The beginning of a new era for Studio Ghibli

by Jesse Goodwin, Staff Writer

It’s an interesting time for fans of Studio Ghibli, the Japanese studio behind such animated classics as Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away.

On September 17, the studio released its first film in over two years, The Red Turtle, which is a significant departure from its previous works.

This seems apt three years after the final output of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, its two best-known directors, and more than two years after it closed its film production arm.

Unlike most Ghibli films, which depict children interacting with a vast, open environment, The Red Turtle is decidedly quieter and smaller in scale.

It follows a man alone on a desert island, where he encounters a red turtle that prevents him from leaving, and does not contain any dialogue.

The film is also notable for being Ghibli’s first international co-production; it was directed by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit and animated in France and Belgium by several studios.

De Wit received an Academy Award for his animated short Father and Daughter in 2001, bringing him to the attention of Ghibli.

He frequently sought feedback from the studio throughout the production of The Red Turtle, he explained in an interview with The Film Stage, and was surprised to find that it did not interfere with his vision for the film.

“Their studio head said, ‘In our studio, the director decides. It’s always been this way.’”

The Red Turtle was originally intended to contain dialogue.

The idea to make the film dialogue-free was Studio Ghibli’s: “We’ve been thinking about the list of words that are supposed to be spoken in the film and we think you should drop the dialogue entirely,” the studio told de Wit.

From there, he was allowed to develop the story based on their suggestions.

Perhaps due to the studio’s break from tradition, the film has failed to make it to the top ten at the Japanese box office.

However, it was admired by Western audiences when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Those audiences were most impressed by de Wit’s ability to convey the film’s story without dialogue.

More recently, the studio signed a deal with Amazon to stream its children’s television series, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, through Amazon Prime.

A Western localization of the series will be available in the US, UK, Germany, Austria, and Japan.

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro, Ronia is an adaptation of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s book Ronia. (The book is known as Ronia in Japan, hence the series’ title.)

This new version of the show is dubbed in English and will feature narration by Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame.

Adapted closely from its source material, it follows the coming-of-age of a young girl, the only child of the leader of a band of thieves, in a woodland full of mystical creatures.

After various adventures there, she eventually befriends a young boy, who happens to be the only child of the leader of a rival band of thieves.

Like The Red Turtle, Ronja is not a traditional Ghibli work.

The series began airing in Japan in 2014, shortly after the studio announced that it was closing down film production.

It is the studio’s first television series and was animated by Polygon Pictures, a studio that specializes in computer-generated animation.

Although its rounded character designs and detailed background artwork are typical of Ghibli productions, the animation is not.

It remains to be seen which other animation projects Ghibli will produce after ceasing its production of animated films, but The Red Turtle and Ronia hint at a promising future for the studio.

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