Ferdinand Blu-ray Review
The bull that didn't want to fight
Ice Age's Blue Sky Studios deliver a formulaic but colourfully fun adaptation of the classic children's book from 1936, The Story of Ferdinand.Although Disney already adapted the property back in 1938, they only made a Short (as is perhaps all the material allows for if adapted faithfully with no embellishment), and Fox's Blue Sky Studios - apparently inspired by the Sandra Bullock drama Blind Side - clearly went all-out in the embellishment department, taking the premise of a larger-than-life bull who is reluctant to participate in bullfights (in the books all he wanted to do was smell flowers) despite the fact that everybody believes he was built for nothing else, and spinning it into a colourful and engaging little tale of conscientious objection and pure physical comedy.Ferdinand's strongest assets are the vocal work of former wrestler John Cena (Daddy's Home 2) in the lead and it's well-meaning, good-hearted centre, which plays strong with 'it's ok to be different' sentiments. The gaggle of supporting cast members do good in their side roles, although it's only really a crazy goat that stands out, and the film doesn't have that tremendous emotional core and natural human characterisation prevalent in Pixar's works (it's not really surprising that it lost Best Animation to Coco) but does have some fun references and memorable moments (the china shop) even if films like Blind Side arguably did better justice to the story.
Picture QualityFerdinand comes to UK Region Free Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox, who pulled the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release at the last minute (the US still gets one) but still afford viewers a striking, reference presentation in good old 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition, framed in the film's original theatrical 2.4:1 widescreen aspect ratio.
It's hard to see how this presentation could be improved upon.
Detail is excellent, lapping up the finely nuanced animated creations - the Scottish bull and dog clearly have the edge due to their floppy fur - and reveling in the stunning open vistas, which are, at times, truly jaw-dropping. There's plenty of texture and fine object observation, and the colours are outstanding, with vibrant green plains dominating the backdrop; beautiful blue skies, gorgeous red flowers and golden yellow rays of sunlight. Black levels are rich and deep, including Ferdinand's own colour, and overall this is a striking, near-perfect video presentation that's utterly demo quality and easily reference. It is a shame that UK viewers have to import in order to get a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version, but those prepared to settle for the Blu-ray will likely find that there's not much settling to do - indeed it's hard to see how this presentation could be improved upon.
Sound QualityFerdinand's accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does a tremendous job too, providing a surprisingly immersive viewing experience which has some absolutely fantastic surround usage that needs to be heard to be believed. Sure, it's a shame - and a bit of a shock - that even the US Blu-ray release held a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which is nowhere to be found, but what we do get is still a fantastic aural accompaniment.
Needs to be heard to be believed.
Dialogue remains prioritised across the frontal array, clearly and coherently rendered throughout, with Cena's booming low end tones dominating the proceedings, whilst the score keeps the pace up, giving energy to the piece even when it feels like it's lagging (the 108 minute runtime is not particularly lean), and affording a strong backdrop to the remaining elements. Effects are where it's at though, kicking hooves in the surrounds, roaring crowds all around you, honking cars during the road chase or all manner of chaos when Ferdinand goes (unintentionally) Godzilla at the market. Even the china shop scene will have you looking around - there's so much discrete action going on in this film it makes you wonder why other features aren't this attentive to detail. Outstanding.
ExtrasFerdinand's UK Blu-ray release is a little bit bitty in the extras department, with a dozen or so extras, each of which runs only a few minutes in length. The ten Featurettes run from a number of smaller pieces on the voice actors and colourful characters, to slightly longer efforts detailing the effects and breaking down the scenes, with a Music Video, Gallery and Trailer rounding out the disc.
VerdictAn impressive package.
Ferdinand may lose out on its planned UK 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release, but the Blu-ray is still an outstanding disc, both in terms of reference video and demo audio. A shotgun blast of bitty extras round out an impressive package.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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