Studio Ghibli’s ‘Tale of Princess Kaguya’ joins this year’s Oscar race

The Best Animated Feature Film Oscar race is slowly coming together. Big dogs like “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “The LEGO Movie” have already bowed, while Fox (“The Book of Life”) and Focus (“The Boxtrolls”) have rolled out footage presentations in recent weeks to stay top of mind. One film we've been assuming would have a place in the 2014 line-up is GKIDS' “Tale of Princess Kaguya” from Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli. We were just waiting for a release date announcement – and now we have it.

The indie animation distributor announced today that the film would receive a theatrical release starting on Oct. 17 with a national expansion to follow. Also part of the announcement was the revelation of the English-language voice cast for the film, which includes Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Darren Criss and Lucy Liu.

Isao Takahata's film was released in Japan last November and rolled out to Hong Kong in January before playing the Cannes Film Festival in May. It wasn't widely reviewed from the fest, though Variety's stringer called it “a visionary tour-de-force,” so of course GKIDS is pimping that quote in the press release.

Based on a classic Japanese folktale, “Kaguya” tells the story of a tiny girl found inside a stalk of bamboo who grows into an exquisite young lady, raised by an old bamboo cutter and his wife. It could be a player in the race, but even internally, it will be competing with GKIDS' own “Song of the Sea” from Oscar-nominated director Tomm Moore (“The Secret of Kells”). Indeed, I expect we'll hear a 2014 release date for that one announced in due time.

Then again, the distributor picked up two nominations just a couple of years ago for “Chico & Rita” and “A Cat in Paris” in the same season, so you never can tell how the animators might take to the films they manage to push into the limelight. GKIDS is, as ever, an underdog worth keeping an eye on.