The award-winning U.K. independent film production company Blenheim Films has announced the upcoming live-action feature Merrylegs the Movie based on the cherished “Thelwell Ponies” and directed by acclaimed director, producer and writer Candida Brady (Trashed, Urban and The Shed Crew, Muse).
The Thelwell Ponies, created in the 1950s by late cartoonist Norman Thelwell and considered national treasures, will come trotting onto screens in Merrylegs the Movie, a feature-length adventure that promises to entertain and inspire both a whole new generation as well as those who have loved the characters for many years.
Produced by Blenheim Films, Merrylegs the Movie is the first instalment in a planned franchise that will establish the characters and Willowbrook Riding Stables, set in the beautiful remote Carnedd Llewelyn mountains in Snowdonia, Wales. The film follows Penny and Merrylegs, a timid pony who must overcome his greatest fears to find his own place in the world.
Casting is now underway to discover a young budding actor in the role of Penny, a character inspired by Thelwell’s daughter. The search is also on to find the perfect pony for the leading role of Merrylegs. Award-winning casting director Michelle Smith (The Runaways, Aladdin, Once Upon a Time in London) is looking for an unknown, promising young talent who can breathe new life into the character and bring the endearing and exciting escapades from the pages of the beloved books to the screen to fuel the imagination of a new generation.
A BAFTA- and Oscar-winning VFX team are set to bring the ponies to life, while best in the business creatives have already begun the careful modernisation to ensure incredible results for Merrylegs and his family of ponies. Highly sought after and renowned director of photography Peter Field (Bond franchise, Wonder Woman 1984, Fast & Furious 9) and Academy and BAFTA Award-winning filmmaker and expert horseman Vic Armstrong (The Amazing Spider-Man, Bond franchise, Thor) are also on board the production.
The film is intended for a 2023 release to mark and celebrate Thelwell’s centenary, one of the 20th century’s most beloved and well-known British children’s authors, his collection of 34 books continue to sell millions of copies worldwide, translated into a variety of languages and remains one of the only British heritage family franchises fully unexploited for film.
Brady is one of the few British female directors to have been nominated for the Cannes Film Festivals Best First Film Feature accolade, the Camera d’Or, for her debut feature Trashed, which went onto win eleven international film festival awards.
“This is a dream come true to bring the much-loved artist Norman Thelwell’s legacy to the big screen,” said Brady. “These iconic characters are universally treasured and we’ll be meticulous with the evolution of the ponies working with the very best in the field of creature animation to maintain Thelwell’s unique style, wonderful humour, and environmental spirit that his collection of cartoons represented. We can’t wait to introduce new audiences to the laughter, landscapes and hilarious antics of Penny and the mischievous ponies.”
Thelwell’s daughter Penny Jones said, “I very much look forward to seeing Dad’s ponies coming to life on screen so that a new generation can discover the iconic Thelwell pony — and their parents can rediscover characters they knew from his books when they were children.”
The artist’s son, David Thelwell, added: “Blenheim Films are also developing a television series about my father’s life and work based on his autobiographies, which just like his cartoons, were extremely popular and we still have many of the fan letters sent to him at the time. He would have been thrilled that his life and work will be turned into TV programs and films, and so are we.”