On the Importance of Animated Films

Animation opens up new possibilities, new realities, new worlds. Sometimes, it may even be closer to real life than it may appear. It distorts, reinterprets, recreates. And it is precisely those capabilities that give it it’s strength as a narrative, emotion driven medium.

Studio Ghibli was founded in Tokyo in 1985. One after the other, its motion pictures delighted audiences the world over. Five Academy Awards nominations and one win, a Golden Bear at a Berlinale, four Japanese Academy Prizes for Animation of the Year and many Animage Anime Grand Prix awards. Yet, in 2014 Studio Ghibli announced a temporary hiatus from film production.

The Red Turtle is a 2016 French/Belgian/Japanese animated film directed by Michaël Dudok de Wit. It tells the story of a man stranded on a deserted island and his struggles to get back home, wherever that may be (for it is not so much about going somewhere as it is about not staying there). It bears Studio Ghibli’s name, a seal of approval and sign of a comeback to the animation world. It is also de Wit’s feature film directorial debut. And it doesn’t contain a single line of dialogue throughout its 80 minutes runtime.

When Vincent Maraval, head of Wild Bunch, visited Studio Ghibli’s headquarters in 2008, he was presented by Hayao Miyazaki with a short film and the task of finding it’s director. Eventually, Maraval met de Wit in London and invited him to lead the project. Years later, backed by Studio Ghibli, Michaël Dudok de Wit set out to direct a mature, intelligent, uncompromising and relentless film.

And maybe somewhere along those lines lies the future of animation. Movies with the power to marvel and astonish, to move audiences to the very limits of their emotions. It’s not like children can’t enjoy The Red Turtle, but adults most certainly will.