Why Pinoy animation projects like ‘Trese’ cast celebrities, not voice actors 2
Three animated films that cast Celebs—"Barangay 143," "Trese" and "Hayop Ka!"
Culture

Why Pinoy animation projects like ‘Trese’ cast celebrities, not voice actors

It all boils down to the realities of making animation projects: it takes a long time and it costs a lot of money   
AVID LIONGOREN | Jun 16 2021

Everyone and their mother are watching the Filipino anime series ‘Trese’ on Netflix. Everyone is talking about the voices, the twangs and the accents. Were some actors miscast? Couldn’t Netflix have chosen voice talents instead of big names? 

This last one was the issue raised by a series of tweets from voice talent Inka Magnaye who shot to online fame many months ago with a video of herself and her mother doing their voices for an airline company. According to Inka, she wishes animation projects would give local voice actors a chance. “All these film actors are great,” she said on Twitter, “but they already have their films and teleseryes and they’ve had more than their fair share of work.” 

That perspective, if you ask Avid Liongoren, creator and director of “Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story,” is “incredibly ignorant to the reality of the state of Pinoy Animation.” “Hayop Ka!” is the first animated Netflix film from the Philippines. It cast Philippine show biz superstars Angelica Panganiban, Sam Milby and Robin Padilla in the lead voice roles. Writing his thoughts on the Facebook page of the production company he founded, Rocketsheep Studio, Liongoren explained why casting celebrities instead of voice actors makes practical sense at this point in the life of local animation.

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The hot take that our local animations should cast Voice Actors instead of Celebs is incredibly ignorant to the reality of the state of Pinoy Animation. The reason why we have to cast Celebs is simple: money...you know, that elusive thing people need to make art?

Animation is very difficult and very expensive to make. Not only does a single animated film or show season take a minimum of three years to produce, they cost multiple millions of pesos and we do not have that kind of money on our own. We do not know of any person working in Philippine Animation that has gotten wealthy doing original work. Only huge studios that do outsourced service work for bigger corporate studios like Disney, Toei & Dreamworks are able to make money out of animation locally. We the Indie Studio survive off Instant Pancit Canton and we need the money of business people to make stuff. 

As mentioned earlier, it takes at least three years to make an animated film or show. Meanwhile, a live action romcom with famous actors can be made in a span of six months for the same amount if not less. Hence, animation is a very tough sell to financiers. Why fund something that takes so long to do when a faster option to make money exists? The few business folks that do buy in mitigate their risk by attaching popular names. It’s a very practical and logical compromise. We need their money and they need some kind assurance that it won’t go to waste. 

That is why “Hayop Ka!,” “Baranggay 143” & “Trese” cast Celebs. In regards to quality of performance, Voice Acting goes hand in hand with Directing. Performance quality is subjective and is not the point of this post. We are simply explaining the NECESSITY of Celebs. Even the great Makoto Shinkai casts Idols & Actors for his films because his name alone is not yet a guarantee for return of investment to the money people.

Pinoy Animation is at its infancy. It is still being tested for its viability as a sound business venture. That is why in the 100 years of Philippine Cinema’s existence, less than a dozen animated films have been made. Studios like us barely survive doing what we do. We do not know of any Pinoy Animation creator that is rolling in money. Even the creators of something as hugely successful and popular as Trese cannot quit their day jobs just yet to do that full time. 

Someday when our homegrown characters reach the popularity of Hello Kitty, Goku or Mickey Mouse, Celeb voices will be unnecessary. We yearn for that too. We yearn for a wide sustainable industry. But for now we need Celebs to create a future for Pinoy Animation that more of us can be a part of.