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Western Animation / Ferdinand

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Ferdinand is a 2017 movie by Blue Sky Studios, adapted from Munro Leaf's children's book The Story of Ferdinand. It's directed by Carlos Saldanha, who directed the Rio films, and is the book's second Animated Adaptation after Disney's 1938 Silly Symphonies short.

The film, like the book, tells the story of a bull named Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) who loves flowers. One day, he's taken from his family by some men mistaking him for a dangerous beast and is put in Casa del Toro—the same bull house he escaped from as a calf. Ferd reunites with his calf-hood rivals Valiente (Bobby Cannavale), Guapo (Peyton Manning) and Bones (Anthony Anderson), along with Scottish bull Angus (David Tennant) and mute and stoic bull Maquina (Tim Nordquist). Not wanting to fight and determined to return home, Ferdinand rallies a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits—consisting of a wise but slightly unstable goat named Lupe (Kate McKinnon) and a trio of hedgehogs; Una (Gina Rodriguez), Dos (Daveed Diggs) and Cuatro (Gabriel Iglesias) to help him escape, all while proving that you can't judge a bull by its cover.

The movie was released on December 15, 2017, and was the last Blue Sky Studios film to be released by 20th Century Fox as a standalone studio prior to its acquisition by Disney which announced its buyout a day before this movie was released, who ultimately handled distribution for their next and final film Spies in Disguise in 2019, with this being their penultimate film before the studio was shuttered in early 2021.

