Ferdinand the Bull (1938)

Don Wilson, Walt Disney, Milt Kahl,
Ferdinand the Bull is a short starring Don Wilson, Walt Disney, and Milt Kahl. Ferdinand is a quiet, gentle bull who only wants to stop and smell the flowers. When he is stung by a bee, the townspeople believe he is ferocious and...
  • 7.2 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2021-05-12 Added:
  • Munro Leaf, Robert Lawson, Vernon Stallings, Writer:
  • Dick Rickard, Director:
  • Producer:
7 / 10

The Matador Took It Hard

Ferdinand the Bull is one of the most unflappable characters in all of cartoondom. He is a gentle soul, completely happy in his own skin. He inadvertently becomes a participant in a bull ring because he sat on a bee and went into a rage. One wonderful thing is that he never varied from his primary goal: to smell the flowers.

10 / 10

Disney does justice to an excellent work of children's literature

Disney has had a reputation (in large part, justifiably so) for taking literary works and making them overly cute, thereby not doing justice to the source (i.e., Bambi), but here do a wonderful job of bringing Ferdinand off the printed page and into glorious, moving color! This is one of the best shorts Disney ever did and took the Oscar for 1938, beating three other Disney shorts (including a Mickey Mouse) and a Paramount cartoon called Hunky and Spunky. With remarkable backgrounds and detail, even for a Disney cartoon, this really should be in-print. It does show on The Ink and Paint Club. Most joyously recommended!

10 / 10

A wonderful cartoon for all ages.

This is one of my favorite stories from childhood and this Disney cartoon did a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the classic Muro Leaf story. The 1939 Oscars were a particularly good year, with Disney receiving 4 of 5 nominations in the category of Best Cartoon and receiving the award for FERDINAND--beating out such Disney classics as THE BRAVE LITTLE TAILOR and GOOD SCOUTS.

The film is about a gentle bull in Spain who has no interest in fighting. Instead, he'd rather just sit and smell the flowers all day. However, when men come looking for fierce bulls for the bullfighting ring, they think Ferdinand is the meanest bull because he was just stung by a bee. What happens next you'll need to see for yourself.

There is a lot to like about this cartoon. The artwork, though not exactly in the style of the children's book, is pretty close and is among the better animated shorts Disney did in the era. If you compare the artwork, music and quality to fare from Fleischer, Warner Brothers and MGM at the same time, it is light-years ahead. The best cartoons at that time were clearly Disney--with MGM and Warner Brothers still making saccharine-sweet cartoons with second-rate animation until the 1940s (when these two studios became the best maker of cartoon shorts). This film just screams "quality" throughout and deserved the Oscar.

By the way, get a load of the Cork Tree! Ha!

9 / 10

A forgotten gem!

Ferdinand the Bull tells the story of a bull who likes smelling flowers, instead of fighting like a typical bull in a bullring. Ferdinand himself is a very charming character, and is well drawn. All of the other characters are well done, with the exception of one or two lifeless backgrounds. Then Ferdinand is sent to Madrid, where he is expected to fight a toreador, but that isn't what Ferdinand wants to do. The music is also good, and Don Wilson's narration was very satisfying indeed. It is such a shame that few people know more about this gem, I don't think it is the best short in the world, but it is certainly entertaining and I would definitely watch it again. 9/10 Bethany Cox.

7 / 10

Would've been Stratospherically More Poignant and Richer Had Frederic Back Made 'Ferdinand the Bull', but Disney Does Manage to Make the Short Entertaining Enough

There is some historical significance associated with the story of Ferdinand the Bull as the Spanish Civil War is said to have begun a few months after the story of Ferdinand was written. The domestic harmless nature of the bull is said to represent pacifistic views towards the situation in Spain. Munro Leaf may have partly been influenced by the political climate around him while writing about Ferdinand, but this remains uncertain.

The 1938 short by Disney does not consider all this, and is more concerned with showing Ferdinand's love for flowers. Ferdinand does not care about bull fights unlike his fellow bulls, and prefers reclining under his favorite tree, inhaling the sweet fragrance of the flowers. His mother, despite being a 'cow' is very considerate and allows him to do as he likes. But after a bee accident, Ferdinand is thought to be the most ferocious of bulls and is brought to the bull fight. His name too changes to 'Ferdinand the Fierce' for the event; everyone including the bullfighter is scared of him and they anticipate his grand entry. What happens after this surprises everyone in the story but now us because we already know how Ferdinand actually is.

This story would have been stratospherically more poignant and rich had auteur Frederic Back made it; remember how he beautifully used the chair as a motif while showing the rapid transformation of Quebec society in his brilliant short 'Crac'. Ferdinand the Bull would have got that flavor of Spain had Back made this film; however, Disney does enough justice to make this film watchable and enjoyable. Ferdinand the Bull hence does not wow us but it does bring a smile upon our faces, which is Disney's primary aim.

Verdict: Would have been stratospherically more poignant and richer had Frederic Back made 'Ferdinand the Bull', but Disney does manage to make the short entertaining enough