MAKING a locally animated film at par with Disney productions has always been in the back of every Filipino animator’s mind, and Reggie Entienza’s Urduja (2008) shows this.

Set in 13th century Central Luzon, Urduja centers on the inter-racial love affair between the legendary Pangasinan princess Urduja (dubbed by Regine Velasquez) and a Chinese pirate named Limhang (Cesar Montano). Their love is not without conflict, however, as Urduja’s persistent suitor Simakwel (Jay Manalo) is hell-bent on eliminating Limhang, even conspiring with the story’s antagonist, a bloodthirsty Chinese conqueror named Wang (Johnny Delgado).

The project, which spent 10 years in the woodworks, gave animators a chance to showcase their talents.

In a press conference, producer Antonio Tuviera expressed his desire to provide local avenues for world-class Filipino talents who are also recognized animators for big-time companies like Disney, Warner Brothers and Marvel.

Urduja’s animation is reminiscent of early Disney films created before the full use of CGI (Computer Generated Image), such as Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

Princess Urduja could pass off as Pocahontas’ cousin. Another character, a samurai named Daisuke, looks handpicked out of Mulan, a sign that some of the film’s animators have yet to let go of their Disney-inspired ideas and develop a style that is uniquely Filipino.

But still commendable are the characters, who are skillfully rendered and detailed to the last arrowhead. Particularly impressive are the visual effects used to highlight the elements, especially the digitally-created waterfalls and the torch fire.

However, there are instances when the movement of the characters appear choppy or sudden, which a few extra motion frames could have fixed.


Unlike other animated films, Urduja portrays conflict explicitly and viewers can expect to see war scenes and even death, which are uncharacteristic of animated movies. It has an intricate yet easy-to-digest plot filled with humorous characters, such as the resident talking animals Kukut the rat (Michael V.) and Tarsir the tarsier (Allan K.). The injection of light-hearted humor in a serious storyline makes the cartoon flick more interesting and likeable.

Those familiar with the legend might be disappointed, however, as the film does not give emphasis to the myth surrounding the Pangasinan warrior princess, who is described in the accounts of Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta.

In fact, the movie gives the impression of a typical Filipino film, complete with gags and theatrical numbers.

Some of the characters also tend to break out in song all too often, which can get dragging and may serve as a roadblock to the continuity of the plot. Despite these, some songs are very catchy. Viewers may find themselves tapping to Wang’s ballad. The lyrics also fit the songs to a tee, and the literary allusions are rich.

Slang words and modern terms frequent the dialogue, giving Urduja a wholly modern twist – perhaps an attempt to capture the trendy taste of Filipinos.

In all, Urduja can be considered a huge step for the local film industry. A few more tweaks and Filipino animated films could become “legendary” in their own right. Emil Karlo A. Dela Cruz


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