How Jacob Tremblay Was Cast as a Sea Monster in Pixar's 'Luca' (Exclusive)

Jacob Tremblay, Luca
Disney / Pixar

'It's pretty weird to see this cute little sea monster speak your words,' the actor tells ET.

By Jacob Tremblay's own estimation, there's likely no bigger fan of Lightning McQueen than himself. "I had all the Lightning McQueen merchandise. I was all over Lightning McQueen. He was my guy. I even had this Lightning McQueen Power Wheel thing that I would just drive up and down the street," he tells ET of the candy-colored, 750 horse-powered star of Pixar's Cars.

Now, Tremblay is the star of his very own Pixar movie, Luca. "And why I'm super excited about this is because I can't wait for boys and girls to have merchandise of these characters," he says. In the coming-of-age adventure, Tremblay voices 13-year-old Luca, a shy but curious boy experiencing a life-changing summer on the Italian Riviera -- and hiding the secret that he is actually a sea monster from another world just below the water's surface.

"When we met Jacob, he immediately struck me as so earnest, a complete professional, but just innocent and playful," director Enrico Casarosa explains. "He is a true kid. I think he lives in this world that is probably asking him to grow up really fast, but he's not. He struck me as the kid that wants to stay a kid a little more. That was important."

That much is evident in Tremblay's excitement recalling the time he spent at Pixar recording for Luca. "I got a tour around the studio, and people have their offices decorated," he remembers. "One office was decorated like a crashed plane site, and another one was a temple straight out of Indiana Jones. It's really cool how they decorate the place, because it really helps you bring out your creativity." (Co-star Jack Dylan Grazer would later record from his home due to the pandemic, but Tremblay reached out via Instagram DMs to celebrate playing animated best friends.)

On Thursday, Disney released the movie's first trailer, giving audiences a glimpse at Tremblay in all his sea monster glory. "It's pretty weird to see this cute little sea monster speak your words," he ponders. In Luca's human version, though, the actor sees some resemblance. "We have very, very similar features. He's got more curly hair than me, but I think we look very similar."

When Luca opens this summer, its 14-year-old star hopes it will serve as a fantastical escape from our all-too-real world. "Things have been pretty rough and especially for a kid, I really miss my friends," he says. "I'm hoping that people will be able to see this and remember all the good times they had with their friends and that this will soon be over and we'll all be able to meet up and just do a lot of fun stuff."

Its release will also usher in a wave of that Disney-minted merch he's so been looking forward to. While the rest of us will have to content ourselves to a Luca Funko Pop!, or what have you, its star has grand ambitious for the swag he'd like to see.

"A Vespa," he says. "I know this isn't really Luca merch, but after watching the movie, you really, really, really want a Vespa to tour around Italy." He has never ridden one himself, but, "They just seem like so much fun."

Hopefully someone at Disney sees this, I tell him, and sends you a Luca-branded scooter.

"Yeah, totally. Hook me up with a Vespa!" he exclaims.

And if not a Vespa, Tremblay is still happy to be in good with the Mouse House. Now that he's got a Pixar film under his belt, he's sticking with Disney for the live-action Little Mermaid. (He's the Flounder to Halle Bailey's Ariel.) After that, maybe his dream of starring in a Star Wars project or Marvel movie will come true. "I've been doing all I can, man. They're pretty strict over there, but I'll get to them eventually," he says. "I think I'll squeeze myself into one of those movies."