Keeping it authentic with #Ferdinand Star John Cena

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If you are following me on social, you already know that I was whisked away on a press trip to to Las Vegas last week to attend CinemaCon, where I….WHERE I MET JOHN CENA AND HE SHOOK MY HAND AND SAID COOL STUFF. I’ll be honest, I am not currently a big fan of wrestling. I have known WHO John Cena was for a while because of his appearance in a movie, and someone telling me that he was a wrestler, but I wasn’t actually a fan of him personally until last week. He gave a presentation at CinemaCon, and then we were surprised with an intimate interview. He walked in and shook each of our hands, and I was blown away by him as a person, as a brand, and of course, as a professional. Ferdinand is in theaters this Christmas, but mark your calendars now, folks. This movie is going to be amazing!

Keeping it authentic with #Ferdinand Star John Cena


“Ferdinand” tells the story of a giant bull with a big heart. After being mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure. Set in Spain, Ferdinand proves you can’t judge a bull by its cover.From Blue Sky Studios and Carlos Saldanha, the director of “Rio” and inspired by the beloved book “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, “Ferdinand” is a heartwarming animated comedy adventure with an all-star cast that includes John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson and many more.

The funny thing is, when we watched the FERDINAND trailer at CinemaCon, I didn’t know anything about John Cena as a wrestler. Yet, he walked out on stage and said something that struck me so deep in the heart that I whipped out my notebook in the darkened theater and write it down, and shared it on Facebook after the presentation ended.

“Just because someone sees you a certain way doesn’t mean you have to stop being who you are” – John Cena.

Keeping it authentic with #Ferdinand Star John Cena

Now, if you are reading my blog, you know who I am. You probably know that I am not always PC, and being MYSELF isn’t always…well, let’s just say that I have been told on more than one occasion that I need to tone it down…perhaps we feel this way for different reasons, but when John Cena said that, I knew I’d met a kindred spirit. He was AUTHENTIC. He is real.

And you know how I feel about keeping it real. 

So I sat and listened while John Cena talked to us about his career, and why FERDINAND is such an important movie and why he was so thrilled to be a part of it.

Keeping it authentic with #Ferdinand Star John Cena

Our interview with John Cena walking around the room and shaking each of our hands and asking our names. Cue the gushing bloggers, with us telling him how inspirational his speech was that morning.

Us:  How’d the whole thing start?  How did you get involved?

Mr. John Cena:  At first I knew about the script, and they wanted me for a different part.  But scheduling has been tough because I say yes to everything and then figure it all out, because I have a very good perspective of I live with a dream job.  And when opportunities come up that I like, I just say you know what?  I’ll find more time in the day, but this is something I like and I want to try to do it.

So, the guy who’s kind of in charge of all my time, the weird guy in the gray suit, not me, he said, “You don’t have time to do this.”

Mr. John Cena:  “You don’t have time to do this.”  And we kind of just left it at that.  And the folks at Blue Sky and Fox came back and were like, “Well, we’ve re-circled our wagons, and we would like John to be Ferdinand.”

And then I was like, “Man, you are stupid if you pass on this,” not only because it’s such a great opportunity but it’s just a powerful story.  And in every aspect of it, I am Ferdinand.  I’m the guy that can’t walk out onto a stage without them trying to blow something up or everybody on the street challenging me to a wrestling match, it’s just because of what they see and it’s what I am perceived as.  And there is a typecasting that goes with what we do, but I’m a human being.

I love to go out on dates.  I’m a different guy than what you see.  What you see certainly is me, but I just couldn’t think of a better way to kind of tell my story through their story, and at least at the best I could do it.  I’m like, “I get this, and I’ll be able to nail this.”

So, we worked it out.  He found a way to shift around some shapes and make 30 to 35 hours in a day, and I was like, “All right, let’s do it.”  So, it worked out, and I’m glad it did.

Keeping it authentic with #Ferdinand Star John Cena

Us:  So, is this your first animation film?

Mr. John Cena:  I’ve done animation stuff.  I did a Ernie the Elephant campaign for pistachios.  I’ve done limited animation for WWE here and there, but it’s been mostly as me or a character–like, we did Surf’s Up 2 where I was a penguin version of John Cena. So, it’s the same type stuff.

Like, you’re John Cena.  They expect you to be the guy they see on SmackDown or whatever.  This is the first time I’ve been able to do it as the voice of a character, especially something so iconic as Ferdinand.

Us:  So, how is adjusting to that voice acting?

Mr. John Cena:  Well, I mean, they kind of sought me out because I have a powerful voice, I guess.  And they wanted somebody larger than life, yet at the same time somebody you could sit down and have a conversation with.  And it’s very endearing, not just a guy who’ll break through the wall and be like, “All right, let’s save the day.”

