High Hopes

Don't eat me!

Dayo combines folklore with urban settings in Manila with a nifty script written by Eric Cabahug and Artemio Abad. It has the typical structure of a children’s tale. It has a protagonist, a villain, lots of enchantments and three (a magical number I assume) tasks to be done to break the curse. It is Robert Quilao’s first venture into digital animation. It is quite a good budding for a brand new Filipino-made animation.

Dayo is about a boy named Bubuy (Nash Aguas) who is always bullied in school. One day, he gets to do a task to end the bullying. He must make a bonfire under an old Balete Tree (Big Rubber Tree) inside the mysterious forest adjacent to the town. The spirit residing in the tree gets mad and the roots of the tree started to crawl and grasp Bubuy until he reaches their house. Unfortunately, the grandparents of Bubuy are the ones seized. Meanwhile, a manananggal (Self-segmenting flying being) named Anna (Katrina Legaspi), tries to help Bubuy get back her grandparents (I think she has a crush on him). A punso (anthill) will lead them to Elementalia, a place where mythical creatures live.

The richness of our Filipino culture is undeniably the starting point in the creation of a compelling animation film that we can consider our very own. The structure of the story appears to have an impression of a conventional way of pitching a story that will appeal to most viewers. When Bubuy gets into Elementalia, he seeks help from Nano (Peque Gallaga), a potion maker, in order to break the curse. He needs to get three magical ingredients for the potion alimuyop. The challenges in acquiring it look way too simple. Bubuy’s spar with the merfolks looks striking in visual taste but it is burdensome with the thought that Bubuy is more prone to failure than those magical beings. It is also the same in pilfering a crystal from the caves of the alitubi. But the time when he was caught, he utters endless excuses (very annoying). That could be a problem with the characterization of Bubuy as this merely takes the unhealthy way of delivering lines that would otherwise sound better.

The creations of the characters especially Bubuy and Anna have western style approach. It could have had difficulty in satisfying any group mostly with its local audiences and film critics alike. I might say that Dayo is more of a graphical showcase of what Filipino Animators who have worked in Disney, Pixar and Cartoon Network can produce. Given that they were the ones behind the animations of these big companies, I might think again in gauging the possibility that the creations of the protagonists could be passable. I watched some animations from other countries like Germany, Thailand, Czech, India, France, and Japan. (Japan has a unique style of animation and means of storytelling that only takes a few western influences. In fact it is the other way around; the west was influence by them.) It appears that the creations is likely have rooted in one big animations company or perhaps just a similar western style approach. As for Bubuy, I cannot think for the character to be more uniquely Filipino as this could also affect the way they market the film as mainstream.

Dayo is a work made by Filipino animators. The visuals I suppose is passable and could be improved. This cannot be compared with the recent works of Miyazaki (which I am a big fan of) simply because Dayo creators are more like novices in this business. It would be unfair in fact to make such a comparison. Japan has an animation tradition spanning a few decades. Ours has just begun. They have to eradicate their supposition that animation only needs good visuals. The script tries to be more humorous and accessible to the local audience, it needs a lot of buffing up. It is like a balancing act. Although it has fair visual stateliness, the storytelling as a whole requires more exertion to back-up the foundation of any animation film. I know they are also aware of this. They have to make up their minds on what they really want to achieve. But in terms of making a pleasing reference to our own culture and mythology, this film makes its objective felt.
Charlie Koon's Rating:
Critic's Note:
I checked online what other animators have done. If you are a purist in terms of artistic worth, you might love the eccentric style of Sylvian Chomet’s Triplettes of Belleville and the environmentalist animation made by Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. There are also works that are made for escapist like the amusing work of Reinhard Kloos and Holger Tappe’s Impy’s Island (European counterpart of Madagascar) and even the western appealing Indian animation Roadside Romeo by Jugal Hansraj. Kompin Kemgumnird’s Khan Kluay appears to have more Thai culture inspiration.

But of course animation is not just for the young. Animation can be tapped to discuss meatier and more political subjects as adduced by Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. It is the elaboration of a country’s cultural heritage that will usually set the work apart from its more developed counterparts.
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