‘Boxballet’ Director Says Kids Inspired His Animated Story Of A Dancer And A Pugilist – Contenders Film: The Nominees

In the Oscar-nominated animated short film Boxballet, a gargantuan boxer and a willowy ballerina cross path unexpectedly. They develop feelings for each other, but given the enormous gulf between their backgrounds, the question becomes whether love can truly bring them together.

Anton Dyakov directed, co-wrote and did the production design for the film, released by Shorts TV. During an appearance at Deadline’s Contenders Film: The Nominees event, he talked about the origins of the romantic story.

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“I used to teach kids at an art school, and I noticed that during ‘free topic, free choice’ classes boys would draw sportsmen and boxers and military men, and girls would draw dancers, ballerinas and princesses,” Dyakov said, speaking through a translator. “I just randomly came up with this joke that if you make a movie about boxers and ballerinas, it will be really pleasant both for boys and girls. Maybe today it’s not true, because today’s kids have different heroes. But back then it kind of worked well. … The heroes, they kind of stuck to me and they started living their own lives. And then this movie happened.”

Dyakov worked with a team of animators to develop the film’s look. They crafted many different scenes together including ballerinas performing, and the boxer slugging it out with a heavyweight opponent.

“I thought the boxing scenes would be most difficult [to animate],” he explained. “But actually, it turned out the ballet was the most challenging thing because when we started animating the ballet dancers — even with perfect references, great recordings — the animators tried to come up with something completely different, and we struggled with that. But eventually we managed to make it happen, and I’m really happy that it turned out so well.”

It’s the first Oscar nomination for Dyakov, who was born in Kazakhstan.

“I never expected that to happen,” the director admitted. “I never worked for that. It was never my goal. So when I made it to nominations, my phone was not ready for the amount of attention it was getting. And I was hearing from everyone. Everybody was congratulating me, and everybody was asking me how I feel. And at first, I even responded something, I don’t remember what, I was so confused. And now, when time [has] passed, I only can tell that I’m grateful, and that’s probably the only feeling I can grasp.”

Check out the panel video above.

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