Studio Ghibli’s back with a co-produced silent film

A creative partnership with Wild Bunch and London-based animator Michael Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle will premiere at Cannes this week

Studio Ghibli, the creators of animated cultural pillars such as Spirited Away, Ponyo and Princess Mononoke are back, this time with their first co-production, The Red Turtle.

It’s an 80-minute, full-length feature that tells the tale of a sailor stranded on an uninhabited tropical island, grappling with the prospect of an eternal life of solititude with only crabs and fish for company. He tries in vain to escape, before a mysterious woman turns up out of the sea, along with a giant red turtle. It’s the animating house’s first foray into co-production, as they partner with Wild Bunch and London-based animator Michael Dudok de Wit for the film. The Japanese/French collaboration also has next to no dialogue, letting Dudok de Wit's sensitive visuals and Isao Takahata's artistic production take the lead.

The Red Turtle, known internationally as La Tortue Rouge, is Dudok de Wit’s feature film debut. He’s famous for his critically acclaimed short Father and Daughter, another silent, solemnly animated film. As Studio Ghibli no longer produce films on their own, it seems, so far, that the pairing's a good fit. The animations veer slightly from what we usually see from the Japanese creatives, but not to the detriment of what looks to be an emotive, elaborately detailed production.

Last year, Wild Bunch's CEO Vincent Maraval hinted at a possible collaboration, when he visited Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli back in 2008.

“Around the time of Ponyo I visited Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki showed me Father and Daughter and said ‘I want you to find (Michaël Dudok de Wit) for me’. I said that would be complicated. He replied, ‘If one day Studio Ghibli decides to produce an animator from outside the studio, it will be him’.”

Earlier in the year, it was revealed that Ghibli’s When Marnie Was There, featuring the voices of Dazed cover star Kiernan Shipka alongside Hailee Steinfeld and Kathy Bates, would finally hit UK screens this June.

The Red Turtle will debut at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18.