Like the following year’s The Littlest Horse Thieves, gentle family picture Ride a Wild Pony is a live-action offering from Walt Disney Productions that’s completely bereft of American idiom. Whereas The Littlest Horse Thieves was made in the UK, Ride a Wild Pony was shot in Australia. Furthermore, the picture was based upon Australian literary material, and nearly all the actors are Aussies. So even though Ride a Wild Pony offers the same sort of animal-centric, feel-good story one normally associates with the Disney brand, the picture is in some respects a foreign film. It is also, unfortunately, not a very good film, although the story is compassionate and harmless and sensible. The problem is that there isn’t very much story, so the exact same set of narrative events could have been put across just as effectively, if not more so, in, say, a one-hour production made for one of Disney’s TV shows. Ride a Wild Pony spins a threadbare yarn about a poor boy’s bond with a willful pony, and the picture doesn’t embellish the core story with much in the way of action, comedy, or suspense.
Scotty Pine (Robert Bettles) is the son of a poor farmer in New South Wales. He lives so far from the nearest school that his truancy becomes the subject of legal action. Kindhearted lawyer Charles Quayle (John Meillon) arranges a deal by which Scotty gains the use of a wild pony as transportation to and from school. Scotty falls in love with the animal, whom he names “Taffy,” and they share adventures until the day Taffy breaks free from his stall and runs away. Scotty is heartbroken. Meanwhile, a rich girl named Josie Ellison (Eva Griffith) suffers in different ways, because she lost the use of her legs following a bout of infant paralysis. She longs to ride horses, even though it’s unsafe for her to do so. Her father decides to build her a one-person carriage. To pull the cart, Josie selects a spirited pony from a local herd, unaware that it’s actually the long-lost “Taffy.” She renames the horse and revels in riding her new carriage. That is, until Scotty sees the horse and carriage one day and liberates “Taffy.” More legal action ensues.
Ride a Wild Pony is fine as far as it goes. The child actors are neither especially cute nor especially whiny, the adult actors perform their roles well, and the abundant location photography creates a pleasant sense of place. To its credit, Ride a Wild Pony is a kiddie film that more or less unfolds in the real world of adult social structures, meaning that actions have believable repercussions, and that children aren’t allowed to run wild. That said, the ending is a foregone conclusion, and, in fact, everything that happens in Ride a Wild Pony is predictable.
Ride a Wild Pony: FUNKY