The classic story is reimagined for the modern era by writer-director Ashley Avis. The film premieres on November 27th on Disney+.
A tale of grief, love, and hope unfolds as audiences become enamored with recently-orphaned Jo Green (Mackenzie Foy) and her wild mustang kindred spirit Black Beauty (voiced by Kate Winslet). With the help of her uncle John Manly (Iain Glen), Jo forges an unbreakable bond with Beauty. From falling in love with George Winthrop (Calam Lynch) to training Beauty, Jo grows alongside her equine companion and learns to overcome her tragic loss.
Writer-director Ashley Avis was inspired by Anna Sewell’s original 19th-century tale to shine a light on horse abuse in the U.S. While Sewell was impassioned by the mistreatment of carriage horses, Avis learned that over 50,000 wild horses are kept in mass holding cells today across America. “I thought this modern-day issue is very much a parallel for what Anna Sewell wanted to do for the horses in her time,” Avis explained, citing Beauty’s updated origin story.
Avis also wrote both protagonists Jo and Black Beauty as female leads, changing their genders from the 1994 film of the same name. As for the casting process, Avis knew immediately after watching Mackenize Foy in Interstellar that she was meant to embody Jo.
Actor Calam Lynch, who plays Jo’s love interest George Winthrop, echoed that Foy’s presence was what grounded the film. “The best thing about doing the whole movie for me was meeting Mackenzie,” Lynch admitted. “I know this is cliché but she’s so down to earth and so lovely, and really an amazing scene partner.”
Real horses were used on set, and Avis proudly stated there are no CGI effects in the film. Foy and costar Iain Glen were also grateful to be able to work with the animals, and shared that the horses added wonderment behind-the-scenes.
“After seeing this film, I hope [audiences] feel that sense of magic and peace and beauty that horses bring to you,” Foy opened up. “For me, it has that feel of one of those movies I used to watch as a kid, and that really made me feel so warm and happy inside. I hope that’s the same for anyone who watches it.”
“It’s full of good feelings and love and kindness. I hope it leads people to love horses even more,” Glen added.
Avis similarly wished viewers this holiday season are inspired to harness their own “mustang spirit.” The family-friendly film beautifully captures a timeless story of the love between horse and human, pet and owner, and ultimately, the beauty of healing.
“Black Beauty” is available to stream on Disney+ on November 27.