This animated film features examples of

  • A Boy and His X: A little Spanish girl, Nina, finds a bull in her stable and adopts him. The plot starts off by Ferdinand not being allowed to go into town for the flower festival now that he's a full-grown bull. She pines for him throughout the movie until they are reunited at the end.
  • Actor Allusion: Bordering on Self-Deprecation: Ferdinand, a bull who chooses not to fight but has to pretend to, is played by John Cena, whose entire career is based around pretending to fight.
    • Likewise Cena is famous for being a loud obnoxious douche in the ring and incredibly kind, sweet, and gentle in real life. Ferdinand is also sweet and gentle, but forced to act against his nature in the bullfighting ring.
    • As Angus is trying to revive the bunny, he quips, "I'm not a doctor." David Tennant, Angus' voice actor, is famous for playing the 10th Doctor (although the Doctor is usually a medical doctor).
    • Guapo crumbling under pressure mirrors a persistent criticism of his VA Peyton Manning's career.
    • Upon hearing, “Piece of cake!”, Cuatro, played by Gabriel Iglesias says,”I love cake.” One of Gabriel Iglesias’ comedy tours was called, “I Love Cake.”
  • Actual Pacifist: Ferdinand in a nutshell. When attacked or insulted, he'll not fight back, even if his own life is at stake, and instead he'll try to escape or look for a peaceful resolution. The closest he gets to actually fighting back is locking horns with Valiente when the latter insists on attacking him, and even then Ferdinand is still trying to cool him down. Anything other havoc he wreaks is out of fear (and being a 2000 pound creature).
  • Adaptation Expansion: While mostly faithful, this is still adapted from a barely 30-page children's picture book. The cast is expanded to give Ferdinand a human family who keep him as a pet, as well as other animals he meets in Madrid. Also, rather than be sent home just for refusing to fight the matador, he and his new friends stage a prison break.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Ferdinand calls Paco "Pac-attack" and "Pac-Man".
    • Lupe and Bones call Ferdinand "Ferd". Lupe also cycles through various nicknames, usually of the form F-[blank].
  • An Aesop:
    • Never judge by appearances. Just because someone is big and strong doesn't mean they're violent or even want to fight.
    • Courage is not the same as aggression, nor is it cowardly not wanting to fight.
    • Sometimes not fighting back is the best form of resistance.
    • Be true to who you are, even if that's under attack.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Bull calves are normally reared in groups of same-age calves, with a nurse cow for social reassurance in their early weeks and with slightly older young steers after that. Calves as young (and fragile) as Ferdinand appears to be when the film begins certainly aren't housed in the same pens with adult bulls, especially bulls that are bred and conditioned to be fighters.
    • Nina pets Ferdinand on the forehead, kisses him there, and puts things on top of his head for him to carry. Real cattle may be safely petted on the cheeks, neck, shoulders and chin, but not touched on the forehead: it encourages head-butting behavior, same as touching a cat's forepaws encourages scratching.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Valiente's broken horn is completely hollow inside. In reality, cattle horns are made of a keratin coating around a live bone core — breaking them is an exceedingly painful and gory affair.
    • Bulls, like all cows, have eyes on the sides of their heads, not forward facing like humans have.
    • The bulls are all shown having upper incisors, something real-life cattle lack, safe for a sturdy dental pad in its place.
    • Highland Cattle like Angus, while notoriously shaggy, do not grow fur over their eyes. It would make them poorly equipped to survive if they couldn't see.
    • Uno, Dos and Cuatro are shown to possess rodent-like incisors, as opposed to the needle-like fangs that real life hedgehogs possess.
    • In real life, hedgehogs curl into balls for defense, not to travel around.
  • Art Shift: Young Valiente's fantasy of fighting in the ring is rendered to look like a bullfighting poster.
  • Awful Truth: Partway through the movie, Ferdinand learns an awful truth behind bullfighting: Whether bulls are selected or not, the bull never wins, ever.
    Ferdinand: The bull never wins
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: A big part of the movie is about showing the cruelty of Bullfighting and the slaughter of cattle for meat.
  • Best Out of Infinity: Ferdinand tries several different countdowns to determine that he is going to the flower festival. Even on the last one, he has to cheat a little.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ferdinand may be a Gentle Giant, but he's still a big, powerful bull who you really shouldn't mess with. When Valiente locks horns with him, Ferdinand accidentally breaks one of them off with barely any effort (while simply defending himself, no less), and when his is pushed to his limits by El Primero, he lifts him up with his horns, inches away from losing his temper completely, before catching himself.
  • Be Yourself: The film, like the book, has this moral. Especially since as we learn partway through the movie, if Ferdinand had acted according to what is expected of bulls, it would have sealed his fate; the bull never wins the bullfight.
  • Bicolor Cows Solid Bulls: Subverted. The title character, a bull, is black save for pink patches around his eye which are presumably his skin since they're the same color as his nose, his father, Raf, is black, his rival, Valiente, is brown, and Angus the Scottish Highland bull is brown, but all the other bulls are bicolor. In contrast, cows are never shown.
  • Big Damn Reunion: After humiliating El Primero, Ferdinand reunites with Nina at the ring.
