Adapting a classic piece of children's literature is no easy task. To take Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson's The Story of Ferdinand and expand it into the feature film Ferdinand, the filmmakers make the choice to go loud and colorful and play the film to the youngest in the audience with the shortest attention span. While the film can feel trite and weightless at times, there are some genuinely heartfelt moments as we watch the titular bull voiced by John Cena struggle to lead a peaceful life amongst the flowers. 20th Century Fox Brings Ferdinand to Blu-ray with a first-rate A/V presentation and some brief but decent bonus features. The kids will love it and you might enjoy it too. Recommended.
I do not envy the task of adapting a classic children's book. The Story of Ferdinand by Muno Leaf and Robert Lawson is a simple story about a bull who wants nothing more than to sit on a hill under a tree and sniff the flowerers. How do you make a 108-minute movie out of that? You expand the hell out of it. You create dozens of new characters, a cute kid, a dog, maybe some horses - some more loud and obnoxious than others to keep the kids entertained. Then you add a couple song and dance scenes all the while trying to expand on the original themes. With all that weight, Ferdinand may not be a complete success, but its heart is in the right place making it at the very least a worthwhile watch.
Ferdinand (John Cena) had a rough start. When he was just but a little bull, his father was killed in the ring by the greatest Matador El Primo in Spain. In his grief, he ran away and found himself living on a flower farm with a little girl named Nina (Julia Saldanha), her father Juan (Juanes) and their scruffy dog Paco (Jerrod Carmichael). After getting stung on the bottom by a bee and rampaging through town during the annual flower festival, Ferdinand finds himself sent back to the ranch of his birth where he encounters all of the other bulls he was forced to train against. With El Primo searching for one last bull for his final fight, Ferdinand will have to work with his new "trainer" the goat Lupe (Kate McKinnon) in order to hatch a plan that allows everyone to escape the ranch.
Like Alexander and the Terrible No Good Very Bad Day, one of my favorite books from when I was a kid has been made into a feature-length movie. And like Alexander, the world probably could have gone spinning about its axis without a Ferdinand movie. That isn't to say that this loud and bombastic adaptation is worthless or doesn't have anything to offer, it's just so very much like any other loud colorful animated kids film that comes out every year that its indistinguishable from everything else. If's a fine film. It's fun and has its moments but at the same time, if you grew up loving the original book, you're not going to find much of that source material in this one.
But then, this particular 35-year-old adult male without children is not who this movie was made for. It was made for a younger sort of human being, somewhere in the age range of his 2, 5, and 8-year-old nieces. Perhaps the best strength of Ferdinand is that it requires you to be a kid and just have fun with it. Fun is the operative word here. The film tries to inject a bit of a theme about the importance of not fighting… but it doesn't land. It's an afterthought that is pushed aside by loud characters who make a cacophony of noises to get the laughs from the little ones in the room.
While it's far from a work of art and I question how it got a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar Nomination, I do have to tip my hat to the great voice cast in Ferdinand. I especially have to single out John Cena and Kate McKinnon as their energy is what keeps a lot of this film going and provide the best jokes. I've got a hunch that if anyone else had been cast a lot of the innocence of Ferdinand would have been lost and the timing of Lupe's gags would have been sour notes. At the end of the day, Ferdinand is just not a movie meant for the adults in the room - but it's one they're going to have to endure because the kiddos are sure to enjoy this one. It's noncommittal and doesn't require a focused attention span to get the humor. Kids'll love the characters, the colors, the songs. It's best not to compare it to the source material as the two couldn't be further apart from one another.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Ferdinand arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox in a 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD set. Pressed onto a BD-50 disc, the discs are housed in a two-disc eco-friendly case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads up to trailers for other Fox Animation releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. The included digital copy can be redeemed through Movies Anywhere.
Ferdinand arrives with a bold and beautiful 1080p 2.39:1 transfer. Like most Fox Animation offerings, the style of animation doesn't exactly call for intricate textures but instead favors a more cartoonish appearance - which lends itself well enough for this sort of film. Similar to their Ice Age offerings, the animals and critters that populate the cast of characters maintain that sort of exaggerated true to life stature. Ferdinand, even in his gigantic form with slick mat hair, maintains a weighty well-rendered appearance. But image accuracy to life-like creatures isn't what this movie is about. It's about the colors and the design. On that note, this flick is a real winner. Virtually every scene is an explosion of primary colors. As this movie was originally shown theatrically in 3D, the black levels are spot on and allow for a terrific sense of three-dimensional space. The big chase sequence is a particularly fun bit that makes me wish this was released on disc in 3D. As it stands, this is a pretty great 2D presentation.
Ferdinand smashes its way to Blu-ray with a terrific DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio mix. From the opening moments with the young bulls at the ranch ragging on each other to the somber quiet moments to the film's exhilarating chase sequence, this audio mix delivers the goods. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout. Sound effects are lively and constantly spaced around the channels ensuring some terrific surround activity. The real impressive piece for me was any kind of heavy hoof fall or any moment when the bulls smashed heads there was a thundering quality to the impact that delivered a terrific LFE presence. As an active, frenetic kids flick with fast jokes and a lot of action, this is a great audio mix.
As with most bonus feature packages cobbled together for kids flicks these days, the one brought together for Ferdinand may have a number of things to look at, but they hardly go into any great depth, a lot of fluff stuff. They do offer a few interesting moments and insights to make this at least worth looking at.
Ferdinand's Guide to Healthy Living with John Cena (HD 3:09) Cena gives health tips - pretty much all there is as it's so short it's padded by clips from the movie.
A Goat's Guide to Life (HD 3:08) A quick bit about Kate McKinnon's lovable goat.
Ferdinand's Team Supreme (HD 3:45) The other characters get about 20 seconds each in this very brief overview.
Spain Through Ferdinand's Eyes (HD 1:50) A quick look at the various locations of the film.
Confessions of a Bull Loving Horse (HD 3:22) If you've seen Flula's YouTube channel, you more or less have an idea of what to expect here.
Creating the Land of Ferdinand (HD 5:49) This is actually a pretty cool but too quick look at the design work of the film.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Bull Run (HD 4:03) It's short but it's an interesting piece about bringing this scene to life.
Learn to Dance with Ferdinand (HD 7:46)
Ferdinand's Do It Yourself Flower Garden (HD 6:49) Hosted by Lisa Ely, the title says it all.
Creating a Remarka-Bull Song (HD 3:51) Nick Jonas discusses writing the song that earned him an Oscar nomination.
"Home" Music Video (HD 3:14) Said song by Nick Jonas.
Art of Ferdinand Gallery (HD 3:47)
Trailer (HD 2:26)
If you're going into Ferdinand expecting a literal and faithful recreation of a children's book classic, you're likely to be a little disappointed. I was - at first. But then I got into the fun of the film and ended up enjoying myself quite a bit. Ferdinand is far from perfect, but for the kids in the room, it will be a diverting colorful piece of entertainment. 20th Century Fox brings Ferdinand to Blu-ray in terrific order with a beautiful A/V presentation and some entertaining extra features. The only way this set could have been made better is by including a 3D disc. As it stands in 2D, Ferdinand is a lot of harmless fun that's easy to call Recommended.