc. franchise, which is set thousands of years in the future. According to Negroni, each movie that chronically falls in between the two chronicles the fall of humanity and the rise of machines and animals.
The Pixar theory is focused on the Toy Story franchise’s Buy n Large, which is a mega-corporation that ends up poisoning the planet with toxic waste. This leads to the near-mass extinction of humans and the exodus of its survivors off the planet. That radiation brings animals and machines to life. But the heart of this theory is Monsters, Inc‘s Boo. According to Negroni, she made it her life’s mission to find Sully after he left her at the end of Monsters, Inc. She remembered the magic of the doors that allowed him to enter her world, so she learned how to harness them in order to travel across space and time to search for him. She spent her entire life learning magic and wrapped up in this mission. By the time she was an old woman, she became the witch from Brave. Negroni initially came out with the Pixar Theory in 2013, but has been able to easily place all movies released since then somewhere into the theory. So upon its release, Luca automatically fit into the shared universe.
Luca’s Pixar Easter Eggs and References
Luca cements itself in the shared Pixar universe through Pixar Easter eggs and references. The most prominent of those stem from the Toy Story franchise. Two items from those movies have appeared in every Pixar movie to date — the Luxo ball and the Pizza Planet truck. Luca is no exception, with each item hidden within the movie. Another common Pixar Easter egg is the number A113, which refers to a classroom number at the California Institute of the Arts, where legendary animators like John Lasseter and Brad Bird studied at. A113 is a little easier to find in Luca than the previous Easter eggs, as it’s printed clearly on the train ticket that Alberto gives to Luca at the end of the movie. Right after receiving the ticket, a train with the number 94608 pulls up to the station. That’s another reference to Pixar as well, as it is the zip code for Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California.
To help cement its place within the larger Pixar universe, Luca makes some notable references to earlier movies. One such sly nod is to 2017’s Coco. As Alberto and Luca journey to the town of Portorosso, the camera catches a boat named Elena, which happens to be the name of the protagonist Miguel’s grandmother. Luca’s references to the Pixar universe may be less overt than other films in the shared universe, but they still matter. The further that the Pixar universe progresses, the harder it will be to make obvious connections between the films. No matter what the reference or Easter egg it is, they simply secure Luca‘s place in the shared universe.
Luca’s Connection to Monsters Inc
While it may not be a concrete or confirmed connection, Luca potentially connects to the larger Pixar universe through its use of sea monsters. The theory starts with the fact that Monsters, Inc establishes that monsters exiled from Monstropolis are sent to live among the humans. There, they tend to become the subject of human mythology — think the Loch Ness monster or the Abominable Snowman. Those exiled monsters, just like each one featured in Monsters Inc are afraid of humans. So they hide in plain sight, which makes it a huge ordeal when they are inevitably spotted by people. This is reminiscent of the sea monsters in Luca. Those creatures are a staple in human mythology, often terrorizing people in old wives’ tales. Luca flips that on its head by making the sea monsters equally afraid of humans. This points to the fact that Luca‘s sea monsters and the exiled monsters in Monsters, Inc may have the same origins.
This connection to the Monster, Inc universe has been strengthened by the release of the TV series based on that franchise: Monsters At Work. In episode 3 of the show, a toy red panda can be seen, serving as an additional reference to the upcoming Turning Red. The inclusion of easter eggs for Turning Red in both Luca and Monsters At Work could be an intentional nod by the studio that the two parts of the universe do indeed have a stronger connection.
How Luca Connects To Turning Red, Pixar’s Next Movie
While Pixar’s movies are always well-stocked with easter eggs to other movies in the franchise that lean into the idea of a shared universe, there are four easter eggs that reliably appear in every single film. Three of these are the previously mentioned Luxo ball, Pizza Planet truck, and A113. However, there is one easter egg that is reliably harder to identify on the first viewing that is always there: an easter egg that ties it to the next upcoming Pixar movie to be produced. This first occurred when A Bug’s Life included a cameo from Woody in its end credits, hinting at Toy Story 2, and has continued since all the way up to Luca being teased in Soul with a poster reading “Visit Portorosso.”
The next movie after Luca will be Turning Red, a movie about a girl called Mei who turns into a giant red panda. The poster for the movie shows a pin on Mei’s lanyard that reads “4 Town.” A scene in Luca shows the protagonist in Giulia’s room and a vinyl record in the background can be seen by the artist “4 Villaggi” in a similar font and color scheme to Mei’s pin, and both iterations have a star symbol after the 4. The hint that this might be a band that are listened to by both Giulia and Mei further develops Luca’s place within the Pixar Theory’s shared universe.
Connections to the shared Pixar universe such as this offer a richer viewing experience for Luca. Searching for Easter eggs is a fun treasure hunt for any Pixar fans. Connecting characters from different movies based on the same themes provides depth to those characters. Ordinarily, monsters are simply just soulless creatures that terrorize human protagonists in a film. But Luca carries on the idea laid down by Pixar decades ago; all creatures deserve empathy because there are two sides to every story. It goes to show that connections to the larger Pixar shared universe don’t have to be as overt as dropping the Pizza Planet truck into every movie. They can be as simple as carrying on a message to its audience.
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