Bashful Bull Bucks Banality

The first time I heard of Ferdinand the Bull, it was being used as a plot point in another feel-good movie starring Sandra Bullock. Now I can properly say, having watched the story of Ferdinand, I understand the point the feel-good movie was making, and have a respect for the story itself.

Ferdinand the Bull was originally a book published in 1936, written by Munro Leaf. Then, two years later it became an Oscar-award winning Disney short. It was a best seller, right alongside Gone with the Wind, and was loved by adults and children alike. However, it had a controversial reputation, due to the “third story” underneath the narrative, depicted in the illustrations provided by Robert Lawson. This, coupled with the timing of the Spanish Civil War, raised some eyebrows. Despite that, or maybe because of it, the story of Ferdinand has remained a well-loved classic.

The movie starts with Ferdinand as a calf, living alongside other youngsters, all of whom are being raised to take part in bullfights. Ferdinand loves flowers more than fighting, and is made fun of by his peers because of this. After the death of his father, he meets a nice farmer and his daughter Nina, and is raised there from a calf to a full-fledged bull, growing up on love, fresh air, and flowers. Through a series of unfortunate events, including being a bull in the china shop, a cute “punny” moment, Ferdinand is stung by a bee, and his painful outburst is misinterpreted as a ferocious, dangerous rampage. He is carted away, back to the farm he left as a child, where incidentally, his former bullying pen-mates still live. He meets a few colourful characters, including a well-intentioned goat, and manages to escape with all of his friends from certain death, back to the loving arms of Nina.

There is a bull chase with segways, some dancing hedgehogs, and a trio of oddly accented horses. I am not sure you could ask for more! As a whole, it is an entertaining movie that has layers of applicable messages you can relay to your children, or any children you may come across. Just make sure their parents are cool with you talking to them.

This movie has a marvellous cast, and if you are an avid sci-fi nerd like me, you may recognize a few names. David Tennant plays Angus, a Scottish bull who can’t see. (Tennant also played the tenth doctor in Doctor Who.) Miguel Angel Silvestre plays the matador, El Primero, and you may recognize him as the Spanish movie star heartthrob from the Netflix show, Sense8. There’s also a solid set of household names: Gabriel Iglesias, Kate McKinnon, Peyton Manning, and John Cena. While not filled with a lot of heavy hitters, the cast is well-picked for their characters, and the viewer is able to be immersed in the world they create.

Overall, this film is delightful and fun. I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near the calibre of Toy Story or even Monster’s Inc, but it’s likeable enough. It remains true to its original anecdote, and is well executed. But, unlike the original short, I don’t think it will be winning any awards.