Friday, December 26, 2008

Dayo (2008)

Dayo (Robert Quilao, 2008)
English Title: Wanderer

Robert Quilao's Dayo (Wanderer), the second fully-animated feature length Filipino film to be released this year (after Reggie Entienza's sorely disappointing Urduja), opens with the camera gliding past clouds and a computer-generated airplane on flight before finally landing in a school where, if we are to observe the festive decors and the joyous attitude of the students, some kind of event is transpiring. The opening sequence is supposed to visually astound. However, after seeing better-funded animated features by more established studios this year like Pixar (Andrew Stanton's WALL·E) and Dreamworks (Mark Osbourne & John Stevenson's Kung Fu Panda), it only succeeds to emphasize how far behind the Philippines is in terms of animation technology.

In fact, some of the better animated films released around this world this decade never relied on cutting edge animation to tell a genuinely good story. There's Lee Seong-kang's My Beautiful Girl, Mari (2002), a film about two boys who are transported to a magical place. There's also Toe Yuen's My Life as McDull (2001) and its sequel McDull, Prince de la Bun (2004), about the famous cartoon pig's adventures growing up in Hong Kong. Sadly, the third installment, Samson Chiu's McDull, The Alumni (2006), which splits animation and live action, isn't as successful for a number of different reasons. Other animated films released during the same period, films like Hironobu Sakaguchi and Moto Sakakibara's extremely awful Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) or Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha's terribly unfunny Robots (2005), rely on sheer spectacle to cover up for the lack of coherent material. Obviously, there's something more to animation than vivid colors, and fart jokes.

The animation of Dayo is consistently low-tech: traditionally animated characters are pasted on computer generated backgrounds. To those whose barometer for quality in animation relies on manufactured realism and astonishing smoothness of movement, Dayo may be awful, a sorry attempt to introduce an animation industry in a country that produces talented animators but could never produce the audience for locally-produced animated films. Fortunately, Dayo is able to sustain interest through sheer charm, the excellent voicework by veteran actors (Johnny Delgado, Laurice Guillen, Nova Villa and Noel Trinidad) and current comedians (Michael V., Pokwang, and Gabe Mercado), the gorgeous musical score composed by Jesse Lasaten, and the very effective sound design. Dayo isn't bad. It's actually quite good.

The story, written by Artemio Abad and Eric Cabahug, is simple. Bubuy (Nash Aguas) gets bullied in school during the day. At night, he is pampered by his adorable grandparents (Noel Trinidad and Nova Villa). When his grandparents are whisked away by hostile tree roots, Bubuy is forced to travel to Elementalia, the home of mythical beings like mananangals (whose upper portion of their bodies fly off at night to hunt for prey), tikbalangs (half-man, half-horse), nunos (little men who live in termite mounds), and kapres (giants who live in trees and vehemently smoke huge cigars). With the help of some of the residents of Elementalia like Anna (Katrina Legaspi), a young mananangal who seeks his father's understanding, and Narsi (Michael V.), an entertainingly narcissistic tikbalang, Bubuy tries to rescue his grandparents from the clutches of the film's vengeful botanical villain.

Dayo has a certain feel, which isn't very different from the feeling of enchantment while watching Hayao Miyazaki's more accomplished films, that it attempts for. Unlike Urduja which banners (much to my dismay) Disney's tiring slogan of lovers living "happily ever after," Dayo is essentially a congenial coming-of-age tale, untainted by any need to depict fantasies of perfect romances. It is admittedly tainted with consumerism, what with the dozens of product placements spread throughout the film, some not as subtly placed as others. The narrative remains simplistic and the humor is undoubtedly populist, all due to the need to stay within commerciable bounds. The result however isn't idiotic or repulsive. Instead, the film comes off as noteworthy, especially with its sincere intention and innate ability to translate the noblest of childhood aspirations into inoffensive entertainment.


Fidel Antonio Medel said...

Despite its simplistic storyline, shameless product placements, and animation glitches, I still think "Dayo" is the best film in this year's MMFF. Too bad, it isn't earning as much as the two farce comedies, which are waaay too awful.

I Complain said...

May I add to your list of animated movies without the need for sophisticated animation, Persepolis, which reviewed in 2007.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Fidel,

I'm actually surprised that it didn't do well and it's really a pity, because the film, from the three that I've seen (I've heard good things about Magkaibigan and One Night Only), is by far, the best of the festival. Oh well... that's the irony of our culture. We support mediocrity and punish excellence.

Stevie, yeah, Persepolis is lovely. There's Wallace and Gromit too, and Bill Plympton's many shorts (I think he recently released a full length film too).

Anonymous said...

thanks for the thumbs up! love the line "we support mediocrity and punish excellence"! i'm eric, one of the scriptwriters of dayo. cheers!

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Eric. It's a sad observation but it's quite true...