“Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand […]
And for all I know he is sitting there still, under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly…”
Because Blue Sky Studios certainly isn’t releasing a film about him on December 15.
No, no, I told you they aren’t.
Okay, fine. So what if they are?
I’m not mad about it. I’m cool, I’m cool…
I’M COOL, OKAY!?
I can see there’s no hiding this from you people: I cannot abide that I live in a world with that trailer, let alone a feature-length version of it. Why do people insist on taking a simple concept and inflating it until it floats grotesquely above us like Harry Potter’s Aunt Marge, screeching at us to look at it while we feel as though we ought to avert our eyes?
Disney released an Academy Award-winning short of Munro Leaf’s beloved The Story of Ferdinand titled Ferdinand the Bull in 1938, two years after the book’s publication, that runs about eight minutes. Its narration nearly matches the text and some shots clearly originated from Robert Lawson’s illustrations. One might say it’s too faithful to justify adapting it at all.
If Leaf’s entire story fits neatly into eight minutes, what could you possibly fill it with to run one hour and forty-seven minutes? Nothing worth my time, I’ll warrant.
I am, of course, setting myself up to eat crow. Suppose the film ends up warming its audiences with an abundance of heart and laughter? The trailer promises as much. And sure, I bet I’ll chuckle here and there, and certainly children will find it hilarious, but I can’t help but doubt that Blue Sky will succeed at faithfully adapting a book that has sold consistently since 1936.
What They Will Do:
They’re going to pawn protagonist duties off on yet another invented child audience surrogate. This year’s model is known as “Nina.” Instead of putting the audience in Ferdinand’s gentle and peace-loving shoes, Blue Sky will ask them to sympathize with a young girl fighting to rescue her friend. The studio will want its audience to root for their reuniting. Maybe not for the majority of the screen time, but enough to discredit Leaf’s characterization of Ferdinand as quiet and gentle, but not lonely like everyone assumes.
I suppose this model has brought financial success for other films, but always at the cost of destroying the soul of the original stories and ruining their profound simplicity. It’s not that I think Ferdinand wouldn’t be friends with children, just that the idea of him “hanging out” with friends at his favorite cork tree or watching TV with his human family (instead of Ferdinand’s real mother!?) takes away from Leaf’s idea of Ferdinand as a solitary fellow with different ideas about life.
What They Won’t Do:
Keep it simple. They’re already stuffing the movie full of other themes and feel-good messages of inclusivity, so I imagine Ferdinand’s simple and persistent refusal to be aggressive will be lessened somewhat in favor of “Be yourself!”
Which is such as shame at a time when we’re finally seeing gentle male protagonists like the quiet-but-confident Newt Scamander.
I also predict the entire film will transform into a running joke about Ferdinand inadvertently breaking things or hurting people, much to his tenderhearted horror.
What They Should Do:
Let Ferdinand act as a role model, as he did in Munro Leaf’s story. Instead of a few general ones, let the story have one specific message: One can desire a humble life, and non-aggression can be effective.
What They Should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO:
See: What They Will Do.
Wish List Item:
I already know I won’t possibly see the top items on my list (
a scene of Ferdinand and his mother talking about how much he isn’t lonely and simply likes smelling flowers Nope! It’ll be Nina, if anything; a colorful homage to 1930’s Spain Nope! it’s clearly modernized; Perhaps an added emphasis on the Matador, to contrast him with Ferdinand Nope! Unlikely, as the trailer instead focuses on Ferdinand’s invented animal friends who seemingly exist for jokes and jokes only.
Well goodness, if I can only have one thing, maybe include the parade of Banderilleros, Picadores, and the Mataodor? A nice display of animation elevating setting?
Chances of this happening:
I trust this movie farther than I could throw John Cena, but surely such a scene can’t be too difficult, is a necessary transition, and will show off the studio’s skill at animation? 60%.
Ferdinand starring John Cena and directed by Carlos Saldanha stampedes into theaters on December 15, 2017 (the same day as The Last Jedi!? Digging the hole even deeper, my friends).
Media obtained from: youtube.com, cgmeetup.com, cinemaniaec.wordpress.com. All copyright belongs to Blue Sky Studios.