Dayo marks a pretty important step for the local animation industry. With technology briding the gap in resources from foreign productions, it’s left to the skill of our animators to produce a world-class picture. And the skill is definitely there, producing a well-animated, generally well-made film. And if they weren’t rushing to finish it for the filmfest, it might have been something even better.
Bubuy is an eleven year-old boy who has trouble with bullies at school. One night, an elemental spirit drags his grandparents under the earth, leaving Bubuy all alone. Anna, a manananggal, appears to Bubuy, telling him that his grandparents have been taken to the land of Elementalia, where magical creatures live. Together with Anna and a vain but friendly Tikbalang, Bubuy goes on a quest across this magical land, gathering a bunch of mystical ingredients that will help him find and rescue his grandparents.
Animation is a tricky business requiring a massive amount of time and resources, and so it feels a bit worrisome that the producers of this film had to run up against the deadline of the Metro Manila Filmfest. The story goes that Dayo has been in production for two years since conception. That may seem like a long time, but for animation, that just isn’t enough. And indeed, it feels like Dayo could’ve used another six months to complete the project. It isn’t that the animation is subpar, because it isn’t. The animation is remarkably good. An early flight sequence in the film is actually awe-inspiring, a beautiful mix of smart storytelling and amazing visuals. For the most part, aside a few jumpy shortcuts, what makes it in the movie is actually good.
But it’s what doesn’t make it that makes it an imperfect experience. The narrative experience just doesn’t feel complete, the story missing some vital character moments to really hold it together. It feels almost as if whole sequences were dropped because they were running out of time. As such, there are places in the story that don’t quite make sense, because it feels like there was supposed to be a scene or two in between that gives credence to the events that follow. Aside from that, the blatant product placement is a little difficult to deal with. One can certainly understand why they needed it, but it doesn’t make it any less bothersome.
But for all those flaws, Dayo is still quite the achievement. The story, though incomplete, is functional, and is probably enough to keep most people interested. The animation is ranges from workable to phenomenal. Of note is the music in the picture, which is far better than what we usually get in our films. The vocal performances are uniformly good. Nash Aguas is a solid performer, and he fills his role with a lot of humanity. Katrina Legaspi comes off as a bit too eager, but it works out fine. Between Michael V., Gabe Mercado, Pokwang, Johnny Delgado, Noel Trinidad and the rest of this pretty great collection of voices, there’s hardly anything to complain about.
Dayo is a decent picture, but it feels like it could be a whole lot better. The Manila Filmfest just isn’t the place for an animated picture. Animation needs time to breathe and develop, and the competitive nature of the festival just isn’t conducive to the care needed to let animation shine. But I don’t want to take anything away from the people behind this production. For the most part, they took the limitations of their situation and ran with it, producing a promising, if flawed, piece of work.