Pinoy animation defined

 Filipino animators have long been recognized as capable artists. Proof of this are the various animation studios in the Philippines that have been sub-contracting animation work from studios abroad. Suffice to say that the Filipino artists are competent even better than their foreign counterparts. After all they have been doing almost everything from American animation to Japanese anime. Certainly, the question is not about our competence but, as the members of the Animation Council of the Philippines soon realized, it is a question of identity. Is there such a thing as Pinoy animation?

 Out of this curiosity came Animahenasyon, a Pinoy animation festival that aims to recognize original Pinoy animation. After several meetings, a call was made and the answer, surprisingly enough, came in droves as hundreds of Pinoy animators from established artists to up-and-coming animators sent in their works.

 "We couldn't be happier," said Ricky Orellana, Animahenasyon's festival director. "We literally received entries from all over the Philippines. Who would have thought that Naga had a thriving community of animators? Some even came as far as Mindanao." But it was not just the location that surprised the festival committee. The techniques and content of some of the entries were very exciting.

 "The entries were incredibly varied, which I think is a very good thing," said graphic artist Robert Alejandro who sat as one of the judges in the pre-selection committee. Diversity, of course, is what one will get when one has almost a hundred entries in the can. Over a hundred works were submitted to the festival, which was surprising given how small the community of Filipino animators here in the Philippines. More surprising is the fact that most of the works were new. "I was impressed by the sheer number of entries," said motion designer and director Ivan Despi who was also one of the judges. "I hope they continue doing what they are doing. We need to get all our wheels going so we can usher in a new phase and bring Pinoy animation back on track."

 But, as animator and one of the judges this year Tessa Cam pointed out, animation is not an easy thing to do, which makes the big turnout even more astonishing. "It's very important that one has good foundation of the method and techniques of traditional animation," she said. "Being able to make an inanimate object move does not necessarily make you a good animator. Practice makes perfect and that's what our industry needs. We need practice and lots of it."

But according to Orellana, despite the fact that it takes a lot of work, not to mention funding, to even produce a decent animation, the future Philippine animation looks very promising especially with the emergence of new animators. "I think as long as there are a lot of young animators out there, Philippine animation will continue to evolve," he said. "There are even some amateur animators in this festival that were better than the professionals. This shows that there is a hope that we will produce better works in the future."

 If we are to base Pinoy life with this year's entries then life in the Philippines is simultaneously funny, mystical, sad, intriguing and even disorderly. In short, life in these islands is definitely filled with color and, well, life. In one entry, a young girl falls in the hands of a mystical kapre while in another a dog tries to outwit his owner with hilarious results. There is even a story about an excrement that morphs into a guy to court a young girl in a call center and a story about an alien who befriends a neighborhood kid.

 "I've observed that the panel of judges was never unanimous in their choices for the top winners," said Sid Gomez Hildawa, CCP visual, literary, and media arts department head and one of the judges in the festival. "I think this speaks well about the high quality of the finalists in that they were able to strongly appeal to varying tastes and preferences."

 "Festivals like Animahenasyon are key elements in igniting that spark inside our industry," Cam said. "Hopefully, it will open our eyes to the capabilities and the wide pool of talent that we have in the country. A lot of people say that it is mostly a financial issue that we are not able to produce (good work) because we lack the materials and equipment. But what we truly need is time and practice."

 For Despi, however, animation festivals such as this enable upstarts to break into the animation industry, which can be very difficult. "I didn't have an idea of how to do that, which is why I consider myself lucky that I am doing what I am doing today," he said. "Animation festivals can be a shortcut. It can pluck no-names out of nowhere and bring them to the limelight."

 But despite the hundreds of entries, the judges and the festival organizers have yet to define the exact qualities that make a true-blue Pinoy animation. "It can be defined as works that acknowledge, explicitly or implicitly, their links to earlier Pinoy komiks, Pinoy movies and Pinoy culture without being parochial," said Sid Gomez Hildawa. For Cam however, it is "a plethora of cultural and artistic styles applied to traditional Filipino storytelling, combined with talent and proper application of the classic animation principles."

 Despi, however, takes a rather simple look at Pinoy animation. "If anyone tries to live here for years, exposing themselves to the everyday Filipino environment they will develop a manner by which we cope. They will develop a diskarte, a Pinoy sense of going about things. Once you have this and you dive into animation, you will rely heavily on that Pinoy sense. I believe we do not have a textbook approach to the process, more of a street-smart, how-do-I-get-myself-out-of-this type of approach. It is with which we can be pioneers in new ways of animation."

 "We have yet to agree on what exactly is Pinoy animation," said Orellana, "but hopefully in the succeeding years we will eventually be able to define it."


Animahenasyon 2007, Pinoy Animation Festival will run from Nov. 21 to 27 at Indie Sine, Robinsons Galleria, Ortigas. There will also be a conference on Nov.22 and 23 featuring Fil-Am animator Ronnie del Carmen of Pixar Animation.

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