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Feature


A man shipwrecked at sea becomes stranded on a beautiful, but desolate island. He learns to live in isolation, seemingly tormented in his efforts to escape the island by a giant red turtle. Miraculously, he soon comes upon a young woman, also lost at sea, and they create a family together. (From Sony’s official synopsis)

 Ted Turtle, The
Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle gained early interest from the animation industry as the first ever Studio Ghibli produced film to be co-produced with a French/Belgian company (Wild Bunch) and not presented in either the company’s typical anime style or the Japanese language (due to this, it is apparently not considered part of the studio’s canon). This unique film was also the first feature-length production from the Dutch-British animation director, who was otherwise known for award-nominated Dutch and French shorts, like The Monk and the Fish (1994), Father and Daughter (2000), and The Aroma of Tea (2006). In keeping with de Wit’s shorts (and possibly to make the multicultural production/distribution process a bit easier), The Red Turtle is a deceptively simple, dialogue-free tone poem that embraces an arthouse style without ever excluding the typical, mainstream Ghibli audience. It may be too image-driven to appeal to particularly young viewers or those that expect a bit more action and comedy from their animated entertainment (not to say there isn’t any action and comedy in this particular movie), but I’m not sure anyone – old or young – could entirely resist The Red Turtle’s almost primordial call to adventure. And the critters are adorable, especially the curious crabs that follow the protagonist around the beach. Otherwise, the artsy approach to marooned man’s lonely, existential suffering and redemption makes this the type of cartoon that could appeal to audiences that don’t usually enjoy animation.

 Ted Turtle, The

Video


The Red Turtle was animated using a mix of hand-drawn and digital techniques, and is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 video on this Blu-ray release. While the animation is quite clean and simplified, the film does lend itself to a strong transfer, because of the way the animators use space and texture. There are very few close-ups or even medium shots throughout the film and the use of stark, open spaces definitely pushes the HD image in terms of fine, subtle details. The tropical and oceanic environments are positively teeming with patterns, intersecting lines, and intricate doodles that would wreak havoc with a lesser transfer. In addition, the canvas behind the ‘cells’ is loaded with a mesh of grainy texture, apparently created by blending charcoal illustrations and post-production processes. This ‘grain’ doesn’t really move as film grain would and changes based on the surface that coincides with it. The palette is adjusted drastically depending on the mood of a sequence and the time of day. Most nighttime shots are practically black & white, midday sequences feature watercolour-like greens, blues, and yellows, while sunsets appear vivid and warm.

Audio


The Red Turtle is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound. As mentioned above, there is next to zero dialogue (variations on ‘hey’ are uttered throughout, but that’s about it), so there’s no reason to worry about choosing between French, Japanese, or English dub tracks. In place of language is a medley of naturalistic sound effects that fill out the stereo and surround speakers beautifully and consistently. The opening, post-shipwreck sequence is a particularly aggressive and bassy highlight, but, between ocean waves lapping the shore, rain punishing the beach, the wind rustling the trees, and insects chirping in the jungle, there’s rarely a lack of directional movement, immersive sound, or dynamic range. Laurent Perez del Mar’s classical score is sparingly used, usually to set the tone between scenes, but is given free rein during a couple of particularly moving or rousing sequences.

 Ted Turtle, The

Extras


  • Commentary with director Michael Dudok de Wit – This English language track deftly covers the behind-the-scenes story, the technical processes, and the intended meanings of certain scenes. De Wit does a good job keeping the commentary moving and shifting between anecdotes and screen-specific descriptions. The Birth of The Red Turtle (56:36, HD) – De Wit describes the production while walking us through a number of pre-production illustrations, character/object models, reference footage (wildlife and water/cloud movement), storyboards/reels, animation tests, computer tests, and more in this extensive, French-made featurette.
  • The Secrets of The Red Turtle (17:45, HD) – De Wit sketches out a scene in the style of the film to demonstrate his process.
  • AFI Fest Q&A with de Wit (20:47) – The director fields questions after a quick talk with AFI associate programmer Mike Dougherty.
  • Trailer and trailers for other Sony releases


 Ted Turtle, The

Overall


The Red Turtle is a sumptuously developed treat that approaches some heavy emotional concepts with the kind of utter clarity that only great animation can achieve (it is thematically frightening enough that I would recommend that parents with sensitive children heed the PG rating). Beyond any deeper critical analysis (something I am admittedly short on in this review), it’s simply an entertaining and very well-paced movie. Sony’s Blu-ray looks and sounds great and includes info-packed commentary, as well as interviews that cover the bulk of the behind-the-scenes story.

 Ted Turtle, The

 Ted Turtle, The

 Ted Turtle, The
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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