Ice Age has long been the backbone of BlueSky Studios and Fox when it comes to animation. After the enormous success of the saga carried by Manny, Diego and Sid at the Box Office (episodes 3 and 4 brought in more than a billion and a half dollars in the world between them), it was high time to succeed to renew itself and bring a little new blood. What better way than to call on the director of the first three Ice Ages, but also of the two films Rio and Robots to try to pull off a new coup, in the shadow of Pixar and Disney. It is with this very precise idea that arrives Ferdinand, a bull like no other who intends to make you move in the dark rooms on the occasion of the Christmas holidays.
A story and a message
When Ferdinand came into the world, a mapped out fate awaited him. Taller, he had to prove himself and prove to his masters that he can enter the arena in order to participate in the famous bullfight. But this bull is not like the others. Still a child, he sees his father go off to fight the bullfighter, never coming back and decides to flee to escape fate. Ferdinand is then taken in by a father and his little daughter on a large farm where he learns to live and love in a joyful world which perfectly matches his big heart. Until the day when everything changes …
Adapted from Munro Leaf’s short story called “The Story of Ferdinand” (which had already been adapted in 1938 by … Disney in a short film), the realization of Carlos Saldanha surprises. On the one hand, the subject she addresses is much more mature than it seems and behind the thousand colors of a beautifully represented Spain hide more serious subjects and in the era of time. Thus, it is the relevance of bullfighting and the cruelty to animals that stands out. A desire to raise awareness is emerging vis-à-vis this annual event that can be seen in Spain, but also in France, and which is today increasingly called into question, in particular because of its final goal. : the killing of the bull. It is with this constant ideology that evolves Ferdinand, an animal as loving as he is amiable, who hides under an imposing physique, a real desire to love his fellows but also the other beings he meets. We therefore see him form a deep friendship with a goat, hedgehogs but also a little girl for whom he becomes a companion in play and life. The idea is therefore to de-demonize the image that Man may have of the bull, an animal often symbolized as angry and impulsive.
As is often the case with animated films that feature everyday animals, the goal is to tell a story while humanizing its heroes. Ferdinand does this pretty well even if everything is staged and told with a certain classicism. There is not really a big surprise when we look for the first time at the realization of Carlos Saldanha which would perhaps have deserved finer dialogues and a bit funnier situations. If the staging is mastered, we would have appreciated more spectacle in the situations that are presented but also in the story that is told. What is strange is that as much as the main subject tackled by Ferdinand seems mature to us, the lightness with which the story is told is intended for the youngest.
Fortunately, the film makes up for it with its characters, all of them successful. We think of course of Ferdinand, dubbed in the original version by wrestler John Cena, who very quickly seduces us with his ambient good humor and his irreparable desire to discover the world around him. Lupe the Goat or her fellow bulls Valiente, Bones, Angus or Guapo all have distinct personalities that bring soul to the film. Even the horses, which for once have a discriminating role, led by Hans and his German accent, breathe a certain very communicative gaiety into the feature film. The three hedgehogs, Un, Dos and Cuatro are the famous humor card of the film but are unfortunately too quickly erased and forgotten.
Technically, Ferdinand is in any case one of the finest achievements of BlueSky studios and in particular Carlos Saldanha. Taking advantage of sometimes sumptuous settings and a faithfully transcribed Madrid, the film oscillates, as with its subjects, between color and darkness. We quickly see the differences in treatment between the farm and its green plains compared to the cages where our bull friends are locked up. Particular care has been taken in the character design of the heroes and, of course, of Ferdinand who benefits from neat and generous features. If we note a certain simplicity in the global modeling of humans, we can bet that the objective was above all to succeed with animals which have the best part of adventure.
Ferdinand is a very decent animated film which would nevertheless have deserved better treatment, especially in its direction. If it tackles a sensitive and surprisingly mature enough subject, the feature film does not get into it enough and leaves adults somewhat unsatisfied. Fairly agreed and not as funny as the first episodes of Ice Age, it should appeal to the youngest who unfortunately may miss its real big message in favor of animals and especially bulls.