Movies & TV

Hayop Ka! Is a Glorious Toast to Filipino Animators

The first ever animated Netflix film from the Philippines, the Hayop Ka! crew redefined the term “starting strong.”
IMAGE Rocketsheep Studios
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Avid Liongoren’s Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story has set the bar for all future Filipino animated films, almost outdoing itself with the sheer splendor laid out in every shot and scene. It’s a glorious showcase of the talent of Filipino animators, artists, and filmmakers, pushing the boundaries of what Filipino cinema is capable of.

Produced by Rocketsheep Studio and Spring Films, Hayop Ka! follows the teleserye-style love triangle of Nimfa Dimaano, a vivacious pussycat voiced by Angelica Panganiban, with her two leading men: Roger, Nimfa’s aspin boyfriend voiced by Robin Padilla, and Inigo, a suave Siberian husky voiced by Sam Milby.

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The first ever animated Netflix film from the Philippines, the Hayop Ka! crew redefined the term “starting strong.” Lighthearted to its core, Hayop Ka!’s strength is in its visuals if not its plot. The story is very much in the vein of “what you see is what you get,” and it’s not the sort of film that will leave you thoughtful ruminating about the characters’ struggles. But it is the type of film that makes you drool at the visuals and dream about the world created by animation supervisor Jether Amar.

Some scenes are so good, you can’t help but think that the artists are almost showing off, and even then, you can’t help but praise them when they do. You’ll find yourself pressing pause more times than you can count just to appreciate each cinematic landscape, from Hayop Ka!’s world of EDSA or Mall of Asia to the canteen and (vegan) Pares place with hilarious and naughty advertisements on the wall (I Love Tea Tea, anyone?).

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Photo by Rocketsheep Studios.

Photo by Rocketsheep Studios.

Set in an animal-ruled Manila, the spoof world-building is enough to keep you laughing throughout the film. For the sake of saving you from spoilers, we won’t mention them all (but quick shout out to Purrada and Eraserhens!). The fun of it is finding and spotting all the real-world hat tips yourself.

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Perhaps the best part of it all? The film is fun.

Hayop Ka! is a welcome escape and it might have been perfect timing for it to be released during a pandemic when everyone is starved for optimism and laughter. It will charm the pants off of you, as it did with a couple of characters, and the joy of watching the film is made possible by the obvious fact that everyone had a good time making it.

In a roundtable interview with Panganiban, she shared how much fun it was recording an NSFW film, something that you can hear in the undertones of her voice throughout the film. It introduced her to a different type of freedom when it comes to acting, and the hilarious, conversational script helped keep everyone’s spirits up.

While the plot is predictable, the NSFW tone of the film made its script unforgettable. Some lines could have been stolen from inumans with friends, and more than once, you might find yourself relating to Nimfa’s dream for a better life (or her weakness for a rich sugar daddy. Hey, we don’t judge!)

Photo by Rocketsheep Studios.
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Photo by Rocketsheep Studios.

When talking to the filmmakers behind Hayop Ka!, director Avid, animation supervisor Jether, and producer Manny Angeles shared how the project felt like a college project. Jether shared how all the animators would eat at the same time and inject their jokes and puns over lunch into the film. In short, the film’s many puns, like Petmaluneta Park, were a product of a collective effort of corniness (and we say this we the utmost props to the team).

While the film has long credits, Avid explained that only five people at most were working on the film at the same time. Since the team lacked a warehouse of animators, it took them around four years to finish the film. And each shot, of which there are over 1,200 shots and 60 sequences, took at least two months to complete. Each scene was born of painstaking effort and attention to detail, and it shows, proving that animation is no easy feat.

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For producer Manny Angeles, cartoons were part of his childhood but it wasn’t until recently that he rediscovered animated films and series. He admits he’s new to the genre, but already, he can say, “It (animation industry) blows the mind away, and sana ma-experience yan ng mga tao.”

 “It’s time to burn the misconception that cartoons are only for children,” said Amar, who went on to share that there are already a lot of animated films and series out there that were made specifically for adults. Not to mention that many of the first cartoons were made with adults in mind, not kids. From the trailer alone, it’s obvious that the NSFW Hayop Ka! is not for kids, especially since the film was originally meant to be called Son of a Bitch! 

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In short, animation is for anyone who appreciates art, and Avid adds that he hopes the success of the film will encourage and inspire more animators to step forward and add to the Filipino animation industry, with Hayop Ka! leading the way.

A little kinky and a lot kulit, Hayop Ka! is a lighthearted, hilarious watch that packs a big punch in the world of animation.

Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story is now streaming on Netflix.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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