Russian animation short ‘Boxballet’ shortlisted for the Oscars

Anton Dyakov/Melnitsa Animation Studio, 2021
What happens when a tank-like boxer falls in love with a brittle ballerina? That’s the plot for ‘Boxballet’, the only Russian cartoon to have been shortlisted for ‘Best Animated Short Film’ at the Oscars!

‘Boxballet’, directed by the up-and-coming Russian director Anton Dyakov, depicts a charming long-legged ballerina named Olga and a tough-looking boxer named Evgeny (the former heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev type).


Their paths accidentally cross when Evgeny rescues Olga’s cat from the tree and falls madly in love with the ballerina. But it’s not the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ type story. Evgeny will lose sleep and will have to move mountains to win the love of his one and only. He will even give up boxing to be with his loved one!


‘Boxballet’ is only 15 minutes long, but it has it all: love, hope, dreams and sacrifice - all without a word spoken! The short cartoon even has the modern type of a #MeToo villain - a stage director, who tries to seduce Olga offering her the lead role in ‘Giselle’ if his courtship display is accepted. 


In ‘Boxballet’, Dyakov brilliantly juxtaposes the ugly and the beautiful, the silly and the smart, the rough and the elegant. His playful sense of humor is as sharp as it gets. “A good sense of humor is a must, along with an emotional depth and a sense of magic,” Dyakov, a fan of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, says. “A short cartoon has to be brisk, precise, cool and brazen,” he believes.   


Interestingly enough, the animated short is set in August 1991, during the notorious coup d’état attempt that triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union. On August 19, all television stations across the country were switched off, playing nothing but the Bolshoi Theater’s tranquilizing version of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet ‘Swan Lake’ over and over again. 


Earlier this year, ‘Boxballet’ won the ‘Best Animated Work’ nomination at the Koroche short film festival in Kaliningrad. It also won the Ikar Russian National Animation Award. 

READ MORE: 3 breakout Russian ANIMATIONS available on HBO Max

Dyakov’s short animated films ‘Vivat, Musketeers!’ (2017), ‘Ying and Yana. Forbidden Food’ (2014) and ‘Python and the Watchman’ (2015) were screened at international festivals, from Annecy to Chicago.

‘Vivat, Musketeers!’

Dyakov was born in 1980 into an artistic family in Almaty (then Alma-Ata, the Kazakh SSR). His father was a graphic artist and illustrator. Anton maintained a strong interest in cinema since childhood. Before taking up animation, he worked in advertising for over a decade.  

READ MORE: Why you should watch Yuri Norstein’s masterpiece ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’

Among his all-time favorite cartoons is ‘The Snow Queen’ by Lev Atamanov. The hand-drawn Soviet animated movie, based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the same name, became an instant hit when it hit the big screen in the late 1950s. Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki recalled that when he watched ‘The Snow Queen’ for the first time, he finally made up his mind to devote his life to animation and realized what he should strive for professionally. 


Dyakov says that he is always surprised when his short cartoons get critical acclaim and exposure in the West. “It’s always a pleasure to hear that someone loves your creations. Not long ago, I was contacted by John Musker, who wrote and directed the ‘Little Mermaid’. Believe it or not, he found me on Instagram and wrote to say that he had watched my ‘Boxballet’ and really liked it! I was on cloud nine to get such feedback! I always thought I make my cartoons for those who I share a common language with,” Dyakov says with a twist of irony. 

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

Read more

This website uses cookies. Click here to find out more.

Accept cookies