Where to start: Hen, His Wife (1989). The film that put Kovalyov on the international animation map. A troubled but apparently normal household is shattered when a masked stranger arrives without warning and alerts the husband that his wife is actually a hen. With its almost grotesque character design, rough lines, and fluid camera movement, Kovalyov creates a masterful surrealist parable about a family in a state of collapse (though feel free to interpret this film anyway you see fit!). When Gabor Csupo saw the film at the 1990 Ottawa International Animation Festival (where it was the controversial grand prize winner), he invited Kovalyov to work at Klasky-Csupo studios in Hollywood. Kovalyov would go on to make key contributions to the studio on series like Rugrats and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. He also directed The Rugrats Movie (1998).
What to watch next: Flying Nansen (2000). A snowy hallucination (inspired by the Norwegian explorer, Fridtiof Nansen) about an explorer who travels to the North Pole where danger, adventure, and a woman await him.
Other key works: Andrey Svislotsky (1992), Bird in The Window (1996), Milch (2005), Before Love (2016)
Influences: Robert Bresson, Priit Pärn, Andrei Tarkovsky, Jia Zhangke
Says: “I don’t really want my viewers to feel something particular. At least I don’t want my artworks to tell them what to feel. The most important thing that I’ve always appreciated in art/movies/design is probably ambiguity.”
Currently working on: Kovalyov is developing a new short that he expects to be around 20 minutes in length.
Image at top: “Hen, His Wife”