Directed by Ron Howard, classic fantasy movie Willow pretty much immediately hit cult status when it was released back in 1988. Telling the story of aspiring magician Willow (Warwick Davis), whose children discover an infant girl in the river one day and ends up on a magical adventure to ensure her safety, the movie sits in that sweet nostalgia spot for many-a-folk of a certain age.
So when it was announced that the movie was getting its very own sequel, and that it would be a TV series on Disney+, a lot of people were excited. The story picks up 20 years after Willow’s adventures and when the world is in trouble again, Willow teams up with a new group of unlikely heroes to use his magic and defeat dark forces.
We’re just over the halfway point of the series now, so we thought it was high-time to sit down with the series creators to find out how this whole thing came about and you may be surprised to know that a huge part of it was simply because it was a childhood favourite…
“I’d seen the movie when I was eight years old,” Willow series creator Jonathan Kasdan tells us. “It’s a powerful thing when you’re a kid to see a hero that’s little, because you yourself are little in a world of big people.
“I think that was part of the genius of George [Lucas]’s creation and certainly Warwick’s performance, that he was able to communicate so much pathos and maturity. He was 17 at the time, but totally believable as a father of two children. It’s an incredible performance and it really spoke to me as a kid as a story that I could latch on to and relate to.
“Then, as I grew up in Hollywood, and among filmmakers who are sorcerers in their own right, the idea of someone 20 years on from their biggest successes fascinated me and seemed like an opportunity.”
Indeed, as the son of legendary Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan is no stranger to the magic of Hollywood. He is also no stranger to adapting older material for modern audiences, having co-written the Han Solo movie back in 2018 with Solo: A Star Wars Story.
In fact, it was Jonathan and producer Michelle Rejwan’s experience on the new Star Wars movies where the two could see how great a collaboration could be with the original makers of an iconic movie with those who want to give it a fresh look.
“Michelle and I were both around during the making of The Force Awakens, where JJ [Abrams], like myself coming to Willow, had that freshness,” Kasdan says. “But he got to work with my dad who brought a lot of experience in Star Wars and had been there forever. We got to see the benefit of that kind of collaboration and how fun it was when someone who loved one of these things met someone who made one of these things.
“When I met Ron Howard, we were able to replicate that dynamic in a lot of ways and he really became a partner to Michelle and I in terms of being the voice of what Willow is, and us being the voice of where we hope it can go. I think that together we were able to arrive at a show we were all proud of.”
“That is one of the joys of the process that we are very fortunate to be able to do in our work, which is work with those original storytellers that have brought us these stories, Willow, Star Wars… ” Rejwan says. “Those are incredibly special stories to so many people and for us to have the opportunity to work alongside and frankly be trusted by those original stewards of those stories is a really special thing.
“What’s also fortunate is we have great partners that really empower us to be able to bring that freshness because they recognise that blend has really got to be reflected on screen – to deliver for both the audiences that love the original movie, but new audiences that either hadn’t seen in a while or perhaps never have, that can step in without any homework required and go on this adventure with us.”
It seems that collaboration between the movie’s original creators and the series’ new ones played a key role in the whole process for making the show.
“This was something that came out of the conversations that Ron Howard and myself and Warwick had,” Kasdan remembers. “Then when the writers came in to work with me… what you have on these shows is a group of people who really want to help you achieve your vision and one of those people in this particular case was Bob Dolman who had written the movie. What was so wonderful about it was that he was able to share these very intimate stories about the experience and the process on writing the movie that informed our writers’ room.
“It gave us all a little bit more confidence and a little bit more surety that we were we were speaking in the language of Willow.”
Willow is available now exclusively on Disney+.