Updated: Apr 4, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2017; PG for rude humor, action and some thematic elements; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: “Ferdinand’s Guide to Healthy Living” and “Learn to Dance with Ferdinand” go hand-in-hand
ONCE UPON a time, way back in 1936, prolific American author Munro Leaf wrote what would become one of the best loved children’s books of all time. It even outsold bestseller “Gone with the Wind.”
“The Story of Ferdinand,” about an enormous bull who would rather smell flowers than fight, has never been out of print. Even when faced with an aggressive champion matador, he refuses to charge.
Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha brings the gentle creature to life in a feature length animated film. The co-director of the original “Ice Age,” he also directed “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “Rio” and “Rio 2.” “Ferdinand,” which was nominated for a best animated film Oscar, expands Leaf’s simple story to 108 minutes. Resulting slapstick action and wacky extra characters bring the laughs.
The movie starts with a young Ferdinand on a ranch with other young bulls. Their fathers bulk up and compete among themselves to see who will be chosen to fight in the great bull ring in Madrid. Later, Ferdinand and his animal friends will learn no bull conquers the ring; it will be killed, its horns a trophy to be mounted on the wall. Those who are not chosen for the ring are sent to the chop house.
These are harsh concepts for most adults, and the youngest will surely have questions. The subjects are handled delicately, but can’t be avoided. To their credit, Saldanha’s six-man writing team stays on target. The risk for Ferdinand and his pals is real even when the meat packing plant takes on Rube Goldberg silliness.
Will everything work out OK? Will Ferdinand and friends rescue themselves and return to the charming flower farm in a Spanish hillside?
You’re going to enjoy the Ultra 4K picture with its HDR color boost. Images have far more texture and detail. The best example comes from Ferdinandhimself; his coat is furry; the flowers look gorgeous, with rich, saturated color and fine detail in the petals and leaves.
Yes, we get the old cliché – a bull in a china shop – with towering, carefully balanced plates, cups and more. A wizened, half-blind granny, feather duster in hand – then the tip of Ferdinand’s tail – walks just ahead of him cleaning as he tries to tip-toe out. While the Blu-ray is an overall success, the 4K’s bristles, feathers, china, et al. have more authenticity.
WWE megastar John Cena provides the voice for young adult Ferdinand and is he ever good. Still, every voice – Jeremy Sisto, David Tennant, Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Daveed Diggs, Bobby Cannavale and even Saldanha – is delivered richly and cleanly from the Dolby Atmos (4K) and Dolby True HD 7.1 (4K and Blu-ray) soundtracks.
Dolby Atmos provides a notable upgrade in overhead sound, particularly in crowd scenes as when Ferdinand goes on a village “rampage,” in the bull ring and when young Ferdinand escapes the ranch by train. Both tracks have good separation, surround activity and balance of voice, effects and music.
John Powell of “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Shrek,” Rio,” “Kung Fu Panda” and more delivers an original score with Spanish flair – horns, strings, and acoustic guitars. “Lay Your Head On Me” by Juanes, Pitbull’s “Freedom,” and the inimitable “Macarena” pop up along the way. Nick Jonas composed and sings the title theme, “Home,” nominated for a Golden Globe for best original song.
There are 12 short ones – all found on the Blu-ray – with several intended for the kids. Cena appears to lead us through “Ferdinand’s Guide to Healthy Living” talking about the benefits of good nutrition, exercise, kindness, and “being true to yourself,” with scenes from the film.
“Eating right and exercising are both healthy habits. But the way to a happy and healthy life also comes from the way we treat others,” Cena tells us.
“Creating the Land of ‘Ferdinand’” is a near six-minute making-of. Saldanha goes over design concepts, contrasting Ferdinand’s home – the rolling hills of the flower farm – with the abrupt lines of the ranch, village, factory and hard roads.
“Learn to Dance with Ferdinand” with choreographers Rich Talauega and Tone Talauega demonstrate dances created for various characters while showing sequences from the film and the artists who inspired them. (Support your new workout routine.)
“Spain Through Ferdinand’s Eyes” takes a postcard look at the film’s locations. ("Enjoy the food. You can flamenco it off later.) “Ferdinand’s Do-It-Yourself Flower Garden” is a how-to on growing seedlings in eggshells. “Home” is presented in a music video, then Nick Jonas talks about how he wrote it in “Creating a Remarka-Bull Song.”
“A Goat’s Guide to Life,” “Ferdinand’s Team Supreme” and “Confessions of a Bull-Loving Horse” compile scenes focusing on various supporting characters. “The Art of Ferdinand” is divided into galleries: “Concept Paintings,” “Character Designs,” “Locations,” and “Stills.”
On the down side; the 108 minute run time could have been shortened by about 15. On the plus: The messages found in “Ferdinand” are sound; the story entertains, especially youngsters, who will watch again and again.
- Kay Reynolds