  • Big Fun: Cuatro the hedgehog is this, being the most rotund of his siblings and the most jolly.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: The hedgehog siblings, who consist of Una (the shortest), Dos (the thinnest), and Cuatro (the fattest).
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: The hedgehogs curl up and roll when they need to move fast, Una and Cuatro into balls and Dos, the slender one, into a ring. They even travel vertically in this fashion, using their coats of protective spines like pitons to roll up a wooden stall barrier.
  • Break the Cutie: Being separated from Ferdinand and not being believed by the townspeople about him being gentle completely devastates Nina.
  • Brick Joke: When Una, Dos and Cuatro introduce themselves, they solemnly tell Ferdinand that their friend Trés is no longer with them. Later, to distract their captors while the others are escaping, they do a dance to Pitbull's "I Know You Want Me" and solemnly bow their heads on the word "trés" during the song's hook. Trés also makes a supposed return in the mid-credits scene.
  • Bullfight Boss: Funny enough, it's the bull (Ferdinand) who faces the matador this way, dodging and evading him instead of attacking himself.
  • The Bully: Valiente. However, he becomes a Reformed Bully after breaking his horn.
  • Cats Hate Water: While walking through the street, Ferdinand passes by a woman watering her plants. She stares at him, frozen with fright until she accidentally waters her cat, who immediately freaks out.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: A non-tragic example. The bulls burst into the arena in an attempt to save Ferdinand, but much to their relief, Ferdinand had already won the respect of the crowd and allowed to live.
  • Central Theme: Just like the book, it's "never judge a bull by its cover".
  • Comically Small Bribe: Ferdinand successfully bribes Una, Dos and Cuatro to help him escape with a toy flower that plays La Macarena.
  • Conveyor Belt of Doom: At the slaughterhouse, when Ferdinand saves both Guapo and Valiente.
  • Dance-Off: Between the bulls and the horses. The bulls win after the horses fight amongst themselves and get electrocuted by the electric fence during the squabble.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Quoting El Primero's reason for visiting Casa del Toro:
    El Primero: I am here to select a bull. Uno! My final fight; one bull. The best bull, against the best bullfighter. The best for the best. The best against the best. To see who's the best test test test.
  • Double Entendre: Lupe tells Ferdinand that the other guys are going to "fertilize the yard" when they see him.
  • Dramatic Irony: The audience is aware that bullfighting ends badly for bulls even before the start of the movie, which makes some of the scenes before the bulls find out a lot more tragic out-of-universe.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: While not actually evil, just about every character besides Nina, Juan and the farm animals cannot understand the concept of a bull as anything other than a violent beast to be feared.
    • Relatedly, the other bulls cannot comprehend the idea of not wanting to be a fighter. Wanting anything else in life is seen as personal cowardice.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The horses tell Ferdinand that no one leaves the ranch without them knowing it... as the hedgehogs are smuggling a radio under the fence.
  • Foreshadowing: At the beginning, Ferdinand is actually willing to allow Valiente to hit him if it means Valiente will spare the red flower that Ferdinand has been looking after, and sits down on his haunches rather than fight. This foreshadows that Ferdinand's gentle nature is a source of bravery, rather than cowardice as Valiente assumed, and Ferdinand is later willing to risk his freedom and his life so the other bulls can be free. At the climax of his and El Primero's fight, he sits pointedly back on his haunches.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: One scene of Nina's father with a newspaper has an article of Linda and Tulio's discovery of Amazonian Spix macaws.
  • Gentle Giant: Ferdinand is very big and very strong and absolutely could have killed El Primero in the ring if they'd fought for real. Thankfully, he simply doesn't want to fight or hurt anyone.
    • By the end of the movie, all the other bulls have become this as well.
  • Good Parents: Nina's father, who is very supportive of the friendship between Nina and Ferdinand. He helps his daughter reunite with Ferdinand at the very end of the movie.
    • Also Ferdinand's father, who's gentle and loving with his son and tactful in handling the bitter realities of their world.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A non-death example. At a crucial moment, Ferdinand chooses to help the other bulls get onto a moving vehicle instead of jumping on himself. As a result, all of the other bulls successfully escape to freedom, but Ferdinand is re-captured and taken to the bullfighting ring.
  • Horn Attack: Used multiple times, as expected with so many bull characters. At times they even use the horns to lift, carry or throw stuff.
  • Humble Pie: Valiente loses his right horn in a scuffle with Ferdinand and, as a result, is sent to the slaughterhouse. This sends him a step closer to the Despair Event Horizon, shatters all of his preconceptions and deals a heavy blow on his ego. It took him a while to recover and pull a Heel–Face Turn.
  • I Am Not Weasel: The hedgehogs, especially Dos, resent being called weasels (by Lupe) or squirrel (by the ranchers).
  • Imagine Spot: At the beginning, Valiente has an animated imagination sequence in which he envisions himself as a strong bull capable of defeating the matador and several banderilleros.
  • Impact Silhouette: Lupe gets bucked against a wall, embedding her horns in it and knocking a her shaped silhouette out of the paint on the other side.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Ferdinand has blue eyes and is very sweet-natured.
  • Insult of Endearment: Valiente calls Ferdinand "flower bull" in a derogatory way for most of his scenes in the movie. At the end, he uses the term again, this time without the insulting overtones.
  • I Was Named "My Name": Ferdinand ran away from home and was adopted by Nina's family, yet kept the same name throughout it all.
  • Jerkass:
    • The three conceited German show-horses (Hans, Klaus and Greta) who live on the other side of the electric fence from the bulls.
    • Valiente is also an example until near the end of the movie.
    • Valiente's father. His reaction to his son trying to console him after he loses to Ferdinand's father is to spitefully say "Who asked you?" And when Ferdinand realizes his father is gone, he coldly states that he knew that bull was "soft" right in front of Ferdinand and the soft ones always go down.
    • El Primero is a very arrogant and prideful man and looks down on people. Best shown in his introduction when he refuses a welcoming handshake from Moreno, as if Morena was unworthy of even touching the former.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: As hostile and unpleasant as he is, there are some instances in the film where Valiente makes some sensible points.
    • He correctly argues that Ferdinand's pacifistic nature will do him no favors at Casa Del Toro, where a bull's failure to prove their worth as a fighter will cause them to be sent to the chophouse to be killed for meat. Bones even restates this fact. He’s later proven to be wrong as Ferdinand discovers the true nature of bullfighting and no matter if a bull gets sent to the slaughterhouse or is selected for a bullfight, the bull dies either way. There's no way for bulls to win, ever.
    • While he shows no regret for his involvement in getting Guapo sent to the chophouse failing to impress El Primero, which Bones calls him out on, he counters with the argument that Guapo's chances of being selected were slim to none, an argument not unfounded due to Guapo's crippling Performance Anxiety being a major handicap to his skills as a fighting bull.
    • Earlier in the film as calves, Bones believes he'll be chosen by a matador for being the fastest of the bulls but Valiente tells him he'll never be selected because his scrawny body will make it easy for him to be defeated.
  • Kick the Dog: As a calf, Valiente crushes Ferdinand's flower out of spite over the latter's father being chosen to fight in the bullring instead of his father.
  • Killed Offscreen: Ferdinand's father. We don't actually see him die in a bullfight, but the truck returns without him, and Ferdinand figures out what happened. Later, we see a trophy of Ferdinand's father on the matador's wall along with trophies of all the other dead bulls. That's when Ferdinand realizes the awful truth.
  • Missing Mom: While Valiente and Ferdinand's fathers play a major role in their lives, their mothers are nowhere to be seen. This despite the fact that a fighting bull's courage is said to come from his mother, and that Ferdinand's was a fairly noteworthy character in the book.
    • Nina's mom is also absent from the movie.
  • Morton's Fork: Ferdinand's discovery while sneaking out of Casa del Toro reveals the bulls' situation as turning out for the same result either way (to the characters, not the audience) — either they don't impress a matador, and get sent to the chop shop and killed, or they do impress the matador and get selected for a bullfight and killed.
  • Nice Guy: Ferdinand is a soft-hearted, kind, and friendly bull.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened to Trés. According to Una, "We do not speak of Trés."
  • Numerical Theme Naming: The hedgehog siblings are called Una, Dos and Cuatro, and apparently they had a fourth sibling named Trés.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • This expression is plainly on El Primero's face when Ferdinand's horn lift him by his jacket.
    • Valiente had this reaction when Valiente loses one of his horns in his scuffle with Ferdinand.
    • The horrified look on Ferdinand's face after El Primero, who witness the scuffle between him and Valiente, picks him for the bullfight.
  • Only Six Faces: It becomes quite obvious that all of the minor human characters share the same model.
  • Palate Propping: Valiente uses a metal post to prop apart the giant crushing plates of the slaughterhouse assembly line.
  • Pink Is Feminine: Una, the only female hedgehog, is pinkish-purple.
  • Protagonist Title: Ferdinand is the name of the main character and the movie.
  • Real Men Wear Pink:
    • Ferdiand is a big, scary-looking bull, but he loves flowers.
    • The matador is a literal, real life example. Bullfighting is considered to be extremely masculine, and the traditional outfit is mainly pink, blue and golden.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Nina's father Juan is kindly enough to take in a lost bull as a pet and sensible enough to know they shouldn't take him to the flower festival.
  • Rule of Three: Played for Laughs. When Ferdinand meets the three hedgehogs Una, Dos and Cuarto, he asks what happened to Trés. They all cross themselves and solemnly reply that they don't speak of Trés.
  • Saved From Their Own Honor: When Valiente gets sent to a slaughterhouse after losing one of his horns, Ferdinand and the other bulls go there to break him out. Valiente initially refuses the chance to escape because he, who lives for the fight, takes his handicap as a sign of weakness and resigns himself to his fate, but Ferdinand convinces him that there's more to life than fighting and manages to save him from death.
  • Shaking the Rump:
    • Lupe does this when she and Ferdinand first meet.
    • During the dance battle, the horses do this in a mocking manner while making flirty faces.
    • Máquina does this in the dance battle, in a way that mimics a robot, fitting with his name that translates to "machine."
  • Sheathe Your Sword: This is how Ferdinand is eventually able to escape the bullfighting ring. When he finally gains the upper hand during the bullfight and has an opportunity to kill the bullfighter, he instead chooses to sit down on his haunches even as the bullfighter points a blade at him. This doesn't change the bullfighter's mind, but it changes the audience's mind; the audience insists on letting Ferdinand go, and Ferdinand finally gains his freedom.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There's a brief shout-out to George Orwell's novel Animal Farm. At one point, Guapo thinks he's been selected to compete in the ring, so he's happy to be shipped away in a truck, as Boxer was happy to be shipped away because he thought he was going to retire in honor. But like Boxer, Guapo is actually being shipped away to be killed for meat, though in Guapo's case he survives because Ferdinand insists on saving him and Valiente from the chophouse.
    • The hedgehogs are various shades of blue, surprisingly agile for their species and can roll up in perfect balls when they need to go fast - not unlike Sonic The Hedgehog.
  • Shown Their Work: The bull fighting sequence. Everything from the movements and costume of El Primero to the banderillas decorated to resemble the Spanish flag to the crowd's white kerchiefs and cries of "indulto", the traditional method of pardoning a bull is very, very true to life.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: The bulls versus horses rivalry. Downplayed in that the bulls are just rough compared to the snooty horses.
  • The So-Called Coward: The other bulls, especially Valiente, consider Ferdinand a coward due to being an Actual Pacifist; in reality, Ferdinand is quite brave, and willing to risk his life and freedom to protect others, even those who insulted him.
  • The Social Darwinist: Valiente believes that bulls are either fighters or they're meat. Deconstructed; While he's technically correct in this regard, him picking a fight with Ferdinand at the wrong time is exactly what gets him sent to be meat (since he breaks his horn), and he only survives the movie because Ferdinand's heart is big enough that he insists on rescuing Valiente and Guapo from the chophouse.
  • The Stinger: A mid-credit scene: Trés is revealed to be alive, to the shock of Una, Dos, and Cuatro.
  • Take a Third Option: Ferdinand chooses escape over facing the slaughterhouse or the arena. When he ends up in the arena after all, he gets another third option — to be pardoned by the crowd for his valor.
  • Tempting Fate: Yes, there is a scene were the bull is in a china shop. Lampshaded in the trailer.
    "You [look at him and] think, 'Well, at least he's not in a china shop'."
    (Looks up to see that he is, in fact, in a china shop)
  • Truth in Television: Goats really are often used on farms and ranches as companions to calm down anxious livestock.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Bull fights. If anything, the movie is restrained in depicting just how true this is — bulls that successfully injure the matador are set upon by additional matadors until they're dead, and bulls that kill the matador see their matriline slaughtered.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: El Primero is the closest thing to a villain in the movie due to his arrogant nature, but apart from trying to attack Ferdinand during his battle with him, he's only a bullfighter just takes his career a little too seriously.
  • Visual Pun:
    • As said in Tempting Fate, there's a scene with Ferdinand, a bull, in a china shop literally.
    • Ferdinand sticks the part of Paco's and Angus' fur that goes over their eyes upward using his tongue. It's a cowlick.
    • When forced to face el matador, Ferdinand uses bullfighting methods himself; he's a literal bull-fighter.
  • Wham Line: "The bull never wins."
  • Wham Shot: Seeing the trophies of all the bulls on the matador's wall. As Ferdinand realizes, this means the bull never wins the bullfight. This is enough of a wham shot that it changes the course of the movie; Ferdinand's goal changes from simply "escaping" to "escaping along with all the other bulls".
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Ferdinand tells Lupe that after they escape, Nina is going to love Lupe. Lupe has to ask what "love" is. She finds out at the end of the movie when Nina hugs her and calls her adorable.
  • Win-Win Ending: During the end credits, it was revealed that Bones, Guapo, Valiente, Angus, Maquina, and Paco become Ferdinand's new brothers, Una, Dos, and Cuatro become Juan's butlers, the bunny becomes the farm's security guard, Lupe becomes the second pet of Nina, and the Lipzzans stay behind in Casa del Toro, excited to be away from the bulls. The only one who gets any negative ending is El Primero as his car has been totaled, but even then, he still walked away a Graceful Loser with his dignity otherwise intact in the end.
  • With Catlike Tread:
    • While Ferdinand is in the china shop, he actually manages to get through much of it without so much as chipping a plate, even managing to balance many between his teeth or on his head/horns. Then his nose gets tickled with a duster and his sneeze the old woman right out the window.
    • During their escape, Una tells Ferdinand to "do exactly as we do," not realizing that a bull can't roll as deftly across the ground as a hedgehog. Later, he falls on top of a car and sets off its alarm, then makes even more noise as he flails about trying to get it off his butt.
  • You Are Number 6: The hedgehogs Una, Dos and Cuatro are named after the Spanish words for one, two and four. We do not speak of Trés.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: While Ferdinand may not say the exact phrase, he had this reaction when Valiente refuses to accept the true nature behind bullfighting when he (Ferdinand) specifically points out what happens to bulls whether they are chosen or not.
    Valiente: Why would I believe a coward, who thinks the only way out is through the back door?
    Ferdinand: Are you crazy? Did you not hear what I said?


Video Example(s):


Bulls vs. horses

The horses show off their elegant ballet-inspired moves, which the bulls counter with street dancing.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DanceOff

Media sources: