Even with their most fantastical stories, Pixar films are often rooted in personal, relatable and very human experiences ripped straight from the heads and hearts of its filmmakers. Take Inside Out, which Pete Docter drew from the changing emotions of his own daughter, or last year’s Onward, which took specific moments and memories from the life of director Dan Scanlon before wrapping them in elves and D&D references. The legendary animation studio’s next movie, Luca, is another mix of fact and folklore – the first feature from director Enrico Casarosa, who previously helmed short La Luna.

Set on the coast of Italy in the dazzling summer days, its central character, Luca, and his friend Alberto are actually sea creatures who appear human on dry land, but take on a fishier form underwater. In a Little Mermaid riff, the pair get to experience life up where they walk, run, and stay all day in the sun – befriending a human girl along the way. Here’s a world-exclusive first look at the film, as seen in the new issue of Empire – on sale Thursday 21 January, and available to pre-order online now.

For all that it’s about magical sea creatures, the heart of Luca goes right back to Casarosa’s childhood. “I was born in Genoa, and my summers were spent on beaches,” he tells Empire. “I met my best friend when I was 11. I was really shy and I found this troublemaker of a kid who had a completely different life. I wanted to make a movie about those kinds of friendships that help you grow up.” According to the director, the result is a Pixar film that pays homage to Fellini and other classic Italian filmmakers, with a dash of Miyazaki in the mix too. It sounds like the cinematic summer blast we’ll all be desperate for when winter finally ends.

Read Empire’s full Luca story in the Greatest Cinema Moments Ever issue, on sale Thursday 21 January, and available to pre-order here. Luca is expected to arrive in UK cinemas from 18 June.