The Red Turtle (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 26, 2017 by  

“The Red Turtle” was an ambitious collaboration, the first for Studio Ghibli with a company and director overseas.  Filmmaker Michael Dudok de With and co-writer Pascale Ferran have truly created a film that is magical and captivating.  I really love this film and I can’t highly recommend it enough.  “The Red Turtle” is magnificent!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Studio Ghibli. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Red Turtle


DURATION: 81 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Thematic Elements and Peril)

RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017

Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit

Story by Michael Dudok de Wit

Screenplay by Pascale Ferran and Michael Dudok de Wit

Producer: Pascal Caucheteux, Vincent Maraval, Gregoire Soriat, Toshio Suzuki

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Leon Perahia, Olivier Pere

Artistic Producer/Producer: Isao Takahata

Equity Provider: Serge Hayat

Line Producer: Christophe Jankovic

Music by Laurent Perez Del Mar

Edited by Celine Kalepikis

Featuring the Voices of:

Emmanuel Garijo as The Father

Tom Hudson as the Son (young adult)

Baptiste Goy as The Son (child)

Axel Devillers as The Baby (voice)

Barbara Beretta as The Mother (voice)

Marking the much-anticipated return of Studio Ghibli, this masterfully animated fantasy film tells the story of a man shipwrecked at sea who 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.

Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit had worked on numerous animated shorts.  From “The Monk and the Fish”, “Father and Daughter” and “The Aroma of Tea”.

The touching 2000 animated short “Father and Daughter” made an impression on legendary Japanese animation filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki with the intent for Studio Ghibli to co-produce a film with Wild Bunch but with Michael Dudok de Wit to be part of the project.

Wild Bunch met with Dudok de Wit and it didn’t take long for him to say yes, as he is a huge fan of Studio Ghibli animated films.  And together with writer Pascale Ferran, she and Dudok de Wit would create “The Red Turtle”.

Studio Ghibli giving Dudok de Wit input but for the most part, giving him the creative freedom for this animated project.

Making its premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the film would receive applause and eventually critical acclaim.

The film would be nominated for “Best Animated Feature” for the Academy Awards and now “The Red Turtle” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“The Red Turtle” is a film that has no dialogue but yet manages to captivate one’s attention with wonderful storytelling through actions of the characters and their surrounding environment.

The film begins with a man caught in a storm in the ocean and wakes up on a deserted island.

The man tries to leave the island by making a raft made of bamboo but unfortunately, his raft is destroyed when it hits an animal in the ocean.

The man tries to leave again with another raft that he had built, but once again, something in the ocean has prevented him from leaving.

When the man tries for a third time to leave the island with the raft, once again his attempts are foiled but this time, the man finds out that what is preventing him from leaving and it is a red turtle.

When the man spots the red turtle walking inland, the man gets his revenge by hitting the turtle on the head, turning the turtle on its back and jumping on him.

As the man tries to leave the island again with a raft, he feels guilty about what he had done to the turtle and catches a fish to feed it.  But it’s too late, the red turtle had died and the man is racked with guilt for what he had done.

Overnight, while sleeping with the dead turtle, he wakes up when he hears the turtles shell crack open through the center.  When the man looks out to the ocean and turns his head back to the turtle, to his shock and surprise, the turtle is gone and a woman is inside the shell and she is alive.

And when the man tries to take care of the woman and try to revive her, what will happen on the deserted island?


“The Red Turtle” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). While the film is not a Studio Ghibli film in terms of animation style, the film features simple but yet well-drawn characters (which includes wonderful animated movements such as people running, swimming, etc.) and beautifully drawn environments, may it be the bamboo forests, water reflections, lighting effects, reflections on water, or even ocean water moving towards the shore, the film looks great.   There is no banding issues or artifacts.  Daylight animated scenes are vibrant and overall picture quality is great.


As for the lossless audio, “The Red Turtle” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Englsh Audio Description 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

While there is no dialogue throughout the film, there is great use of ambiance of life living in a deserted island and a wonderful musical score by Laurent Perez Del Mar.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Portuguese and Spanish.


“The Red Turtle” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director and co-writer Michael Dudok De Wit.
  • The Birth of the Red Turtle – (56:34) A featurette on the birth and making of “The Red Turtle”.
  • The Secrets of the Red Turtle – (17:44) Featuring director/co-writer Michael Dudok de Wit showing the secrets to sketching the film and tracing for setting up a frame and more.
  • The Red Turtle at AFI Fest Q&A – (20:44) Featuring a Q&A with director/co-writer Michael Dudok de Wit.
  • Theatrical Trailer

I have to admit that I was a little standoffish about a collaboration of Studio Ghibli with another company and director outside of Japan.

Having grown up with Studio Ghibli films, especially with Hayao Miyazaki films, there is part of you that will never forget classics such as “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, to name a few.

Films that go beyond wonderful animation but stories that touch your soul.  Symbolization through actions that mirror the world, messages in a film that make you think twice and so much included in a film that you discover new things each time you view them.

That is the power of a Studio Ghibli film.  But when I read that Hayao Miyazaki was the person that wanted director Michael Dudok de Wit to be involved in a collaboration project, you can’t just say “why?”.  You have to put your trust that Studio Ghibli wanted Dudok de Wit for a reason.

I personally have not see any of Michael Dudok de Wit’s films, so I didn’t know what to expect with “The Red Turtle”.

When I started to watch the film, I noticed how different it was from the Japanese film productions of Studio Ghibli, but Wild Bunch and Dudok de Wit’s storytelling are strong, the symbolism is strong but most importantly, like Studio Ghibli films before it, this film left me with an emotional impact.  I discovered new things each time I have watched the film (which have been multiple times already).

While character designs may seem simple, the movements and the actions of the characters are what capture your attention.  The environments compliment the characters with reflections to water visual effects but it’s the humanity of the film that you are captivated from beginning to end.

A man who is stuck in a deserted island, feeling isolated, feeling guilty for killing an animal and to see it transform to a beautiful woman.  And where marriage, we know of the words “‘Til Death Do Us Part”, this film is about love between a couple, a love between a family, the joys of growing with your family but also the heartbreak of enduring near tragedy and of course, the process of life of growing old the one you love.

This is a magical love story that needs no words to tell the story.  It’s simple yet complex and it’s a Studio Ghibli, that may be visually different but yet the storyline captures your attention.

I absolutely love this film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant, the lossless soundtrack is primarily outdoor ambiance and ocean sounds but the musical soundtrack by Laurent Perez Del Mar is emotionally moving.  Also, there are numerous, lengthy special features that admirers of the film will enjoy watching or listening to.

Overall, “The Red Turtle” was an ambitious collaboration, the first for Studio Ghibli with a company and director overseas.  Filmmaker Michael Dudok de With and co-writer Pascale Ferran have truly created a film that is magical and captivating.  I really love this film and I can’t highly recommend it enough.  “The Red Turtle” is magnificent!

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