Adapting a classic piece of children's literature is no easy task. To take Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand and expand it into the feature film Ferdinand, the filmmakers make the choice to go loud and colorful and play the film to the youngest in the audience with the shortest attention span. While the film can feel trite and weightless at times, there are some genuinely heartfelt moments as we watch the titular bull voiced by John Cena struggle to lead a peaceful life amongst the flowers. 20th Century Fox Brings Ferdinand to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a bright, bold and beautiful looking picture enhanced by HDR10 with an effective Dolby Atmos track. The bonus features may be brief, but their worth looking at. The kids will love it and you might enjoy it too. Recommended.
I do not envy the task of adapting a classic children's book. The Story of Ferdinand by Muno Leaf and Robert Lawson is a simple story about a bull who wants nothing more than to sit on a hill under a tree and sniff the flowerers. How do you make a 108-minute movie out of that? You expand the hell out of it. You create dozens of new characters, a cute kid, a dog, maybe some horses - some more loud and obnoxious than others to keep the kids entertained. Then you add a couple song and dance scenes all the while trying to expand on the original themes. With all that weight, Ferdinand may not be a complete success, but its heart is in the right place making it at the very least a worthwhile watch.
Ferdinand (John Cena) had a rough start. When he was just but a little bull, his father was killed in the ring by the greatest Matador El Primo in Spain. In his grief, he ran away and found himself living on a flower farm with a little girl named Nina (Julia Saldanha), her father Juan (Juanes) and their scruffy dog Paco (Jerrod Carmichael). After getting stung on the bottom by a bee and rampaging through town during the annual flower festival, Ferdinand finds himself sent back to the ranch of his birth where he encounters all of the other bulls he was forced to train against. With El Primo searching for one last bull for his final fight, Ferdinand will have to work with his new "trainer" the goat Lupe (Kate McKinnon) in order to hatch a plan that allows everyone to escape the ranch.
Like Alexander and the Terrible No Good Very Bad Day, one of my favorite books from when I was a kid has been made into a feature-length movie. And like Alexander, the world probably could have gone spinning about its axis without a Ferdinand movie. That isn't to say that this loud and bombastic adaptation is worthless or doesn't have anything to offer, it's just so very much like any other loud, colorful animated kids film that comes out every year that its indistinguishable from everything else. If's a fine film. It's fun and has its moments, but at the same time, if you grew up loving the original book, you're not going to find much of that source material in this one.
But then, this particular 35-year-old adult male without children is not who this movie was made for. It was made for a younger sort of human being, somewhere in the age range of his 2, 5, and 8-year-old nieces. Perhaps the best strength of Ferdinand is that it requires you to be a kid and just have fun with it. Fun is the operative word here. The film tries to inject a bit of a theme about the importance of not fighting… but it doesn't land. It's an afterthought that is pushed aside by loud characters who make a cacophony of noises to get the laughs from the little ones in the room.
While it's far from a work of art and I question how it got a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar Nomination, I do have to tip my hat to the great voice cast in Ferdinand. I especially have to single out John Cena, and Kate McKinnon as their energy is what keeps a lot of this film going and provide the best jokes. I've got a hunch that if anyone else had been cast a lot of the innocence of Ferdinand would have been lost and the timing of Lupe's gags would have been sour notes. At the end of the day, Ferdinand is just not a movie meant for the adults in the room - but it's one they're going to have to endure because the kiddos are sure to enjoy this one. It's noncommittal and doesn't require a focused attention span to get the humor. Kids'll love the characters, the colors, the songs. It's best not to compare it to the source material as the two couldn't be further apart from one another.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Ferdinand smells the roses on 4K UHD Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox in a 2-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital HD set. Pressed on a BD-66 disc, the discs are housed in a two-disc eco-friendly case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. None of the film's bonus features are found on the UHD disc and are on the included Blu-ray. The included digital copy can be redeemed through Movies Anywhere.
