The next big thing in the Philippine animation industry is about to happen this December as "Dayo," competes with seven other films in the 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), which opens on Christmas day.
It wasn't easy for Cutting Edge Productions, the local animators behind "Dayo," to enter the festival. When they submitted the script by Temi Abad and Eric Cabahug for consideration, the committee didn't immediately accept it. But the team didn't give up and insisted on presenting the project until they convinced the committee that they can do it. The primary consideration was time constraint and meeting the deadline especially for first time producers. Remarkably, "Dayo" made it to the final 8 out of the 19 hopefuls.
"Dayo" is a heartwarming story of overcoming one's fear and triumphing over adversity. It centers on the 11-year-old Bubuy (voiced by Nash Aguas) who is out to save his abducted grandparents in the land of Elementalia, a magical and mystical world that houses many of the Philippines' mythical creatures and other enchanted elements. Along the way, Bubuy meets Anna Manananggirl (voiced by Katrina Legaspi), a teen manananggal (a winged creature that can separate her torso from her lower body) who befriends and helps Bubuy in his quest to rescue his grandparents.
The creative team of "Dayo" consulted published literature on local mythology. The main reference is the book Creatures of Philippine Lower Mythology by Maximo Ramos.
"Dayo" aims to reintroduce the other side of mythical creatures like the tikbalang, kapre, manananggal, and aswang by giving a new dimension to these usual reviled creatures. "They are normally presented as predators or portrayed as villains," explains director Robert Quilao. "We created a new twist to these characters by transforming the scary manananggal into the friendly manananggol (defender) who acts as the guardian of Elementalia."
Quilao also shares that every step of the project has been a challenge for the team, "but the storyboarding stage was perhaps the toughest because it involved setting the mood and look of the whole animation." Working on the story and writing the script also took time. A three-day story conference was held in Tagaytay just to brainstorm on the story, while it took the team three to four months to finish the script.
The team already had talents in mind when they were working on the characters except for the lead roles of Bubuy and Anna which they held auditions for. For example, they already had Pokwang in mind for the manananggal yaya of Anna, hence the character sketch is loosely based on her. The team also thought of how it would be like to have Pokwang exchange lines with news anchor Mike Enriquez. So there's a character whose voice only sounds like Enriquez since the team is not able get the real one to voice for the role. The team disclaims though that if other animated characters may appear to have similarities with real life people, those are unintentional.
The film also features voices of Michael V, Noel Trinidad, Nova Villa, Johnny Delgado, Peque Gallaga and Laurice Guillen.
Since the project is fully-digital, it's easy to animate the storyboard (also known as animatics). No storyboard could even be seen plastered on the office walls or workstations of Cutting Edge. While the drawing is done traditionally by hand, it's executed directly onto the computer screen or PC tablet, hence, Quilao labels the project as "tradigital" animation.
"Dayo" is a hybrid product of combining 2D and 3D animation, powered by Toon Boom using Macintosh and Linux platforms. 2D animation is used for the characters while 3D animation is used for the backgrounds especially for the big scenes.
Currently, the film is 75% done and is expected to be completed by November in time for the MMFF. By then, the film will have spent just almost two years to make, a period shorter than the usual 3 years for a traditional full-length animation to finish. The team is done with the rough animation and is now on the "digital ink and paint" stage. Over 500 artists nationwide are pulled together to work on this project.
Although it's rather difficult and expensive to produce an animation project, "it's the only content we can sell abroad," justifies Jessie Lasaten, executive producer of "Dayo" and chief executive officer of Cutting Edge. "The world is our market. The idea is to recover half of the investment in the local market, and half of it worldwide. But if we're lucky, we can recover the whole investment locally." Lasaten reveals that Cutting Edge has spent around 1.3 million US dollars to produce "Dayo."
Also part of Cutting Edge's objectives is producing world-class projects. Hence, everything from the content to the production process of "Dayo" is world-class. For example, multi-awarded composer and arranger Lasaten will do the musical score and record it with a live orchestra with the help of the FILharmoniKA, conducted by Gerard Salonga, while internationally-renowned performer Lea Salonga will sing the movie's theme song Lipad (Fly).
In certain aspects where other full-length Filipino animated features failed, "Dayo" hopes to succeed. What makes "Dayo" unique is the Filipino feel that the whole animated feature has—the characters, environment and even the jokes. It is rich in folklore and abounds in Filipino values that are reflective of Philippine culture. While there are some fight sequences included in the film, "Dayo" is generally non-violent and child-friendly.
The film starts its school tour on November. The team is seeking support of the Department of Education in promoting Filipino history, arts and culture.
Originally conceptualized as a research and development project, "Dayo" is a proof that the Filipinos can do a grand project like this. Cutting Edge also expects "Dayo" to trigger the hopes and dreams of other studios. They can now start working on the contents that they have long conceptualized.
Soon after "Dayo," the industry can anticipate for another full-length Filipino-themed animated feature from Cutting Edge.
For more info, visit the official movie web site at www.dayomovie.com.
I'm looking for Dayo.