Based on the classic children’s book of the same name, Ferdinand is directed by Blue Sky Studios’ Carlos Saldanha who also directed or co-directed most of the studios’ hit films including Ice Age, Rio and Robots, and is returning to the directors chair for the seventh time at the studio.
Ferdinand tells the story of a pacifist bull who would much rather stop and smell the roses in life (literally) than face-off in the ring against matadors – something his stable-mates live for. After his father is picked to face the matador in Madrid and fails to return home, young Ferdinand (Colin Murphy) escapes the bull ranch on a freight train and finds himself in the barn of a young girl, Nina (Katie Silverman) and her father who adopt him. Nina and Ferdinand grow inseparable and attend the annual flower festival together each year, but once Ferdinand is fully grown (and now voiced by John Cena) he is told he can no longer attend due to his frightening size and appearance to the towns folk. After Nina and her father leave for the festival, a disappointed Ferdinand sneaks off behind them to attend the festival too and ends up accidentally trashing town square after being stung by a bee. Animal Control desperately try to capture Ferdinand which leads to some of the films funniest scenes, including a hilarious bull in a china shop scene previously shown in teaser form. After being captured Ferdinand is sent back to the bull ranch where his “comfort goat” Lupe (played by the hilarious Kate McKinnon) decides to peruse her life-long dream of coaching with Ferdinand, despite his unwillingness to fight.
It’s not long before Ferdinand discovers fighting in the ring is a similar fate to being sent to a slaughterhouse and devises a plan to get himself and the other bulls out of the ranch.
The cast of the film are particularly delightful with Cena bringing a great energy to the character of Ferdinand and is absolutely the perfect casting choice for the lead. David Tennant as Angus, a Scottish bull who struggles to see past his wild fringe, delivers some of the films funniest lines, and Bobby Cannavale as tough-guy Valiente was a great choice of casting. Cannavale always seems to nail the mean-guy characters to a tee, but my favourite (and perhaps a tad biased) favourite casting was for the tough but anxious bull Guapo voiced by none other than Denver Broncos ex-quarterback Peyton Manning. As a huge Broncos fan I was pleasantly surprised by his voice work in the film and certainly hope he continues more voice work in future animated features, as he brought some great energy to the film while bringing Guapo to life.
Overall Ferdinand surprised me with it’s witty one-liners, great cast and lush animation. I felt the film was the perfect length for the story it was telling, had a heartwarming message about the controversial bullfighting spectacle and living the life you want to live. Although the latter is a trope that has been explored a lot over the years it never got old here and I found the film quite unpredictable which was a pleasant surprise as a lot of the time while watching I thought the story was going to go one way, but ended up going the other. Ferdinand is a film I’d recommend to anyone as it has something for everyone with its charming characters, lush visuals, great humour and a lot of heart.
Animation | USA, 2017 | U | 9th December 2017 (UK) | Dir. Carlos Saldanha | Blue Sky Studios | John Cena,Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, David Tennant