It will release latest toon from Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli in March

ANNECY — New York-based indie animation distributor GKids has acquired North American rights to “From Up On Poppy Hill,” the latest release from Japan’s Studio Ghibli.

Hayao Miyazaki (“Castle in the Sky,” “Spirited Away”) wrote the screenplay. His son, Goro Miyazaki, directed. GKids will qualify “Poppy Hill” for 2013′s Academy Awards and plans a March release.

Announced Tuesday by GKids prexy Eric Beckman at Gaul’s Annecy Animation Film Festival, “Poppy Hill” builds on a September deal that gave GKids North American rights to 13 Studio Ghibli library titles. The retrospective has been touring major North American markets throughout 2012.

Set in 1963 Yokohama, “Poppy Hill” turns on a pair of high school students who are battling the demolition of a historic building as they deal with their own families’ past secrets. “Poppy Hill” was the highest-grossing Japanese film of 2011, taking over $56 million.

Studio Ghibli is producing an English-language version, with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall exec producing.

The deal is GKids’ first release of a first-run Studio Ghibli film. Disney has been Ghibli’s longterm U.S. distributor.

It follows a spate of toon acquisitions by GKids, including “Chico & Rita” and “A Cat in Paris,” which snagged best animated feature Oscar nominations this year. GKids aims to increase its number of animated feature releases and the scale of releases, Beckman said.

“There is a huge U.S. indie distribution sector for adult audiences but nothing parallel for animation. That’s the hole we’re filling.”

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