LOS ANGELES, June 16 (UPI) -- The cast of Pixar's new animated movie Luca said the film teaches viewers to overcome their fears through the anxiety of a sea monster mother voiced by Maya Rudolph when her son leaves the ocean.
"One of the most terrifying aspects of having children is knowing that they have to go out into the world," Rudolph said. "It's less about your child than it is about what the dangers of the world are."
Rudolph sympathized with Daniela's overprotective nature. As the mother of four children -- Lucille, Jack, Pearl Minnie and Minnie Ida Anderson -- Rudolph said letting one's children go is a source of great anxiety for parents.
"I think deep down, she knows her son is going to explore," the 48-year-old said. "It's the scariest thing in the world to let your babies run out in the world and explore, even though you know they need to."
Luca discovers he can turn into a human when he meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer).
The two visit the town of Portorosso on the Italian Riviera and enjoy human activities, like eating ice cream cones and having home-cooked meals with their new friend, Giulia (newcomer Emma Berman). However, Luca and Alberto have to hide their true sea monster identity.
"The overarching message in this film is being comfortable in your skin and not dressing the part for anybody but yourself," Jack said.
In Portorosso, Luca, Alberto and Giullia enter the Portorosso Cup, a citywide bicycle race. Luca and Alberto want to use the prize money to buy a Vespa scooter.
Luca still has to overcome his self-doubt, doubts about winning the race and fitting in in Portorosso. Alberto calls that voice of self-doubt Bruno, and encourages Luca to say, "Silencio Bruno."
The 14-year-old Jacob, who has been acting professionally since he was 7, said he relates to Bruno. Jacob said he still pushes through his own self-doubt in each performance.
"In acting, you have to really go 100% on all your performances or else, it's going to fall flat," Jacob said. "For me, using your words to silence your anxiety about certain things, you really need to do that for acting."
Jack, 17, said he could relate to Alberto's willingness to try dangerous things, be it a bicycle race or playing on the shore with Luca.
"I, myself, have always been a really impulsive decision maker," Jack said. "It might end up being a terrible decision, but I'm hoping [it will be] wonderful."
Gaffigan said he identified with his role as Luca's father, too. Even though Lorenzo joins Daniela in Portorosso to search for Luca, Daniela is leading the charge. Gaffigan said he found the negotiation two parents share while raising children accurate compared to his own marriage.
"I'm kind of overwhelmed, hopefully well-intended as a parent," Gaffigan said. "Lorenzo might be distracted, but he's not disinterested."
The voice cast of Luca recorded their dialogue remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jacob said Luca's spirit of exploration will resonate with other kids who have been cooped up at home for over a year.
"I relate to his eagerness to go out and explore, especially right now," Jacob said. "Because of COVID, I feel like we can all really relate to Luca in wanting to go out and ride a Vespa through Italy."
Rudolph said she was concerned she would have to speak in an Italian accent, like some characters in Portorosso, who have flamboyant accents. But the characters who come from the sea speak in the actors' natural dialects.
"I got to just be the essence of mama," Rudolph said. "She's a very serious mom. She's not messing around, and that, to me, just equals love. That protection, that strong discipline is love and wanting to raise her family right."
Luca is 12-year-old Emma's first film. Her previous credits include voicing toys for Leapfrog.
Emma said she is living proof that the message of Luca pays off in real life. Giulia has attempted the Portorosso cup before, but she doesn't let past losses hold her back.
"She just keeps pushing, and for me that relates to auditioning for acting," Emma said. "Don't get a job, keep auditioning, don't get that job, keep auditioning."