Amadeus Jones ’21 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
In 1936, American author Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson created a children’s book entitled The Story of Ferdinand. The book showcased a bull named Ferdinand who, contrary to popular beliefs, didn’t like to fight but, instead, preferred to spend the day sniffing flowers. The book gave children messages regarding tolerance and pacifism, eventually leading it to become the best-known work of Mr. Leaf. In fact, it was so popular that, in 1938, Walt Disney decided to adapt the book into a short animated film entitled Ferdinand the Bull, which would go on to win the 1938 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Cartoons.
Today, only a mere 79 years later, Blue Sky Studios have decided to produce a 3D feature length film adaptation of the beloved children’s novel simply entitled Ferdinand. Seeing as how the original work by Leaf was only 34 pages long, with the short animated film by Disney being only seven minutes as well, some might ask how the same director behind Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Rio 2, Carlos Saldanha, was able to add over an hour of extra content to the mix. Two words: “kiddie fodder.”
“Kiddie fodder” relates to anything placed inside a movie that is obviously meant to appeal to what people think kids like. This term could be applied to any of the 13 to 14 characters specifically placed into the film for comedic relief whose characteristics boil down to one or two quirks. Examples of these quirks include the small, yet fast bull, Bones (Anthony Anderson), the robot bull, the bull who pukes when he sees matadors, Guapo (Peyton Manning), the Scottish bull, Angus (David Tennant), and Lupe, the goat who makes annoying sounds (Kate McKinnon). The only characters who possess some kind of development are Ferdinand (John Cena), and Valiente (Bobby Cannavale), who are shown to be childhood rivals early on in the film with the former being a pacifist while the latter is constantly trying to fight.
This was a large missed opportunity seeing as how one of the criticisms of Leaf’s book and the Disney animated short film was that Ferdinand and the film’s antagonist, a famous matador named El Primero (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), could have done with a little more backstory regarding their motivations. Ferdinand is given a more lengthy backstory involving his Father (Jeremy Sisto) having to face El Primero early on, with Ferdinand running away from his home because of it, eventually winding up living with a farmer named Juan (Juanes) whose daughter, Nina (Lily Day), becomes Ferdinand’s best friend. El Primero, in an hour and a half long movie, is still just shown as the stereotypical bad guy who is not given any real motivation for why he acts so cruel—he’s just mean because he’s mean.
This movie does hit some notes pretty well though. The animation, for starters, is quite lively and makes most of the film’s physical comedy even better through more animated movements and facial reactions. In fact, one of the best parts of the film is the colors within the animation. There are reds and yellows and purples and pinks and blacks and blues and every one of them is extremely vibrant throughout the entire picture.
Additionally, the voice acting is very well done in this film. Despite the fact that several of the lines read are either painful attempts at comedy or goat screams, actors and actresses such as John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, and even Peyton Manning each seem to bring an animated charisma to each character they are portraying.
All in all, this movie isn’t necessarily bad. To be honest, the first half was well put together, combining some simple kids humor with discussions about pacifistic behavior that actually meet the spirit of Leaf’s greatest work. However, once the second half hits, the movie becomes every other bland children’s film trying desperately to appeal to a younger demographic by including such ridiculous ideas as a robot bull twerking during a dance-off and Segway car chases. It still presents a message regarding more peaceful behavior, which means that it’s not harmful, it just doesn’t take a whole lot of brain power to understand. At the end of the day, it’s similar to something that keeps a kid quiet for around an hour while the parents clean the house, just noise in the background.
Overall Grade: C
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