Ferdinand is based on the 1936 children’s tale “The Story of Ferdinand,” by American writer Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson. In the story, a calf called Ferdinando is completely obsessed with the smell of flowers. Although his mother tries to convince him to fight with others in his pasture so that he becomes strong and gain fame in a bullfight, he does not give him the slightest attention.
Years later, Ferdinand grows a strong animal that still devotes all his attention to his favorite activity. However, he sits on a bee and the pain makes him run so fast that the bullfighters believe they have found the aggressive bull they seek. When placed in the arena, however, the animal only does what it has always done. The story ends with the bullfighter crying for not being able to make the bull fight and Ferdinando returning to his old pasture, for his flowers.
The tale was so successful that it was compared to children’s stories such as Teddy Bear. In addition, it was banned in many dictatorial countries in the midst of World War II, for being considered a pacifist. Ferdinando was so famous that Disney gave him life with a drawing that was distributed worldwide and even won the Oscar in 1938.
Now, more than 80 years after the story was conceived, the famous animal is back with Ferdinand, produced by Blue Sky Studios, the same animation company behind the Ice Age franchise. Although it contains many elements of the book and makes some references to the work of Disney, with very similar scenarios, the film changes the character a lot. The script is confusing and dilutes the original story into new characters and jokes.
While the original Ferdinand is moved by emotions and completely ignores the world around him, the new one is the most intelligent animal in the herd. The problem is that, for such a smart calf, smelling flowers does not seem to be the activity that most suits his intellect. Because of this, although the film begins by showing a passion for flowers (more for its existence than for its scent), soon appear dozens of other characters. The flowers are forgotten for most of the film, leaving confused what the purpose of the main character.
Even so, the animation has some exciting scenes. Unlike the book, the young Ferdinand loses his father in a bullfight. The following scenes are sad and dramatic. However, after a minute they dissipate like flowers: Ferdinando finds another pasture in which he meets new characters. This exchange of scenarios and characters happens a lot. All these changes make the story confusing until Ferdinando, just like in the book, ends up facing the bullfighter.
In the end, the film returns to deal with the death of his father and his lost childhood. But then it’s too late. What remains are jokes with characters without much personality and who dance to the rhythm of popular songs just for the purpose of being funny. It may be that the comedy was the only thing the studio wanted. But then why show us an exciting plot with a bull who loses his father early in the movie?
(This article original language is portuguese. This translation was made with Google Translate)