Ferdinand’s tale originated in a children’s book titled “The Story of Ferdinand” which was published back in 1936. The 2017 animated feature film by Blue Sky Studios follows the original story of a young bull named Ferdinand played by Colin H. Murphy, who would rather smell flowers than participate in bullfights.
Ferdinand escapes from the bullfighting farm Casa Del Toro and finds himself at a florist’s farm where he is adopted by owner Juan and his daughter Nina, voiced by Lily Day. Surrounded by flowers and no longer forced to fight, Ferdinand maintains a happy lifestyle assisting on the farm, attending the town’s annual flower festival and develops a bond with Nina. As he grows up into an adult bull, he still retains his sweet disposition and flower-loving nature.
Due to Ferdinand’s now enormous size, Juan advises Nina that Ferdinand can no longer attend the town’s annual flower festival for his own safety. Ferdinand now voiced by John Cena decides to go the flower festival anyway and winds up back at Casa Del Toro. Realising that times have changed at the bullfighting farm where one must appear strong to survive or end up at the meat factory, Ferdinand must find a way to return to the farm of flowers and the little girl who loves him unconditionally.
The 2017 film of Ferdinand expands the story in comparison to the book with Ferdinand having a rival, a strange dance off with horses and finding companionship in his fellow bulls. I enjoyed how Ferdinand fought the system in his own way by defying the role that had been forced upon him and refusing to succumb to the pressure of his peers.
I was surprised and impressed by John Cena’s voice acting efforts. John Cena is more known for his professional wrestling, but has dabbled in a bit of acting. Where many actors fail miserably and just sound like themselves, John Cena is one of the rare few that knows how to do voice acting properly and does it well with Ferdinand appearing soft, sensitive and thoughtful. I’ve never really paid much attention to John Cena before, but I will now, and I look forward to seeing the next film that he does.
I had an issue with the horses. I thought they were stupid and unnecessary characters with horrible voice acting and ridiculously bad accents, but I’m not the targeted audience, and perhaps this was more intended to make children laugh? Although, the screening I attended had many kids and none of them laughed when the horse characters appeared on-screen. I also thought it was strange how Blue Sky Studios chose to bypass how Nina knew what Ferdinand’s name was, considering Ferdinand cannot speak to humans.
While John Cena was impressive, a good actor cannot save a film alone. Is Ferdinand worth watching? Yes, but I feel that Blue Sky Studios just glazes over and fluffs a story that is so much deeper than the studio gives it credit for. The Nazi’s even burnt the translations of The Story of Ferdinand back when Hitler was in power due to the character choosing not to fight. Although entertaining, Ferdinand just plays it safe when it could have been so much more.