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The Red Turtle, an ode to traditional animation


- Michael Dudok de Wit presented his work in progress at Annecy and demonstrated the huge challenges that he has had to face so far in directing and producing the title

The Red Turtle, an ode to traditional animation
The Red Turtle by Michael Dudok de Wit

The Work-in-Progress presentations at the Annecy Film Festival drew to a close with a standing ovation for the movie The Red Turtle [+see also:
film review
film profile
, the feature debut by Michael Dudok de Wit (who won an Oscar for the short film Father and Daughter in 2001). The highly anticipated film, which is the first foreign co-production by the Ghibli Studios, is being made using "traditional" animation.

The theatre – which was packed to the rafters – was able to take in a good number of model sheets, spanning different stages of production, as well as some initial animations. A large proportion of the drawings were done on paper using smudged charcoal and watercolours; then, once they had been scanned in, they were manipulated using Photoshop. While paper is more intuitive, the explosive international outreach of the production forced the director to get to work on a graphic display – which was "enjoyable in the end", he admits. After all this time, the result has really hit the nail on the head, owing to the ever-meticulous attention paid to colours and shading.

In these life portraits that tell the story of a man stranded on an island in the Seychelles, only the red turtle itself has been modelled in 3D, "but a lot of people won’t even see it", said the director with a smile. Michael Dudok de Wit places a great deal of importance on simple design that is not too realistic, but not too cartoon-like. "The eyes were the most difficult thing to animate because we chose to make little dots, Tintin-style," he asserted.

As it happens, there is a certain "pointillism" inherent in the Dutch illustrator’s body of work. This has made the development and production in progress rather difficult at times… "We have a brand-new stage in the pipeline, which is called devalidation," remarked Christophe Jankovic, the line producer (Prima Linea).

A co-production between Arte France, Why Not Productions, Prima Linea, Wild Bunch and the Ghibli Studios, the film, which is soon to enter the editing phase, should be ready by spring 2016.

(Translated from French)

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