The backstory of the newest Fox Animation toon, "Ferdinand" is one of the more interesting tidbits this year. The story of Ferdinand the Bull was already adapted into an Oscar winning cartoon in 1938 by Disney and won. The book, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson was once so popular in Spain, it was banned by the Nazi's and the Fascist and burned as pacifist political propoganda. In Sweden, the Disney animated version was so popular, it has become an anual traditio to air it for decades.


The the next question is, how did Disney let this property slip away to Twentieth Century Fox? That's a moot point unless somehow "Ferdinand" scores more than $400 million at the box office - that's about how much "Coco" has scored so far. But since Fox chose to release "Ferdinand" against "Star Wars: The Last Jedi", that probably won't happen.


yet there are a lot of things to really like about "Ferdinand", aside from its pacifist stance. The first thing I noticed was that a great deal of the background animation is Ronda Spain, the birthplace of Bullfighting. The visual is unmistable for anyone who has been there. But this is a detail that earns it mucho bonus points for production.

The other is the introduction (for most) of the calming goat. In the movie, its name is Lupe and is voiced by Kate McKinnon. Calming goats are found on many ranches where high-strung horses and bulls are raised. If you visit the Budweiser Clydesdales in Warm Springs Missouri, you'll see one or two goats wondering around. You'll also find them at most racetracks. It's an added bonus when a cartoon teaches while having fun.


The story itself revolves around a bull named Ferdinand who really likes smelling flowers. As a young calf, he prefers caring for a flower more than butting heads with the other young bulls. His father (voiced by Jeremy Sisto) ius a big, strong championship calibre bull who is chosen to fight in Madrid against the world famous matadors. Well, we know what happens to bulls who fight in the arena and when it dawns of Ferdinand that would be his destiny, he figures out how to escape and heads for the hills.


The hills would be in the valley surrounding Ronda and the home of a little girl named Nina (Lily Day) who adopts Ferdinand (now voiced by John Cena) and raises him as her pet. In fact she raises him too well and he grows to be big as ahouse. Nevertheless he is still gentle as a lamb and prefers smelling flowers.

Things don't go well when gets stung by a bee and destroys the town square during the flower festival. [Note: the background is of the Plaza del Socorro in Ronda!]


ferdinand is captured and returned to original home on the bull ranch where he must face his bullfighting destiny as well as the other bulls whom he had left behind. That includes the tough Valiente (Bobby Cannavale), Bones (Anthony Anderson), Guapo (Peyton Manning) and nearly blind Angus (David Tenant).


Also introduced are three hedgehogs Una Dos and Quatro (Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, and Gabriel Iglasias) as well as three Lippizans- Hans, Greta and Klaus (voiced by Flula Borg, Sally Phillips, and Boris Kodjoe). Again, accuracy in detail: lippizans are popular in Spain but trained at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna Austria... so the Bavarian accent is totally correct!


The film is directed by Carlos Saldanha, known for the first three "Ice Age" films and both "Rio" films. This is easily his best work and may earn him award season kudos. The team of six writers (Ron Burch, David Kidd, Don Rhymer, Robert Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland) somehow manage to update the 80-year old story, keeping it relevent and not straying from the oirginal Munro tale. Particulary funny is their take on the old cliche Bull in a china shop; that scene is a riot!


Whether this updated story promotes pacifism or is a commentary on bullfighing doesn't detract from the fact that the kids will enjoy it with the vivid colors, straighhforward writing and likeable characters.


"Ferdinand" is an excellent film that teaches trivia, has a moral, is fun and will probably get squashed at the box office by "Star Wars: The Last Jedi". Look for it to make noise during the awards season.   -- GEOFF BURTON