There's usually at least one non-studio animated movie that emerges each year to stand against Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks. There's a good chance this year's dark horse Oscar contender will be The Red Turtle, an international co-production from Studio Ghibli that already won a Special Jury Prize at Cannes. Directed by Oscar-winning Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, the film features no dialogue in its tale of a man stranded on a deserted island.
This is a very different kind of production from the renowned Studio Ghibli as its their first off-Japan effort, working with French-Belgian studio Wild Bunch. The animation style resembles some of Ghibli's more grounded, humanistic efforts; deceptively simple yet extraordinarily detailed. The titular red turtle doesn't chit-chat with the shipwrecked sailor. He actually seems to be a problem for the man to overcome, but as this is an allegory for the trials we face during life it's possible the turtle is more of a metaphor than anything else.
We'll find out more when The Red Turtle opens January 20th 2017. It will also play at Fantastic Fest which begins today. Chances are it will get an Oscar qualifying run at some point, meaning Kubo and the Two Strings may face some stiff competition as the "sleeper" contender.