More than 30 years after the original Ron Howard-directed dark fantasy adventure film was released, an epic new follow-up series arrives on Disney+ this November. For longtime Willow fans, it was well worth the wait.
The first three episodes of Disney+’s Willow were available for press, and what follows is a spoiler-free look at the series.
A Willow Refresher
The new 8-episode series picks up approximately 20 or so years after the events of the original film, which starred Davis, Val Kilmer, and Joanne Whalley, and relies heavily on the events of the past to set up this new chapter. The opening episode helpfully contains a quick rundown of key details, including a reminder that young farmer Willow Ufgood (Davis) was chosen to take a red-headed baby named Elora Danen under his protection after a prophecy foretold the child would be the downfall of the evil Bavmorda of Nockmaar. With the help of roguish mercenary Madmartigan (Kilmer) and Sorsha (Whalley), the eventual turncoat warrior daughter of Bavmorda, Willow and his friends succeeded in safely protecting the young Elora, thus defeating Bavmorda. Viewers can also watch the 1988 film on Disney+ to fully prepare for the show’s upcoming release.
Believing the evil was defeated, our heroes of the realm returned home and went on to live peaceful lives. In an effort to protect her and allow her a normal life, Elora grew up shielded—not knowing her origin story or true name. One day, an ancient evil rises again, aiming to destroy Elora Danen once and for all and bring about a new dark age. With the child of the prophecy finding herself once again at the centre of this great undoing, it is foretold that she will be the only one to bring unity against the darkness. With a new band of heroes (Erin Kellyman, Tony Revolori, Ellie Bamber, Amar Chadha-Patel, and Ruby Cruz) taking up the call, their fight to save the world takes them places they never could’ve imagined.
The Return Of Familiar Favourites
The original Willow casts a big shadow in the new series, not just in terms of direct storytelling and effective flashback sequences, but in its casting. Davis, who has long spoken of his desire for a Willow sequel, returns to the title role alongside Whalley’s reprisal of Sorsha. It has also been revealed that Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton would return to their roles as the mischievous brownies, Rool and Franjean. While Kilmer was unable to make a return as Madmartigan due to his health, the character is still a major presence throughout.
It is heart-warming to see the original stars return, in particular Davis. The Harry Potter actor clearly has an affinity for the role and brings as much charm and charisma to the role as he did 34 years ago. It is also great to see the actor’s real-life daughter, Annabelle Davis, take on the role of Willow’s daughter, Mims, who makes several appearances in lovely father-daughter scenes in the series’ early episodes.
A Must-See Reboot
Those afraid that a new Disney+ take on the original Willow story would dilute the ever-present darkness of ’80s children’s movies needn’t worry. The series is just as dark as one would have hoped, and it manages to present the familiar Willow trappings on an even grander and darker scale. This is one sumptuous, stunning-looking world, built upon what Howard and cinematographer Adrian Biddle created for the original film, and with an incredible eye for detail. There are fantastical creatures here, too, well created and scary enough for young and old.
One of the things Disney+’s Willow does best is putting a band of female adventurers and heroes at the forefront of the story. While Whalley’s Sorsha may have paved the way as a warrior in the 1988 film, the trio of Kellyman, Cruz and Bamber are dynamic on screen. There are no damsels in distress to be found here, with Princess Kit (Cruz) the one coming to the rescue of her friends and husband-to-be, Graydon (Revolori). The female characters are each given agency and something interesting to do, rather than blending into the background of the posse.
Developed by Jonathan Kasdan, who also wrote three of the episodes, Willow is full of warm-hearted humour. Offering consistent light moments along the way, the tone remains true to that set out by writers George Lucas and Bob Dolman in 1988. The sequel also boasts a score that captures adventure on a grand scale and, to top it all off, each episode ends with an atmospheric cover of a familiar pop music track for an unexpected bit of fun. No one had covers of Metallica or Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” on their Willow sequel bingo card. It all adds to the nostalgic fun of the series as a whole.
One of the most delightful and enjoyable reboots in recent memory, Disney+’s Willow is sure to delight not just existing fans, but total newcomers as well.
The first episode of Willow premieres on November 30, exclusively on Disney+, with new episodes following each consecutive Wednesday.
Watch the trailer and check out more images from the series below.