Ninety years after it was first published, a computer-animated, feature-length film has been released based on the classic children’s book The Story of Ferdinand. The story is as relevant in its message about gender stereotypes and bullying power as it was in 1936. Written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, the original story of Ferdinand is about a bull calf who would rather smell the flowers than act the way a bull is supposed to act: running, jumping, and butting heads with the other bulls on the farm.
The new animated version creates a Ferdinand who is a comic hero. Ferdinand’s animated eyes and face carry all the emotion of this bullied and mocked calf who grows up to be a gentle beast. Ferdinand is desperate to avoid the inevitable choices, either the bullfighting ring or the slaughterhouse. He escapes the farm only to be welcomed by a little girl, Nina, and her father on their flower farm where he discovers a third way of peaceful living.
But as it happens, Ferdinand is forced back into the ring to fight the most decorated of bullfighters, the star of the corrida. He takes on the fight for the sake of his friends and then leads his friends on a frenzied escape to freedom.
The film develops endearing as well as loathsome characters in this well-paced movie. Although the story is intended for children of all ages, I was accompanied by a 5-year-old who became so quickly and completely enamoured with Ferdinand that the ensuing bullying, bull chase and bullfight were too much to handle. On a cautionary note, I recommend it for children ages 8 and up. (20th Century Fox)