SCREENCRUNCH: In between literal catfights, sexual explorations, and pares dinners, the creators promise a ‘gintong aral’

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Nimfa Dimaano voiced by Angelica Panganiban

We’ve all heard the saying that the world will be better in the absence of human beings, that animals and plants will live in harmony and the so-called circle of life is the only rule of nature to abide. But for Avid Liongoren’s Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story, his anthropomorphic world presents just as many problems as in a world dominated by humans.

Capturing the grittiness of Manila in a technicolor world, the film centers on Nimfa Dimaano, a perfume sales kitty, torn between love and the life she dreams of. She must choose between her janitor boyfriend, the macho mongrel Roger, and the bourgeoisie business dog Iñigo Villanueva. Soon enough, she’ll learn the harsh reality that unlike her rom-com fantasies, life can be unfair for a cat like her.

After three years in the drawing board and recording studio, Avid together with Rocketsheep Studio and Spring Films, makes history as the first Filipino animated film to debut on streaming giant Netflix, hoping to bring laughter and a sense of relativity through the life of Nimfa Dimaano.

Who is voicing who?

Every filmmaker knows that casting is essential for an animated movie. And Hayop Ka! is smart to choose actors that suit its characters best. Filipino fans would enjoy hearing familiar voices from characters that somehow resemble the actors in real life. Leading them is actress Angelica Panganiban who lends her voice for the film’s protagonist. According to her, portraying Nimfa is not an easy thing to do.

Kapag umaarte ka [sa set], lahat kasama, lahat involved. May mata, may expressions, may gestures. Pero ’yong voice acting, voice lang siya (When you’re acting on the set, everything is involved. There’s the eyes, the expressions, and the gestures. But in voice acting, it’s just your voice),” she says. “Parang nangigigil ako minsan na parang gusto ko nang ipakita ’yong mukha ko. Ang hirap mag-reflect [ng emotions] (Sometimes, I get so frustrated to a point that I just want to show my face on the screen. It’s hard to reflect emotions).”

Tumaas nga bigla ang respeto ko sa mga voice actors. Hindi ko siya in-expect na nakakapagod. Ang sarap din na nagawa ko siya kasi feeling ko may extra akong alam kaysa sa mga katrabaho ko (I have new respect for voice actors. I never expected it to be so tiring. It also feels good that I did this because I feel I learned something my coworkers don’t know),” she adds.

Rounding up the ensemble are Robin Padilla and Sam Milby, who voiced Roger and Iñigo, together with Arci Muñoz, Empoy Marquez, and Piolo Pascual. Actress Eugene Domingo and director Joyce Bernal also played cameo roles in the film.

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Roger (Robin Padilla) and Nimfa having dinner at their go-to pares kiosk

Not just for good laughs

To be fair, the creators of the film know that there are scenes in the movie that can be a tad offensive. But these scenes, however, play a vital role in delivering the “gintong aral” of the movie as they said, and not just for good laughs.

Also, with Avid’s past works like Saving Sally (which took 12 years to complete), viewers should expect the film to be full of raunchy humor and issues like calling a woman that derogatory term “malandi,” while the other male and female characters could easily get away with their infidelity is something to think about. 

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Nimfa and Iñigo (Sam Milby) met at a luxury perfume store

Apart from the steamy bed scenes and the kilig moments, the differences in social status depicted in the film, which is masterfully shown through the works of Filipino animation artists, give more substance to the relationship of the three characters. 

Hindi lang ’yung love triangle ang problema niya (Her problem is not just about the love triangle),” says writer and producer Manny Angeles.

Kapag nasa ganitong level ka ng economic ladder, iyan talaga ’yong problema mo. Very important sa akin ’yon bilang laborer (When you’re in this level of the economic ladder, that’s really your problem. That is very important for me as a laborer),” Avid adds. “It’s very important for me, personally, but not for the film itself. Nag-sip through na lang siya kasi lahat kami concern namin iyan.”

As the audience sympathizes with Nimfa, they’ll find themselves also torn between love and practicality, maybe smoking real or an imaginary cigar, and maybe singing that trending song “it really hurts ang magmahal ng ganito” in their heads.

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Nimfa and Roger at their roof top hangout spot

Filipino culture through the hands of Filipino artist

If there is one thing to be really proud of in this film, it in is how Filipino animators translated Philippine culture into an anthropomorphic world. 

Thanks to lead animator Jether Amar and his team, viewers will find themselves giggling over brand names, marveling at reimagined Philippine locations, and reminiscing the days when they enjoyed eating pares, listening to late night radio shows, and even jumping on a bus just to get your mind off of things.

Avid hopes that this film will enliven the Philippine animation industry. “In the hundred years of Philippine cinema, we only have less than 10 animated films,” he tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “We have a lot of talents locally. My wish is to encourage more productions para mas may work ang mga Pinoy animators. Hindi naman kami makakabuo ng isang buong industriya, isang studio lang kami na maliit. Mas maganda kung marami ang mag-venture into this kind of format and storytelling (We have a lot of talents locally. My wish is to encourage more productions so Pinoy animators will have more work. We cannot build an entire industry, we are just a small studio. It would be nice if many will venture to this kind of format and storytelling).”

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