So, we hooked up, and they were like, “Okay.”  So, it’s not like they were like, “Hey, could you tweak your voice a bit to be Ferdinand?”  Carlos [Saldanha], the guy who directed this thing, is amazing.  He’s such an animator.  He’s like just, for lack of a better term, so animated.

He knows what he wants.  And when you’re speaking, he has his head down and he kind of does this thing.  And then when you get it, he goes, “Could you do, you know, maybe something a little more animated,” a little more of this and a little more of that?  So, like, it’s just a matter of him seeing the movie and knowing what he wants and me being the voice of this enormously impactful character, and him kind of guiding me through that.

Keeping it authentic with #Ferdinand Star John Cena

So, it’s not like I had to change my voice that much though.  It’s pretty fun.  It’s a fun experience, being in a sound booth alone with him.  He’s a crazy man and you see the enjoyment and the passion in his eyes.  And he creates a whole art.  And just to see the face of Ferdinand for the first time, you can just see so much emotion behind the eyes.  It’s been a cool process.  I can’t wait to see the whole thing.

Blogger:  Did they ever do anything where–that he has emotions that you–or your face on Ferdinand?

Mr. John Cena:  They tape everything. They tape all the reads.  There’s, like, three cameras when you read. But they already have an idea of what the universe will look like, but they do go back and watch the tapes.  And they’re like, “Wow, he says you,” and his mouth, like, moves.  So, they do kind of dictate that stuff, but it’s only when it’s so pronounced it’s obvious.

Us:  So, you can see yourself in him?

Mr. John Cena:  It’s amazing.

Us:  So, what are you hoping families walk away with after watching the film?

Mr. John Cena:  First of all, I hope they see a great movie, because I really think it’s just a fun ride.  And it’s got all the entertainment of those animated movies that adults have to pleasantly watch 2,000 times.  Like, “Oh, we got to see it again.”  But I think it’s going to be one of those movies that you don’t mind seeing again.

And the thing that I find the most powerful, and I hate to shove moral fiber down people’s throats, but when you can tell a story and take people on a fun ride and also leave them walking away with something, give them a little bit to think about.  It’s a great, famous tale about, there’s more than meets the eye.  You don’t judge a book by its cover.

Keeping it authentic with #Ferdinand Star John Cena

And nowadays, with us empowering individuals to just be you, I did a wonderful campaign with Crocs that’s just about to go everywhere called Come As You Are.  And it just empowers people.  And the reason Crocs did it, and the reason I gravitated towards that, is because they’re a brand that gets a lot of flack.  They’re not exactly known as the forefront of style, but everybody owns Crocs because they’re so damn–.

Us:  –I love my Crocs.

Mr. John Cena:  Yes, they’re great.  They’re great.

So, when they were, like, “Hey, we see how powerful you are on social media,” but my character in WWE is both loved and viscerally hated.  Because I’m such a goody two shoes, there’s a portion of our audience, mainly the adults, that want me to just turn bad.

But I won’t, because I come as I am.  I wear my jean shorts proud.  I wear my ball cap and my wristbands, and they hate me for it.  But there’s also people that can resonate with that, like, “Man, this guy says never give up.”  And I believe in that.

So, that attracted the brand to me.  And it’s the same with this movie.  You have this big, enormous, softhearted, loving individual who, if you just look at him, you’d be like, “All right, don’t want to pick a fight with him at the end of the bar.”  But it’s so much more than don’t let yourself go there.  Don’t just become that because that’s what people perceive you as.

And nowadays, like I said, we just empower individuals to Just be who you are.  You don’t have to be this way or this way or this way, or just because people see you a certain way doesn’t mean you have to be a certain way.

So, that I like, especially with certainly young, impressionable people.  Ferdinand knows who he is the whole time.  But also with his influence, he takes a group of eclectic folks and lets them see, like, “Wow, there’s more to life than what people just may see me as.”  I hope they take that away from it.

Keeping it authentic with #Ferdinand Star John Cena

Get Social with Ferdinand!

Visit the Official Site / Like ‘Ferdinand’ on Facebook, and Follow on Twitter and Instagram

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  1. says

    What a fun movie! Love that John Cena is voicing a character that will make it even more fun. Loved both Rio and Ice Age so I know the movie will be a great family favourite.

  2. says

    HE IS SO AWESOME! Like you, I only “got to know him” because of his role in a movie. Once you see him in anything, it’s hard not to fall in love with that big bundle of surprises! LOL That quote is PERFECT too. Never tone it down — you are pure awesomeness.

  3. says

    How exciting! I watch wrestling occasionally with my husband and John Cena is my favourite! It would be so cool to meet him and this sounds like a fun movie. I hadn’t heard about it yet. I just know when I hear Ferdinand talk though I’ll be picturing John Cena the whole time!

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