Oscars: Indies 'My Life as a Zucchini,' 'The Red Turtle' Make the Cut in a Crowded Animated Feature Race

Life as a Zucchini and The Red Turtle_Split - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival; Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

In a crowded animated feature field, this year's Oscar nominations went to Disney’s Zootopia and Moana, Laika/Focus’ Kubo and the Two Strings and a pair of well-received indies — My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de Courgette) and The Red Turtle — eliminating some big studio contenders, including Pixar’s Finding Dory, Illumination’s Sing and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls.

Tuesday morning’s nominations underscore the strength of this season’s indie titles. In fact, My Life as a Zucchini is indie distributor GKIDS' ninth best animated feature Oscar nomination since 2008 — second in number only to Disney/Pixar.

The French-Swiss co-production, made for just $8 million, tells the story of a boy who moves to a foster home after the sudden death of his mother and finds a new life. The stop-motion adaptation of Autobiography of a Courgette by Gilles Paris is the debut feature from Swiss director Claude Barras, who describes the film as an "homage to neglected and mistreated children who do the best they can to survive and live with their wounds."

The Red Turtle, a Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli presentation released by Sony Pictures Classics, uses the story of a man shipwrecked on a tropical island inhabited by crabs and birds — and turtles — to recount the milestones in the life of a human being.

Written and directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, the pic was made at Prima Linea Productions in Paris and Angoulême. The helmer reported that the filmmakers used a digital pen technique that allows one to draw on a tablet that is also a monitor, while the raft and turtles were digitally animated.