When the Irish animated film “The Secret of Kells” received a surprise Oscar nomination in 2010, GKids, the boutique distribution company that mounted a stealthy but mighty grass roots campaign on its behalf, had been around for only a little over a year.
Back then, the company’s entire operation consisted of two full-time employees and one part-timer. But this year, Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” became GKids’s 13th release in their 15-year history to receive a nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for best animated feature. The hand-drawn movie has a real shot at winning and becoming the first GKids release to do so.
How has a small outfit focused on animation managed to have such an outsized effect in Hollywood?
Eric Beckman, a former music industry executive, founded GKids with the intent of redefining American audiences’ perception of animation as more than a children’s medium. At the time, family-friendly, computer-generated and stylistically similar studio productions had an even tighter stronghold on animation in the United States than they do today.
GKids has since filled a precious gap by consistently releasing bold animated work from around the world. For more than a decade now, it has also been entrusted with the North American distribution of titles in the catalog of the revered Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, maker of “The Boy and the Heron.”
Beckman started in animation in a roundabout way. He co-founded the New York International Children’s Film Festival in 1997 with Emily Shapiro, his wife at the time. While the festival was not strictly an animation showcase, it allowed Beckman to develop meaningful relationships with numerous animation companies, including Studio Ghibli.
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