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Soundtrack review: Ferdinand (John Powell – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Ferdinand (John Powell – 2017)

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“Ferdinand” is a 2017 American 3D computer-animated comedy film produced by Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation. It is based on Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s children’s book The Story of Ferdinand and directed by Carlos Saldanha, and features the voices of John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning, Gina Rodriguez, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, and David Tennant. Ferdinand (John Cena) is a Spanish Fighting Bull who prefers smelling the flowers and practicing non-violence rather than chasing red cloths held by matadors in arenas. But when disaster comes to him, he is taken to a fighting stadium, and Ferdinand needs to decide if he is a fighting bull or a flower smelling, generous bull, in order to earn his freedom. John Powell wrote the score.

Heh who doesn’t remember the charming and clueless bull who instead of fighting preferred to dream and smell flowers and fall in love? Well I do, I used to love this cartoon and the scenes where Ferdinand would just float and fly driven by the scent of that flower held by the little girl. Just charming. John Powell is a perfect choice to score this movie considering the amazing job he did for, let’s say, the “How to train your dragon” movies. This year we’ve already had a fun Mexican music score with Michael Giacchino’s “Coco” and I am up for more. T

he opening cue “Bees and bulls” gives me just that, a fun and light Spanish guitar theme that puts me in a very good mood. I love the Western like fervour at the end of the cue and I have big smile on my face as I listen to this melody. Usually I have a hard time connecting with animations scores but here John Powell finds the right balance between emotion and fun without getting uselessly silly. There’s a lot of melodic guitar and when the violins join in they make a cue like “Father and sun” warm and charming beyond belief. Listening to this cue reminds me of what I was feeling watching Ferdinand as a kid.

This is the appeal of John Powell’s score for me as a fan of the Ferdinand cartoons and as someone with an emotional connection with the story: the light and carefree charm of the music that mirrors the image of that cartoon bull. The music is actually spectacularly charming with sudden bursts of Latin energy, with a constant feeling of celebration and fun, with the trumpets, the castanets and a flute section that fits perfectly with the flower smelling image.

The passage to the more worrisome times for our bull is done very naturally by the composer by switching to slightly darker string and flute motifs, just as melodic, just as beautiful but more serious. The music is very simple all the way and some people might have been expecting something as rich and spectacular as “How to train your dragon” but it’s not the case; “Ferdinand” is not an exciting or loud score with memorable themes and frantic adventurous cues but guess what? This is Ferdinand; everyone who watched the cartoons know it and John Powell wrote the score with the perfect sound and pace to match the kind and gentle bull who likes to dream and lounge and smell flowers. I couldn’t have imagined the music sounding any differently than it did.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 32 / 62

Album excellence: 52%

Highlights:
Bees And Bulls
Father And Son
Flower Festival
There’s Been A Mistake
Sunsets In The Training Yard
From Train Station To Arena
Madrid Finale

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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