November 25, 1938 – The Special Short Film Ferdinand the Bull is Released to Theaters
“All the other little bulls he lived with would run, and jump, and butt their heads together, but not Ferdinand.”
On November 25, 1938, the special short film Ferdinand the Bull was released to theaters. The short was based on the book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, with illustrations by Robert Lawson. Ferdinand the Bull won the Academy Award for Best Cartoon of 1938. It was directed by Dick Rickard, and narrated by Don Wilson; Milt Kahl provided the voice of Ferdinand’s mother, while Walt Disney provided the voice for Ferdinand. Several members of Disney staff were caricatured as characters at the bullfight; Walt himself was caricatured as the matador.
The short opens in Spain, introducing the little bull Ferdinand, who much preferred to sit in the pasture and smell the flowers rather than butt heads with the other little bulls. His mother worried about him, but Ferdinand was quite content under his cork tree. As the years went by, Ferdinand grew to be big and strong, but never dreamed of fighting in the bullfights like the others.
One day, a group of men came to pick the biggest, strongest, and toughest bull to fight in Madrid. Ferdinand ignored them and went to sit under his tree, but accidentally sat on a bee. His surprised, fierce reaction to the bee’s sting convinces the men that Ferdinand is the strong, tough bull they are looking for, and they cart him off to Madrid.
Ferdinand’s bullfight opens with much fanfare. The matador appears in the ring to great applause, ready to do battle with the bull. Unfortunately for the matador, Ferdinand is not in a fighting mood. As the matador flees from Ferdinand’s approach, everyone is surprised to see the bull sniff a bouquet of flowers that has been tossed into the ring. The matador is furious that Ferdinand won’t be fierce, and tries any approach he can to get a reaction from the flower-loving bull. After revealing a daisy flower tattooed on his chest, Ferdinand gives the matador a kiss. Frustrated, the men in charge cart Ferdinand back to his little area under the cork tree, letting him remain and smell the flowers.