Movie review: Ferdinand

The story of gentle but enormous bull is easy to identify with

Directed by Carlos Saldanha
Voices (English version) John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning, Gina Rodriguez, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, David Tennant
Voices (Czech version) Ondřej Brzobohatý, Hana Kusnjerová, Tomaš Racek, Terezie Taberyová, Jan Zadražil, Mojmír Maděrič, Matouš Ruml, Daniel Bambas, David Suchařípa, Roman Štabrňák

The animated story of a gentle, flower-loving bull named Ferdinand manages to be both entertaining and inspirational.

The film, showing in both English and Czech-dubbed versions, comes from Blue Sky, the company behind the Ice Age films, Rio and The Peanuts Movie.

Ferdinand takes place in modern-day Spain and touches on the world of bullfighting. It does get into some frank issues, including very early on the death of a parent, and there are a few other very scary scenes later on, so parents with impressionable children should take that into account.

But the overall tone of the cartoon is upbeat. A young male calf named Ferdinand is being raised for bullfighting, but he starts to see that it is not a good life.

He escapes and winds up on a farm that raises flowers, and becomes inseparable friends with Nina, the daughter of the flower vendor.

The plot gets going at full speed when Ferdinand grows up to be absolutely massive, but still a gentle soul. Through a chain of events, he winds up getting into big trouble, but at the same time making a large group of friends. This leads to a series chases and escape scenes, with lots of action and teamwork.

The group of animals is quite diverse, and accepting differences is one of the film’s messages. The bulls each have a very distinct breed and personality, some are into the fame and glory of bullfighting, others think there must be better things to life.

Along with the bulls, there is an old goat named Lupe, who is looking for love, and three hedgehogs who provide some diversion. Three German horses who do synchronized dancing throw a dose of attitude into the plot.

The animated humans run a wide range from sympathetic characters like Nina, a chirpy young girl in pigtails, to overdone stereotypes like El Primero, the tall and thin matador with a conceited and evil demeanor, and the villainous owners of the ranch that raises bulls for fighting.

Ferdinand, though, is someone that children should identify with. His fears as a calf and as well as his joys in simple play come off as genuine. When he grows up to be a massive bull, he still is a child at heart and he can’t reconcile his size to his surroundings. This especially gets him into trouble when he visits a town and is mistaken for a dangerous animal, causing panic.

He is a bit like Big Bird in Sesame Street, kind and inquisitive but awkwardly not fitting in. Getting into trouble while having the best of intentions, knocking things over and running to try to hide are all things children will recognize from their own lives.

The modern setting, with TVs and big-city traffic, are also something that makes the film easy to relate to, as opposed to the more typical fairytale settings for feature-length cartoons.

There are some additional scenes in the credits, so don’t run to leave right away.

The film has already earned several award nominations, including two Golden Globe nominations for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song, as well as nominations for two Annie Awards.

Video on YouTube

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