Considering the already impressive 1080p transfer and the fact that the film was finished from a 2K DI, I honestly didn't expect to see much of an improvement in details. Color me surprised with this 2160p 2.39:1 UHD presentation. I thought that on the 1080p SDR transfer that the image could look textureless, but I wrote that off as more of the standard for the animation style than any resolution issue. Here, even upconverted from a 2K DI, there is a notable uptick in finer details, particularly with Ferdinand and the other bulls who exhibit finer fur. The walls of the ranch even display an improved stucco patterning. While this isn't completely a night and day improvement, doing some quick side by side disc swaps you could see the difference.
However, the big difference you're going to spot is the vivid color enhancements courtesy of a generous but not overdone HDR10 pass. Primaries leap off the screen, it's really impressive how amazing everything pops. Any shot with flowers - and there are plenty of them - looks stunning. I particularly enjoyed Ferdinand's comical tour through the china shop as you can see all of the colorful patterns on the plates and glasses against the stronger, more defined whites. Black levels also enjoy a little extra nuance as well giving the image some extra shadow layering during the night sequences. The rescue scene through the abattoir was a nice takeaway. Again, I do wish I could see this movie in 3D as it's quite clear that much of the imagery was designed with that effect in mind. But for a straight 2D presentation, it doesn't get any better than this 4K UHD transfer.
Man, you gotta love what a good Dolby Atmos mix can bring to a movie. I was already pretty damn keen on the DTS-HD MA 7.1 track included on the Blu-ray, and truth be told if that had been ported over here, you wouldn't have heard any complaints from me about it. So on that note, take everything that I said about the DTS-HD MA 7.1 track and tune it up to 11. Stronger vertical activity is the big takeaway here. The chase sequence I mentioned previously, but also the big train escape at the beginning felt more impactful with a harder LFE that I found particularly effective as someone who frequently walks under L tracks. On top of that great moment, I found the big arena Bull Fight sequence and the crowd activity in the surrounds have the film a beautiful cavernous effect. Like the DTS mix, the dialogue is crystal clear and never at odds with the rest of the mix.
As with most bonus feature packages cobbled together for kids flicks these days, the one brought together for Ferdinand may have a number of things to look at, but they hardly go into any great depth, a lot of fluff stuff. They do offer a few interesting moments and insights to make this at least worth looking at. All bonus features are located on the included Blu-ray disc.
Ferdinand's Guide to Healthy Living with John Cena (HD 3:09) Cena gives health tips - pretty much all there is as it's so short it's padded by clips from the movie.
A Goat's Guide to Life (HD 3:08) A quick bit about Kate McKinnon's lovable goat.
Ferdinand's Team Supreme (HD 3:45) The other characters get about 20 seconds each in this very brief overview.
Spain Through Ferdinand's Eyes (HD 1:50) A quick look at the various locations of the film.
Confessions of a Bull Loving Horse (HD 3:22) If you've seen Flula's YouTube channel, you more or less have an idea of what to expect here.
Creating the Land of Ferdinand (HD 5:49) This is actually a pretty cool but too quick look at the design work of the film.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Bull Run (HD 4:03) It's short but it's an interesting piece about bringing this scene to life.
Learn to Dance with Ferdinand (HD 7:46)
Ferdinand's Do It Yourself Flower Garden (HD 6:49) Hosted by Lisa Ely, the title says it all.
Creating a Remarka-Bull Song (HD 3:51) Nick Jonas discusses writing the song that earned him an Oscar nomination.
"Home" Music Video (HD 3:14) Said song by Nick Jonas.
Art of Ferdinand Gallery (HD 3:47)
Trailer (HD 2:26)
If you're going into Ferdinand expecting a literal and faithful recreation of a children's book classic, you're likely to be a little disappointed. I was - at first. But then I got into the fun of the film and ended up enjoying myself quite a bit. Ferdinand is far from perfect, but for the kids in the room, it will be a diverting colorful piece of entertainment. 20th Century Fox takes an already impressive HD A/V presentation and improves it with a beautiful and vivid 4K / HDR10 video transfer and an Atmos mix that brings a lot of vitality and presence to an already active audio mix. The included extras are worth looking at. Granted I would have loved to see this film in 3D, but this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray offers visual splendor to a harmless and fun flick. Recommended.