There is a picture of Metro Manila in our minds—it’s marked by jeepneys and bars that stay open all night, crowded streets, friends and lovers at every corner. The Filipino-made animated film Saving Sally, which was just recently made available for viewing on Netflix, illustrates it all.
Saving Sally was originally released at the end of 2016—in the Metro Manila Film Festival line-up—which makes these illustrations of life pre-pandemic even more nostalgic.
Director Avid Liongoren (who served as one of the film’s co-producers and co-illustrators) and writer Charlene Sawit-Esguerra wanted to capture the atmosphere of the cities the art team actually lived in: Quezon, Marikina, and Antipolo.
“It's a small advocacy of ours to represent the Philippines in our art because so many young artists can draw Japanese Mecha or New York skylines, but not the houses of Quezon City,” Avid says.
Avid Liongoren is the founder of the indie animation Rocketsheep Studio, a director for both live action and animation. He has been working in the animation scene for over a decade (“a little over 15 years” to be exact). In fact, one of his earliest hybrid projects features the music video for Queso’s “Mottaka” way back in 2007.
Rocketsheep Studio’s latest film, Hayop Ka!, was released today, October 29, on Netflix.
Hayop Ka! follows the life of Nimfa Dimaano, a sales cat who falls for a rich pedigree dog, even as she keeps a close relationship with her mixed-breed boyfriend.
While Hayop Ka! is openly candid in its approach to the complexities of love and infidelity, the lighthearted premise of Saving Sally masks darker themes with quirky robots and absurd-looking monsters, against the backdrop of skylines and parks of Antipolo and Marikinia cities, meshed with the landscapes found from the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.
All in all, a pattern and design emerges that is so distinctively Metro Manila in its nature, that the complex animation delights its viewers with familiarity. The creative process took years of unconscious spectating.
“In writing they say ‘write what you know.’ This is applicable to visual art as well, so ‘draw what you know.’ These were the team's neighborhoods so we drew what we saw,” Avid says.
“It has this chaotic beauty to it. It may not be historically beautiful like Paris, or futuristic like Tokyo, but it's our home.”
Avid Liongoren and the team have also begun their work on Carlo Vergara's Zsazsa Zaturnnah:
They are also currently in the process of adapting the wonderful graphic novel Light Lost by Rob Cham: