Sitting by the Tree with Ferdinand

As a child, there are a lot of children’s book that I remember reading over and over. “Where The Wild Things Are”, “Green Eggs and Ham”, “The 5 Chinese Brothers” and “Ferdinand”. I remember getting excited whenever my teacher would take one of those out to read to the classroom and I would just sit there and listen in awe as the story was being read. On December 15th one of my favorite books is going to hit the big screen and it is a great translation of a childhood classic.

Ferdinand is the story about a bull that does not want to fight. All he wants to do is sit down and smell the flowers. Whereas in the book, we read about how his mother tries to get him to play with the other calves, she decides to let him be and enjoy his time by his tree and smell the flowers. In the movie version, we see Ferdinand being teased by the other calves because he would rather smell flowers instead of butting heads with them.

In the beginning, it is established that Ferdinand, voiced by John Cena, is not like the other bulls. The “leader’ of the young calves that picks on Ferdinand is Valiente, who feels that Ferdinand does not belong there. Valiente and his father, both voiced by Bobby Cannavale, is that alpha-male/everyday bully figure that we usually see in movies. If this were an 80’s teen movie, we would see him get his comeuppance in the final act, but this is a children’s movie, so things go a little differently. It’s a great contrast to see the difference between the relationship between Ferdinand and his father as opposed to Valiente’s relationship.

I wish there was more about this father and son relationship in the movie. Just in the few minutes we see them interacting, we see that Ferdinand’s father accepts his son for who he is. His dad talks about the pride in fighting the bullfighter but never pushes Ferdinand to be tough. Whereas Valiente’s father tells his son to “Bull up” at one point and completely yells at him when Valiente tries to give his father some words of support after losing to Ferdinand’s dad in getting the matador’s attention. 

Ok, to avoid a view spoilers, let’s just say that because of a few incidents Ferdinand ends up running away from the “Casa del Toro” and ends up living in a small cottage with a young girl named Nina and her father who grow flowers. Here Ferdinand is very happy because he gets to play with Nina and her dog, Paco, all day and just smell the flowers. We get the usual growing-up-montage during this time and see how Ferdinand grows up to be really big and strong. During the yearly flower festival, Ferdinand is told that he can not attend because of his size. The people at the festival will not understand him because they don’t know him like Nina and Paco. What happens next is Ferdinand not listening and all heck breaking loose.

Just like in the book, Ferdinand draws the attention of the people because he accidentally sits on a bee. Once he is stung, he runs wild throughout the town destroying all of the carts and displays from the flower festival. This causes the people in the town to fear the friendly bull and it eventually leads to Ferdinand being captured and returned to the “Casa del Toro”.

Going back to where he escaped from is a sad experience for Ferdinand because he is reunited with an old foe, but also he finds out what happens to the bulls that go off to fight the matadors. Inside the Casa del Toro, he meets some new additions to the training grounds as well as a group of show horses, that reminded me of the German team from the movie Beerfest. With all of these different characters here, we start to see the meaning of the movie that it is ok to be who you are. There is a silly dance battle, yes, you read that right, where Ferdinand shows the other bulls that being yourself is great and everyone’s differences can work together for the greater good. In this instance, showing who had the better dance moves.

Without giving away too much of the movie, there is one dark moment involving a slaughterhouse or “Chop House” as one of the bulls calls it. It a reality that many adults will understand, but for some children, it might be confusing, maybe scary and add to an interesting conversation on the ride home.

The powerful lesson of being yourself and being proud of who you are is prevalent in this movie and it is always a great lesson that every child needs to hear. Whether you are the smallest bull, the oddball bull or the strongest bull, you all have a place in this world and that’s what Ferdinand teaches us. With the news being so scary for adults and children nowadays, sitting down by a tree on a hill smelling some flowers wouldn’t be so bad to do all day.

Final Thoughts – Ferdinand is a great movie for children to see that it is ok to be themselves. Throughout the movie, we see different characters and Ferdinand shows them that their uniqueness is special. This is the great message from this movie and hopefully, children will get this message when they see Ferdinand.

Kid Friendly – The movie is very kid friendly in terms of what it is: an animated movie. There are a few uses of the word “suck” in one scene where the other bulls are yelling it at Lupe. Bullying is another element very early on in the movie with Valiente picking on Ferdinand and being told by his dad to “Bully up!”

Violence – There are images of bullfighting but none that are too graphic. What might be a little too much for some children is the scenes of the bulls that didn’t pull their weight being sent to the “chop shop”.

Fandads Rating – 4.5 out of 5

Purchase your tickets today and let us know what you think of the movie in the comments below.

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