After years of rumours and hearsay, it’s finally official: Willow is coming back! Fans of director Ron Howard’s 1998 fantasy film can rejoice today as Disney and Lucasfilm announced via press release that a brand new Willow TV series is being developed for Disney+ with production set to start next year in Wales, where the original was shot.
Warwick Davis, who played the title role in the original film, will reprise his beloved character, while Howard is back as executive producer alongside Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Joining them as executive producer is Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) who is also set to direct the pilot which was penned by Jonathan Kasdan (Solo, Californication). The latter will act as co-showrunner with Wendy Mericle (Arrow).
The story for the original 1998 film came from none other than Star Wars creator George Lucas (who worked with Davis on Return of the Jedi) and followed “a good-hearted farmer named Willow Ufgood” who “discovers a baby girl prophesized to end the rule of the evil queen Bavmorda” and “sets out on an adventure to return the child to her people”. On his quest filled with magic and monsters, Willow would discover newfound skills as a sorcerer as well as meet memorable companions. Easily at the top of that list would be Madmartigan, a brash mercenary swordsman played by a young Val Kilmer.
There’s no word on Kilmer’s involvement in this new show which takes place years after the events of the original and “introduces all-new characters to the enchanted realm of fairy queens and two-headed Eborsisk monsters”. There’s also no hint of whether or not this new show will take its lead from the series of sequel novels that had been published between 1995 and 2000 and which followed a grown-up Elora Danan, the young baby that Willow saved in the first film.
In a statement, Chu spoke about how much the opportunity to revive this franchise meant to him personally.
Growing up in the ’80s, ‘Willow’ has had a profound effect on me. The story of the bravest heroes in the least likely places allowed me, an Asian-American kid growing up in a Chinese restaurant looking to go to Hollywood, to believe in the power of our own will, determination and of course, inner magic. So the fact that I get to work with my heroes from Kathleen Kennedy to Ron Howard is bigger than a dream come-true. It’s a bucket-list moment for me. Jon Kasdan and Wendy Mericle have added such groundbreaking new characters and delightful surprises to this timeless story that I can’t wait for the world to come along on this epic journey with us.
Warwick added to that saying that “So many fans have asked me over the years if Willow will make a return, and now I’m thrilled to tell them that he will indeed.”
Many have told me they grew up with ‘Willow’ and that the film has influenced how they view heroism in our own world. If Willow Ufgood can represent the heroic potential in all of us, then he is a character I am extremely honored to reprise.
The original film received mixed reviews upon its release in 1988, in spite of it earning two Oscar nominations for Visual Effects and Sound Editing. On the commercial front, while it disappointed slightly in the US (Lucas had thought it would open in the same range as record-setting E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) strong international box office returns would make it a moderate success. Growing popularity upon its home release would turn Willow into a huge cult hit with fans asking about a return ever since. Better late than never, I guess.
Since acquiring Lucasfilm in 2012, this will be the first non-Star Wars movie in its stable released by Disney. A fifth Indiana Jones movie has been in development since 2016 already, but with it recently being delayed again to 2022, it looks like the Willow series on Disney+ will be the next Lucasfilm production.
Last Updated: October 21, 2020