Search underway for chubby, unruly pony to star in “Thelwell” movie

The beloved British equestrian cartoon series is coming to the big screen as a live-action feature film

Six decades after they were first drawn by late cartoonist Norman Thelwell, Penelope and her unruly, shaggy pony are being brought to life in a live-action feature film and the director is searching for a four-legged star. 

Thelwell cartoons depicted the humorous antics of scrappy ponies and their determined riders.

The movie, titled Merrylegs: The Movie, will be set in Snowdonia, Wales, and shooting begins later this year. The film will depict the antics of Penny and her pony as chronicled in the beloved and best-selling series of books. 

First created in the 1950s, Thelwell’s cartoon ponies are easily recognizable. Incorrigibly naughty with large stomachs and short legs, the ponies constantly challenge their riders, who love them dearly despite their faults. The books were an instant hit and soon these types of ponies were commonly known as “Thelwells.” Penny, named after Norman Thelwell’s daughter Penelope, and her pony Kipper were frequently the pair drawn in humorous scenarios—galloping through hedgerows and challenging the most patient riding instructors.

Although Thelwell loved drawing horses, he never rode one. His daughter once explained: “He liked to know what was going to happen, and with a horse you never know. But he absolutely loved drawing them. In his work, the animals are always the wise ones.” Thelwell died in 2004.

Director Candida Brady says finding the right pony will be key to the movie’s success: “Casting the right pony is very important. We’re looking for very expressive ones,” Brady told The Telegraph newspaper. “Thelwell ponies are laden with character. It’s a sparkle, a cheeky sparkle that we’d be going for. And also a big fat tummy, slightly foreshortened legs and slightly unkempt hair.” Shetland and Welsh Mountain ponies are currently the focus of Brady’s search.

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