Japan’s most famous anime production house is back in the animation saddle, with a European director holding the reins.

For some time now, there’s been speculation about just what’s to become of Studio Ghibli in the post-Hayao Miyazaki era. The anime production house has seemed more than a little rudderless since the retirement of the legendary director who co-founded the company, with some of its higher-ups even musing that it might be time to just go ahead and shutter the production side of the business.

But animation fans the world over will be happy to know that Ghibli is now at work on a new animated movie, titled The Red Turtle. However, it’s debatable whether or not it should be called anime, since it’s a co-production with Europe’s Wild Bunch, and has a Dutch director and French screenwriter.

Sitting in the director’s chair is Michael Dudok de Wit, who also directed Father and Daughter, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2001. The script is being handled by Pascale Ferran, whose most recent film was 2014’s Bird People.

That’s not to say The Red Turtle’s staff is devoid of famous Japanese creators, though. Isao Takahata, who directed Ghibli’s 2013 The Tale of Princess Kaguya as well as anime classics Grave of the Fireflies and Pom Poko, will serve as artistic producer on the film, which will have visuals produced by Studio Ghibli. The collaboration has been involved enough that de Wit temporarily relocated to Tokyo to be closer to the Ghibli staff, with Takahata personally checking the movie’s storyboards.

This is the first time for Ghibli to produce animation for a foreign-spearheaded project. However, Topcraft, the anime studio at which many of Ghibli’s key early members worked prior to the company’s founding, often lent its talents to overseas clients, with its work showing up in The Last Unicorn as well as the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit and its 1980 follow-up The Return of the King. It’s also worth noting that some of Ghibli’s more recent films, such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Arrietty, and When Marnie Was There are based on stories from non-Japanese writers.

▼ So is Tales from Earthsea, but a lot of people try to forget that movie exists.

Details are still scare regarding The Red Turtle, including what proportion of the final on-screen animation will come from Ghibli and how much will be done by French animators. The single promotional image that’s been released suggests that it definitely features brightly shelled marine life in a setting that may or may not also include shirts and shaving cream. Given the prestigious talent involved, though, it’s definitely something for movie and animation fans to look forward to, and is scheduled for release in Japan next September.

Source: Eiga.com, Cinema Today, h/t Kotaku USA
Insert image: Studio Ghibli