Blue Sky Studios places another animated feature into the hands of director Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age, Rio), this time with Munro Leaf’s classic tale Ferdinand finally getting its well deserved feature. In the past it has been adapted by Disney into a short film, but I was excited to see a new longer adaptation of this famous pacifist. John Cena voices the beloved docile bull, though in his real life Cena become famous for quite the opposite.
The film borrows most of the material from the short illustrated children’s book, but of course creates a more modern and longer version adding plenty of new characters. Ferdinand remains the same peaceful and unique bull, but is joined by new creatures and humans. As a young bull Ferdinand witnesses the preparation and determination of old and young bulls alike to become the one chosen to defeat the matador. In keeping with his demeanor, Ferdinand abstains from fights with his fellow bulls and as anyone familiar with this tale knows, he sticks to smelling the flowers. As with most children’s films, the child (or animal) does not hold the same dream as the parent, and there is where this and too many other stories start.
Once his father is chosen and does not return, Ferdinand runs away and finds peace and quiet with a new family where he can sit at his tree, smell the flowers all he wants, and live out his own dream. As he grows into his own he becomes too powerful and is soon swept away to the same fate as his father where he struggles to stay true to his loving nature.
Joining Cena’s Ferdinand is the always hilarious Kate McKinnon as his “calming” goat coach, Lupe, and she is easily the best part of the film. Bobby Cannavale, David Tennant, Anthony Anderson, Gina Rodriguez, somehow Peyton Manning, among many other voice actors round out the cast.
In this depiction, the filmmakers are obviously pandering to the younger audience with their goofy additions to the story and with the sillier humor that may not appeal to every parent. Despite the humor that may not go over well with older audiences, I found that the movie surprisingly tackled very important issues that kids should be aware of. Ferdinand has been a hit since its release in the early 1900’s thanks to its message of peace, which led to it even being considered controversial by fascist European leaders and even burned and banned. The film keeps that message, and also sheds light on the barbaric practice of bullfighting and even the horrors of the meat factory.
I hope these themes stay with the young audiences, but also to anyone ever considering becoming a spectator of bullfighting or anything of the sort. The film will win kids over with its animation and quirky cast, and hopefully inspire them to seek out the original source. Glad to see a new generation being introduced to Ferdinand. The book is highly beloved in my household, Robert Lawson’s original drawing of the bull is even tattooed on my boyfriend’s arm in honor of his mother who often read it to him.
|Release Date:||December 15th, 2017|
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