The BackShop Journal

A Web Magazine of Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

Ferdinand (USA, 2017)

In spite of the fact that the gist of the story has already been told long ago, both in a 1936 book and a 1938 Disney short, Ferdinand has surprised many animated film lovers, especially with its impressive character animation and voice acting. From the very start of the movie, the animation done by Blue Sky Studios, whose most notable creation is the Ice Age series, is bound to galvanise the audience. The plot runs into some clichés in the second half of the film, but, overall, it emanates positive vibes and showcases formidable artistic talent.

Ferdinand is the story about a young bull who likes smelling flowers more than fighting. He runs away from the bull farm filled with peer bullies, and ends  up on a farm where he leads an idyllic country life with a girl and her father. When Ferdinand, already grown, decides to follow his masters to a flower festival in the near-by town, his size and strength condemns him to the return to the same coral. He amazes his old pugnacious buddies with his magnificent bulk, but everyone knows his weakness. Unlike other fighting bull wannabes, he is an incorrigible pacifist. All he has to do now is convince the others they cannot come out of the Madrid bullring alive.

The most impressive feature of the movie is its character animation. The forms and expression of all the faces and bodies, both animal and human, are truly admirable. The bulls' uncouth bodies seem to tell stories of their own. Each one of Ferdinand's fellows and supposed rivals is endowed with a distinct and recognisable personality in a single scene. Humans, especially the bull farm owner and the star matador, appear even more exaggerated in their facial features and behaviour than the expected stereotypes.

John Cena successfully provides the voice for the main protagonist. Even more masterly is the voice of the main horse character played by the German actor, musician and Youtube personality with an adequately comical name, Flula Borg. The outrageous horses with German accents are remarkable, hilarious sidekicks. I am predicting a spin-off here.

In the second part of the  story, the plot runs into an occasional redundant divertissement, but they do not ruin the overall impression of the film. The creation is bound to satisfy all non-cynical animation lovers not spoiled by the oversaturation of movie going. Both young and old.

Svetozar Postic

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