Chubby, furry, and naughty might best describe Thelwell ponies, the beloved creation of cartoon artist Norman Thelwell in the 1950s. His adorable and hilarious cartoons have graced everything from books to t-shirts to greeting cards to mugs and everything in between. Now, Thelwell fans can rejoice in the news that a live-action film is in the works.
Merrylegs The Movie is in development at the UK production company Blenheim Films, with a search now on to cast Merrylegs the pony and other human and equine characters. Michelle Smith (The Runaways, Aladdin, Once Upon a Time in London) will play Penny, Merryleg’s young rider and the lead character who was inspired by Thelwell’s real-life daughter.
“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,” Penny Jones, Thelwell’s daughter, told a news outlet.
Thelwell served in the British army during WWII, during which time he always carried his sketchbooks. His began his cartoonist career at Punch magazine and drew various country scenes, but it was his “fat hairy pony” that made him a household name. His first pony cartoon appeared in 1953 and its success surprised Thelwell, leading to his first iconic book, Angels on Horseback, which was published in 1957.
The following quote is on the official Thelwell website and attributed to the artist.
“One day I did a pony drawing and it was like striking a sensitive nerve. The response was instantaneous. People telephoned the editor and asked for more. Suddenly I had fan mail. So the editor told me to do a two-page spread on ponies. I was appalled. I thought I’d already squeezed the subject dry. I looked at the white drawing block and wondered what on earth to do. In the end I dreamed up some more horsey ideas and people went into raptures. The ‘Thelwell pony’ was born.”
According to various reports, the movie will be directed by Candida Brady with cinematographer Peter Field (James 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) attached to the project. The ponies will be a combination of real ponies and CGI, the creation of a stellar FX team.
Blenheim is eyeing a 2023 release to coincide with Norman Thelwell’s centenary. While Thelwell remains one of Britain’s most famous and cherished children’s author, with an impressive collection of 34 books that continue to enchant millions of readers around the globe, surprisingly there have been no film adaptations … until now. So stay tuned and visit the movie’s Facebook page for updates.