Stories nowadays are complicated—and I mean that quite literally.
If you think of the Disney movies of old, the ones I grew up with as a 90’s kid, they’re all painfully straightforward. Ariel wants to become human, she makes a deal with a sea witch, she and Eric fall in love, said sea witch pops back up to get her revenge, and then everyone (except Ursula) lives happily ever after. Or consider Beauty and the Beast: Belle wants more than her provincial life, she finds a creepy castle where her father is trapped, she agrees to take his place, she and the Beast fall in love, Gaston shows up to try to murder everyone, and then everyone (except Gaston) lives happily ever after.
These stories are no-brainers. They follow The Hero’s Journey to a T, and once you’ve seen the first five minutes, you can generally predict the outcome of the whole movie. And yet, we still love them. Their themes are so inherently human and the creativity of the different settings and characters captivates us. It’s just as I said in my fiction guidebook, The 10 Lost Elements of Storytelling: the plot is not the most important part of a story.
Yet many movies now—yes, even Disney movies—try to be more complicated and diverge from this original model. There are shocking plot twists, unhappy endings, and villains who aren’t so clear cut as “good” or “bad.” None of these things is inherently bad, but sometimes, all of these complicated plot points just get tiresome and we long for the old days of simple stories that were just as meaningful as the more “complex” ones.
I didn’t realise that I felt this longing until I saw Luca. When it came out, I heard good things about it, but I was sceptical, too. Many of Disney’s recent animated films haven’t impressed me much, if I’m being honest. The plots may look more complex, but ironically, the stories often lack the depth of character that the older movies have.
So when I sat down to watch Luca, a tale about sea monsters on the Italian Riviera, I was cautiously optimistic. However, by the end, I found myself with a tear in my eye (it’s a Pixar movie, I expected it) and a smile on my face. I felt a kind of pure joy as the credits rolled. I took a deep breath and thought, Now that’s a Disney movie. I didn’t realise until that moment that it was something I’d been missing for a long time.
And why is that?
You probably already guessed this one, but the main thing that stands out about Luca is its simplicity. The plot is very straightforward, but the story is entirely entertaining, unique, and creative.
I firmly believe that you don’t need to have a complex plot to have a good story. If you look at most plots, when you boil them down, they’re pretty much the same. All of the other things supporting the plot are what actually make the story!
In addition to the simple plot, the message of the story is simple as well, but effective, and something we need to be constantly reminded of. The theme of the story is all about seeing past outward differences and loving people for who they are as well as just being a good friend.
Meant for Kids
Have you noticed that a lot of “kid’s movies” nowadays are really not for kids? They’re full of language, scary imagery, and storylines too complex for kids to really understand. Disney has been catering to its older audience recently with these kinds of movies, but Luca is an exception. It’s a very lighthearted movie, and while it does contain some sadder/more realistic themes, it’s not too complicated or dark for kids. And, as an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed it as well!
This is a given, especially when it comes to Pixar, but it never fails to astound me how creative they get with their ideas. The basic story of Luca is about sea monsters living in the ocean who change into humans once they’re out of the water. The idea itself is wonderful, but then add it to the traditional story of a person who wants more than their dreary, everyday life, and you’ve got a good story on your hands.
What a gorgeous setting! Not only is the sea monster story based on Italian folklore, but the scenery in the movie is stunning, brought to life by incredible animation. The setting adds so much to the story, from the backdrop of the ocean to the Italian exclamations everyone utters. The setting is not just somewhere for the story to take place; it’s an integral part of the story itself.
So it just goes to show you that a complicated plot isn’t everything. You can have the most simple plot in the world, but if it’s supported by solid themes and characters, it can be a masterpiece. To me, this is really what a Disney movie is, and it’s the reason why Luca has made such an impression on me. It’s a movie I’ll be coming back to watch time and time again.