The Red Turtle Interview with Michael Dudok de Wit: “Loneliness Will Drive You Crazy”

This interview with The Red Turtle director Michael Dudok de Wit was originally published on July, 2016 in the NRC. If you can read Dutch, please head over to to read the interview in its original language. In addition I also highly recommend watching the documentary “Het verlangen van Michael Dudok de Wit“.

‘Loneliness Will Drive You Crazy’

Michael Dudok de Wit’s film ‘The Red Turtle’ for the Japanese animation studio Ghibli was to Cannes’ liking.

The Red Turtle
The Red Turtle by Dutch director Michael Dudok de Wit: “I did not draw along on purpose, I would have slowed down the process.”

July 6, 2016: Why did that enormous red turtle repeatedly destroy the raft that the castaway wanted to use to escape from his tropical island? An island with fresh water, bamboo, fruits and clams, but without any company?

“The man who inspired Robinson Crusoe had suffered greatly. Loneliness will literally drive people crazy,” the 52 year old Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit said on the roof terrace of Club Silencio in Cannes. Just now, his first long animation film The Red Turtle was praised, even welcomed with applause by the film press, and won a special jury award.

Surely he kept a turtle as a little boy? Indeed, he smiled. “A beautiful type of loneliness lurks inside a turtle. She shuffles onto the beach on her own, lays eggs and once again disappears in the sea. God knows where she goes. It’s not a social animal, but the swim movements appear very human-like. I don’t want to be too philosophical about it, it’s more of a feeling. The turtle doesn’t let the man return to civilization, but I believe the nature is also our home. I hope that you as the viewer also experiences the same.”

Anyone who sees The Red Turtle understands why the famous Japanese animation studio Ghibli approached Michael Dudok de Wit to direct their first non-Japanese feature film. A gentle, sensitive man. “He hovers a little above the ground,” a colleague said in a documentary that the VPRO broadcast yesterday evening. Ghibli admired his Oscar-winning short film Father and Daughter, and he admired Ghibli. Particularly the work of the 75 year old maestro Hayao Miyazaki.

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The Red Turtle Director: “It Had to Be an Auteur Film”

I created Story Unlocker with an intention of translating Japanese interviews with Japanese creators, but I want to make an exception for the director of The Red Turtle, Michael Dudok de Wit. This Dutch news article was originally published at on May 11, 2016. The article provides an insight on the role of Studio Ghibli in the production process.

It’s a rare opportunity for me to translate from my native language on this site. This news article is quite short, so please consider it as a “preview” to a translation of a longer interview which will be posted later this month. Of course, if you can read Dutch, please head over to to read the news article in its original language. I also highly recommend watching the documentary “Het verlangen van Michael Dudok de Wit“.

Dutchman debuts in Cannes with an animation film

Michael Dudok de Wit comes to Cannes, which starts tonight, with his animation film ‘The Red Turtle’.

The Red Turtle
In Michael Dudok de Wit’s Japanese-French animation film ‘The Red Turtle’ a stranded man on an uninhabited island attempts to return to civilization.

May 11, 2016: How he started working for the legendary animation studio Ghibli? It all began with a somewhat complimentary letter in 2006, Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit remembers. He shook the hands of maestros Isao Takahata (80) and Hayao Miyazaki (75) once. Now they asked if he wanted to make a feature film with Ghibli. “I asked: why me? Who else did you ask? But they wanted me.”Continue reading