Spot the poster! La Strada, An Affair to Remember, Creature from the Black Lagoon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Roman Holiday in the film Luca.

Spot the poster! La Strada, An Affair to Remember, Creature from the Black Lagoon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Roman Holiday in the film Luca.

July 20, 2021

Although Pixar’s twenty-fourth feature film, Luca, is much too young to feature on our vintage cinema website, classic movie fans will be able to have fun finding their favourite posters camouflaged in the film’s settings. I found five, who can beat that? What better place to revive these cinematic masterpieces of the 1950s than in a colourful little port on the Italian coast, bustling with gossiping old ladies, industrious fishermen and noisy kids?  

We’ve already got used to seeing Mickey Mouse heads scattered throughout Pixar's work. Now let's see if you have paid attention to these other well-hidden details: 

  1. What is special about the underpants worn by the chef in Ratatouille?  
  2. Who is swimming tranquilly in the credits of the film Finding Nemo
  3. Which truck is clearly visible among the cars in Cars
  4. And for extra points: name three films where these little packets of Chinese noodles pop up.

No, you weren’t seeing things – and you can check your answers at the bottom of the page. 

The director of Luca doesn’t deviate from this playful tradition, punctuating his film with more or less hidden allusions. He has fun with the names of places and characters that are anything but accidental. Starting with his own name, Enrico Casarosa (literally "pink house"), which echoes the name of small port on the Italian Riviera, Portorosso (or "red port") where the story was dreamed up. The intrepid Giulia, a close friend of Luca Paguro and Alfredo Scorfano (whose names mean "hermit crab” and “scorpion fish” respectively), is not nicknamed Giulietta for nothing: it is the first name of Fellini's favourite actress, Giulietta Masina, the heroine of La Strada (and whose name, Gelsomina, is engraved on the fishermen's boat). Her father is called Marcovaldo, like the eponymous hero of Italo Calvino's novel, and Machiavelli, her treacherous and devious little cat, lives up to his name! Mastroianni (whose daughter Chiara dubs Luca's mother in the French version) appears in black and white on a Vespa’s wing mirror. A whole host of references that celebrate Italian literature and cinema. 

Casarosa grew up in Genoa and his film plunges us into the nostalgia of an idealized Italy of ice cream, hot, sunny summers, Vespas – and little neighbourhood cinemas! He confided in an interview that, by setting the film in the 1950s, he wanted to "pay tribute to the golden age of Italian cinema". It is not surprising, then, that he has surreptitiously slipped in a few fabulous posters (Italian and American) from that period.

The poster for Fellini's La Strada (or at least, its faithful reproduction) is the first to jump out at us, plastered on a decrepit ochre wall. And yes, the tiny village of Portorosso can boast of having a cinema! Poor Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) still has the strength to smile, despite her clown nose and "artichoke head" (to quote the Fool when he says to her: "You’ve got a funny face, you know. Are you really a woman? You look like an artichoke.” Not the most romantic declaration of love...). We imagine her life of misery with circus strongman (Antony Quinn, on her right) who mistreats and humiliates her. This dreamlike and poetic film, populated by simple people, fits perfectly into the working-class little square where children run around barefoot and play football. 

The poster for An Affair to Remember gives the Pixar film a romantic feel, foreshadowing the romance between Luca and Giulia/Giulietta. The director blurs the lines by reinventing the title (which becomes Un'Estate da Ricordare, "a memorable summer") in what looks like a bid to immortalize the summers of his childhood. But the scene featuring the legendary kiss between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr doesn't fool us. While it is considered one of the most remarkable American love films, it is all the more romantic because the womanizer is of Italian origin.

There is a change of mood with the appearance of the greenish, horror-drenched monster from the American film Creature from the Black Lagoon by Jack Arnold (with the actors' names changed and renamed Attaco del Monstro Marino). However, Luca's father and mother aren’t the least bit afraid of the creature and instead feel there’s a family resemblance – since they are monsters too! For even if I’m addressing adult film buffs here, Luca is also (and above all?) a children's film that tells the story of cute aquatic monsters living hidden off Portorosso. Once on land, they take on human appearance to escape persecution. Luca's parents have come to find their son. They think they can unmask him by throwing buckets of water over the children (the water will turn his skin into scales so he looks like a monster again). 

In the film Luca, the young competitors in the triathlon organised to win the Vespa are too busy devouring their pasta dish (one of the events) to notice Richard Fleischer's 20,000 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea poster over their heads. Produced by Walt Disney, it features another Nemo, not the friendly clownfish but the shady captain of the mysterious submarine seen here rising to the surface. 

I’ll end this treasure hunt on firm ground: in Rome, the true city of lovers. The iconic Vespa is featured on the poster for William Willer's Roman Holiday, whisking Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn off on an unforgettably romantic ride. In Pixar, she is the driver – who said Italians were macho? 

It's never a bad idea to shake up our assumptions, which makes it particularly refreshing to see these "old" posters on new walls. So a word of advice: don’t wait, go and see Luca and adopt one! 

  1. The chef wears Incredibles underpants.
  2. It’s Bob, from Monsters Inc.
  3. The Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story.
Ratatouille (in the chef's fridge), Monsters Inc. (where they are used as a hiding place) and Toy Story 2 (in the boot of a pizza van).