WILLOW fans have had to wait 34 years to see the further adventures of Willow Ufgood, and after watching the first episode you’ll realize the wait was well worth it! The return to the magical world of “Willow,” now on Disney+, begins with two episodes, “The Gales” and “The High Aldwin.” Based on the 1988 film of the same name, the series was born from discussions by Jon Kasdan, Ron Howard, and Warwick Davis on the set of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY about the possibilities for a Willow sequel. While visiting the set, George Lucas, who conceived the characters and story for the original film, gave his wholehearted approval. (Note: There was a trilogy of SHADOW MOON books beginning in 1995 by George Lucas and Chris Claremont that picks up a year after the defeat of Queen Bavmorda. This is a stand-alone series of books.)
Here are some fun facts, plus everything you need to know before watching Disney+’s WILLOW!
About Disney+ WILLOW – Plot Development:
The cast and Jon Kasdan (writer, executive producer) gathered on 11/17/22 for a Virtual Press Conference to share more insight into WILLOW and its story development.
JON KASDAN: Well it evolved really out of the conversations that Ron and I had on the set of ‘Solo,’ and one thing we always knew was sort of at the core of it was, what became of Elora Danan? We thought that that was a subject with a lot of promise. The movie ended with a sort of bittersweet moment of Warwick kissing this baby and then saying, ‘okay, goodbye, I’ll never see you again.’ And as an eight-year-old I was sort of like… they’re not going to have a life together? And how is she going to find out about all this stuff that happened to her? And that felt like a great jumping-off place for a series.
WARWICK DAVIS: And it happened very quickly in Hollywood terms. You know, it wasn’t years and years of development, before I knew it I was sat on set, in Wales for the very first day of filming. Once again looking just like Willow, but a slightly older, more mature, better-looking version. Sexier.
The 1988 film began when an aspiring sorcerer, played by Warwick Davis, was whisked away on a journey to protect an infant empress, Elora Danan, and vanquish the evil Queen Bavmorda from their world of Andowyne. Now, the story continues with Warwick Davis reprising his titular role. He is now High Aldwin of the Nelwyn people, and must lead an unlikely crew of heroes on a quest to protect Andowyne from an even larger foe than they had imagined possible.
Sorsha (Joanne Whalley)
Joanne Whalley returns as Sorsha, the queen of Tir Asleen known for her skills as a warrior and her insight into the intricacies of warfare. She is now a queen and a mom, and her focus is on protecting her realm from all magic.
One glaring absence is Val Kilmer as Madmartigan – the loveable Han Solo-type rogue. At the end of the feature film, the happy couple take Elora as their child and raise her in the the restored kingdom of Tir Asleen. So where is he now? Writer and exec producer Jon Kasdan addresses the omission:
JON KASDAN: It was always going to be right at the core of the story we were telling. And it really had to be… but because we were telling a story that had so many young characters, and they were all sort of searching for their identity; the search for Madmartigan, and the question of what had happened to him was right at the heart of the story we were telling. And we knew that it would be woven into this quest in a fundamental way. Particularly for Ruby’s character, Kit, and for Dempsey’s character, Airk. And that question sort of follows the whole season…. Because Val himself couldn’t come out to Wales and work with us, we added this texture of a friend of Madmartigan’s (Boorman), who could give us clues about his whereabouts. And … deepened the mystery around what happened to him. It provided an opportunity for us to add a whole new element that we didn’t expect to the show.
Kit (Ruby Cruz)
Ruby Cruz (Mare of Easttown) is Kit, Sorsha and Madmartigan’s daughter. Even though she is the princess and next in line for the throne, she is spirited and willful and sometimes makes bad decisions when faced with a number of difficult choices throughout the series.
Airk (Dempsey Bryk)
While Kit has an adventurous spirit and doesn’t want to step into the role of “princess” just yet, her twin brother Airk is pleased as punch in his role as handsome, confident prince and ladies’ man. Airk is enduringly played by Dempsey Bryk (Heartland). Jon Kasdan remembers casting the role.
JON KASDAN: We knew we needed a contemporary version of a charming fairytale prince. We met a lot of very proper British actors, you know, very manicured men, and then Dempsey, this fun Canadian kid, showed up in one of the tapes and was so original and fresh; we all knew we could not pass him up.
