Since the introduction of the Best Animated Feature Academy Award in 2001, the category has been dominated by Happy Meal-friendly blockbusters like Shrek, Frozen, and Brave. For the last several years, however, Oscar viewers have gotten a glimpse at something radically different: foreign films with innovative visual styles, auteurist sensibilities and Rotten Tomatoes scores in the high 90’s, if not 100. They’re also almost always distributed by GKIDS, a small New York-based company that is, against all odds, celebrating its 9th Oscar nomination since 2009. Though it has yet to take home a statue, the company can be credited with giving most Oscar viewers their first look ranging from the Celtic fantasy The Secret of Kells to recent Studio Ghibli fare like The Tale of the Princess Kaguya to this year’s nominee, My Life as a Zucchini, a French-Swiss stop motion masterpiece that plays like a combination of The 400 Blows, Short Term 12, and Paranorman. After opening the New York International Children’s Film Festival on February 24th with an English-language dub featuring Will Forte, Ellen Page, and Nick Offerman, the film will be released (in both languages) in New York and Los Angeles before a nationwide rollout in March. We spoke to newly promoted GKIDS President David Jesteadt (who also happens to be the company’s first employee) about the company’s evolving philosophy, its place in the animation ecosystem, and its relationship with the legendary Studio Ghibli.