Small but mighty love for ‘Willow’ leading to a shiny new drama


Starring Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer, the 1988 fantasy film “Willow” tells the story of an aspiring wizard in a magical world destined for greatness despite his small stature and treacherous journey. The plot may be an allegory for the movie itself and its legacy, as nearly 35 years later, the relatively esoteric title is getting a whole new life through a big-budget fantasy series set to premiere on Disney+ this week.

It’s a refreshing spin on recent trends that a cult classic without a sizable established fanbase like a “Star Wars” or Marvel property is getting the fancy reboot treatment. But fans of the Ron Howard-directed movie are looking forward to the movie’s arrival – even if they’re not strong in numbers.

Alban Leloup, manager of the Willow Wiki page at Fandom, told CNN that “Willow” fans are “a bit difficult to locate”, describing them as “little pockets” scattered on sites like Tumblr and Facebook.

“There hasn’t been a centralized community until now,” he said.

According to fandom community partnership expert (and “Willow” fan) Mike Delaney, Moreover A decent amount of crossovers with “Star Wars” – most likely because George Lucas provided the idea. original movie

Those loyal to “Willow” said, “See ‘Willow’ as a very entertaining part of the LucasFilm family of films.”

Delaney likened “Willow” to the Jim Henson jewel “Labyrinth” and other landmark films of the era, saying, “It was one of those films that brought many people together in the ’80s and introduced them to the idea of ​​fantasy films in general.” into the mainstream.”

“It has a wonderful generational aspect to it,” he added. “People enjoy carrying it with them and passing it on to their own family and friends, as did Star Wars and other ’80s films with this nostalgic element.”

However, “Willow” remains a rather vague reference alongside “Star Wars” and numerous other titles, and Delaney admits “not much to take out” as a single movie, pointing to other scant “Willow” content. meanwhile, it spawned—a comic book, a role-playing game sourcebook, and a trilogy of novels written by Chris Claremont (and outlined by Lucas).

A good indication of how niche “Willow” is, both Leloup and Delaney observe, are how rare it is to see the movie celebrated at movie or fantasy conventions.

“You could be walking in a meeting area and see a Willow in a sea of ​​Harley Quinn,” Delaney said. “There’s that little moment when you say ‘I know who you are’. I know you’re playing as Willow!’ And there’s probably a lot of people out there who have no idea who they’re dressed as.”

Leloup said they’ve seen “an increase” in interest since the show’s announcement, reflected in web traffic and interactions on their site.

“There’s always a delicate balance between keeping familiar homages, familiar themes, familiar feelings and old fans together, but you also want to attract an entirely new group,” Leloup said of growing up.

The arrival of the new 8-episode series comes with high hopes from its small but powerful fan base.

The pilot episode of the show was executive produced by Howard, along with LucasFilm president and super producer Kathleen Kennedy. Bob Dolman, who wrote the screenplay for the original film, also served as the supervising producer on the first film. episode.

Leloup points to the lore presented in the original film about what he’s most excited about in the new series, and where it can go next.

“There are many types of cows, and I call myself a lore cow. The first and most important thing I love, almost on par with storytelling, is world building,” he said.

Included in this lore is Elora Danan, the main character from the original movie – a baby princess doomed to defeat the evil queen Bavmorda and guarded by Willow – and how she will appear in the new series.

The character Elora, who is only mentioned but not seen in the promotional materials of the show, is actually cited as the reason behind why such a small property from the LucasFilm corpus was brought back in the first place.

“Willow” showrunner and creator Jonathan Kasdan told this month: “There are a million unanswered questions about the movie, but there’s only one question for me, and that’s why we’re doing this show: what happened to that baby? I think more than anything George Lucas has done, ‘Willow’ called me a ‘sequel’.”

She later said, “‘Willow’ ended with the strongest person in the world being an eight-month-old baby, so it felt like there was only one story left to tell.”

As for this new story, not much has been revealed except that it takes place decades after the events of the original movie and Willow is called on another dangerous mission, this time to save Kit’s (Ruby) twin brother. Cruz), after being kidnapped by mysterious evil forces.

Fandom community activations director and “Willow” superfan Brian Linder also mentioned another recognizable name in the new roster. “It will be interesting to see what Christian Slater’s character is all about.” Slater is in the cast of the series, but there is no information about his character yet.

Original star Kilmer, who played the dashing swordsman Madmartigan in the original movie, had to be removed from the show just before filming due to Covid-19 restrictions, but Delaney points out that Slater will perhaps step in for the character, according to fan theories. somehow. Kilmer’s ex-wife, Joanne Whalley, whom he met in the original film, will return as the warrior Sorsha.

Delaney also looks forward to how the team behind the new series will incorporate a more inclusive cast in the world of “Willow,” which had a predominantly White cast in 1988.

New additions to the series include “Raised By Wolves” and “Solo” stars Erin Kellyman, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” famed Tony Revolori and Amar Chadha-Patel.

“Nothing can be lost from bringing new ideas to a 35-year-old franchise,” Delaney said.

“I think there’s some excitement to see exactly what they can bring to this and make ‘Willow’ more relevant to the current generation and the current entertainment landscape,” he said.

“Willow” premieres Wednesday on Disney+.

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