Jade (Erin Kellyman)
Kit’s best friend Jade, played by Erin Kellyman (Solo: A Star Wars Story), works in the stables at the castle in Tir Asleen has a very clear goal in her life – to protect the queen and the kingdom as a knight of the Shining Legion. She is best friends, and maybe something more, with Kit, and has difficult decisions to make when her friend is sent out to search for her kidnapped brother.
ERIN KELLYMAN: I think the fact that it’s a fantasy world is why it appeals to so many people. Like younger generations, Jon has also done this incredible thing where he’s tackled some real issues that are happening today that I think may go over younger kids’ heads. But adults are already going to get that. And I think that is why so many people relate to ‘Willow”; because of all the different ideas.”
Dove (Ellie Bamber)
Dove catches the eye of Sorsha’s son, Airk, though she is a kitchen maid in the Tir Asleen castle. He calls her “Dove” since he doesn’t know her name as she is at first just one of many girls in his playboy life-style. Played by Ellie Bamber (The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Nocturnal Animals), she portrays Dove with an innocence that is not to be underestimated. When it comes to saving her true love she does not sit quietly by.
RON HOWARD: Dove is a young woman who has not had a lot of advantages in her upbringing. She works in the kitchen just to get by, but there is a yearning, a sense that she hasn’t found herself yet. And other people can kind of feel that about her as well. During the course of the series, we learn a lot about her, and some things are revealed that are quite surprising but also really propel the story forward in this search to face a new evil and the new level of danger.”
Prince Graydon (Tony Revolori)
Tony Revolori (Spider-Man: Homecoming) plays Graydon, the prince of another kingdom, who is arranged to be married to Kit. Whereas Kit puts up a public argument about this arrangement, he timidly knows this is just how things are done. When Kit is tasked with finding her brother, Graydon is assigned to accompany her to his extreme shock since he is a scholar and not a warrior. During the press conference, Jon Kasdan spoke with Revolori about the boot camp every one of the actors had to endure.
TONY REVOLORI: In the end, I did all the sword training, and then Jon didn’t write a single scene with me and a sword.
JON KASDAN: He had like a little letter opener that he got to like brandish at people for certain scenes. And then the girls would come in and save him from whoever was threatening him with that letter opener. Bless him.
Thraxus Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel )
When we meet Boorman, a roguish warrior played by Amar Chadha-Patel (Aladdin), he is imprisoned in Tir Asleen. However, Sorsha promises to pardon his crimes if he joins Airk’s rescue team. He is our connection with Madmartigan as he was once his squire and friend. During their mission, he gives Kit bits of information about her father.
AMAR CHADHA-PATEL: The most attractive thing about the role is simply playing this little Disney rogue with the heart of gold. To my knowledge, we have never had a South Asian Indian person play this kind of role. For all the little brown kids who grew up with Han Solo and Jack Sparrow and all the other Disney rogues, I feel like I am doing this for them.
RON HOWARD: Boorman is a rogue but very capable. He’s got a lot of swagger, but he’s also a little full of it. Amar brings some of what Val Kilmer brought to ‘Willow,’ not just the swagger, but that ability to sort of be both classic and mythic, and yet also hip, loose, and unpredictable.
Do I need to see the 1988 film to enjoy the series?
The short answer – no. Much of it is recapped in the first episode, or when it’s necessary for the plot. If you are familiar with the film, you will understand plot details quicker. However, the new characters are so engaging and relatable, especially to a teen audience, that you can easily get lost in this new story and the adventure taking place before your eyes. As with most sequels, prequels, and TV series, you will get more out of it if you’ve recently seen the film.
WARWICK DAVIS: One of the most enjoyable things about the series was those call-backs to events that had happened in the film. You know, times that when I as a character talk about those events, and that was a really fun way of looking back at those things, and certainly I think, I think fans will get a kick out of. But also, as you say, we went back to locations and environments we’d already been to in the film. In particular, Nockmaar [castle] was one of those particular places, that for me really kind of gave me the shivers. There I am kind of standing or sitting somewhere that Bavmorda would have sat, and still felt her presence in that area. That just shows you how powerful the film was, and those settings, and also Jean Marsh’s performance.
Our Review and World Premiere Experience
WILLOW – How to Watch
Head over to Disney+ and watch the first two episodes now! Make sure to follow @Skywalkingpod on Instagram and Facebook for more thoughts and discussion. Stay tuned to Episode 398 of Skywalking Through Neverland for a full review of WILLOW episodes 1 and 2, plus the World Premiere recap.