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Willow Disney+ Sequel Series - Everything You Need To Know

As with anything "Star Wars" mastermind George Lucas touches, the 1988 fantasy film "Willow" gathered such a cult following that over 30 years later, the calls from fans to create a sequel series were answered. Directed by Ron Howard from a story written by Lucas, "Willow" concerned Nelwyn dwarf Willow (Warwick Davis) rescuing and safeguarding the infant Elora Danan, sought after by the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) after a prophecy predicted the baby would one day overthrow the queen. As with most fantasy stories, the heroes prevailed — keeping the baby girl safe and sound (even with some twists and turns in the road) and dethroning the queen despite her mobilizing an entire army to kill a baby.

Howard revealed in May 2019 that he and his "Solo: A Star Wars Story" screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan were discussing developing a "Willow" television show for Disney+," the streaming service home to the works of Disney, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, and more. Before long, both Howard and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy were convinced Kasdan's take on the property was a good idea for a series. By October 2020, reports that the "Willow" series was officially a go at Disney+ were surfacing, with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer serving as executive producers. 

Finally, "Willow" hit Disney+ on November 30, 2023. Here's everything you need to know about it.

What's the plot of the Willow?

With Warwick Davis returning as the titular character, fans will get to see a an older, more mature, and seasoned side of the once young and green hero. The sequel series will take place approximately 30 years on from the timeline of the movie, and producer Ron Howard indicated on the "Happy Sad Confused" podcast that the show would be continue on from the events of the 1988 movie. The end of the film saw Willow obtain a magic book that would help him on his journey to becoming a sorcerer after so bravely protecting the baby from the Queen and all her evil forces.

Disney+ has offered up an official synopsis of the series, which reads, "Now, in a magical world where brownies, sorcerers, trolls, and other mystical creatures flourish, the adventure continues as an unlikely group of heroes set off on a dangerous quest to places far beyond their home, where they must face their inner demons and come together to save their world." Additionally, Deadline added that "Willow" begins when Kit, the daughter of Sorsha and a princess, gathers a group of friends to search for the titular character. They need his help because Kit's twin brother, a prince, has been kidnapped. Once Willow agrees, the band of heroes ventures "beyond the edge of our world," as Willow puts it in the trailer.

Who starred in Willow?

During a May 2019 appearance on MTV's "Happy Sad Confused" podcast (via Twitter), hosted by Josh Horowitz, producer Ron Howard confirmed that original "Willow" star Warwick Davis would reprise his role as the kind-hearted farmer and aspiring sorcerer Willow Ufgood. As for the swordsman Madmartigan, who was played by Val Kilmer in the original, he won't be returning. However, at the D23 Expo last month, Disney revealed that Christian Slater would be playing Madmartigan's friend, a new dashing rogue character by the name of Allagash. Otherwise, Joanne Whalley returned to her role as Sorsha, the warrior daughter of Queen Bavmorda. Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton will also be reprising their roles as Rool and Franjean (via Entertainment Weekly),

They were all joined by Ruby Cruz, as Sorsha's daughter Kit; Erin Kellyman, who played Kit's best friend and a knight-in-training named Jade; Amar Chadha-Patel, as the thief Boorman; Ellie Bamber as kitchen maid Dove; Ralph Ineson as Commander Ballantine; Charlie Rawes as Toth; Adwoa Aboah as Scorpia; Alexis Rodney as Lachlan; Kenny Knight as Keene; and Warwick Davis' daughter Annabelle as Mims.

Who directed Willow?

The "Willow" TV series was created by Jonathan Kasdan, who wrote the pilot and is also the show's co-showrunner along with Wendy Mericle. Kasdan is also credited as the writer of Episodes 7 and 8, which close out the season. Before "Willow," Kasdan wrote the screenplay for "Solo: A Star Wars Story." He's also written and directed two features himself, "The First Time" and "In the Land of Women."

Mericle previously served as the showrunner for The CW's "Arrow" series and as co-executive producer on the Disney+ show "Big Shot," which starred John Stamos. She's also written and produced several other TV series.

Stephen Woolfenden directed the first two episodes of the series. Woolfenden replaced John Entwistle, who earlier replaced Jon M. Chu due to scheduling conflicts (via Deadline). Previously, Woolfenden was the second-unit director on all three "Fantastic Beasts" movies and four of the "Harry Potter" films. He also has 15 TV directing credits going back to 2005 (via IMDb). Also directing two episodes each are Jamie Childs ("The Sandman"), Philippa Lowthorpe ("The Crown"), and Debs Paterson ("Halo"). Ron Howard will not be directing any episodes.

What was Willow rated?

The "Willow" sequel series was officially rated TV-14 according to the show's page on the Disney+ app. This means the show is not recommended for children under the age of 14 and it's a more mature rating than the original film's PG score. 

The original movie is quite dark. It's about an evil queen who sends an entire army to kill a baby. Along the way, Willow, Madmartigan, Sorsha, and the gang battle all kinds of fantasy creatures, often dismembering them. While it's nowhere near the level of gore in a grindhouse film, it's no walk in the park, either. It's possible "Willow" would receive a PG-13 rating if it was released today. We can expect the same from the Disney+ series, which included fantasy violence and peril. There are some potentially scary scenes and intimidating monsters, so it's up to parents' discretion whether or not their little ones can watch the new "Willow."

How critics and audiences responded to Willow

The 2020s have been a boom period of high-profile streaming series based on beloved fantasy properties, what with Prime Video's "Lord of the Rings" series, the "Game of Thrones"-based "House of the Dragon" on HBO Max, Netflix's "The Witcher," and the eight-episode "Willow," based on the 1988 movie of the same name, on Disney+. Streamers are spending a lot of money to make their shows stand out in this highly competitive and much scrutinized sector, and it seems to have worked out well for Disney, because critics almost universally enjoyed the new "Willow" series. According to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it's "certified fresh" with an 85% critical approval score. "'Willow' builds on original lore to introduce a new set of unlikely heroes, honoring what made the original special," wrote Karama Horne of TheWrap, while Valerie Ettenhofer of Film School Rejects praised the series, calling it, "A largely family-friendly adventure saga that isn't afraid to include humor and danger that appeals to adults, too."

Viewers embraced "Willow," too. On Rotten Tomatoes, 65% of viewers gave it a thumbs up, but not all that many people actually watched the series. Fewer than 500,000 people checked out the first two episodes during its first five days of release, according to Samba TV (via Cosmic Book News).

Where you can watch the original Willow

If you bought a Disney+ subscription so you can check out the "Willow" sequel series, here's some good news: the streaming platform does indeed include the 1988 "Willow" movie directed by Ron Howard.

If you don't yet have a Disney+ subscription, the original "Willow" is available for rental or purchase on several other streaming platforms. If you want to stream "Willow," it's available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Plus, YouTube, Microsoft, Vudu, Redbox, AMC Theaters On Demand, DirecTV, and Spectrum On Demand. It costs $3.99 to rent on all those platforms, and $19.99 to buy, except for AMC Theaters On Demand, where it costs $17.99 to buy (via Just Watch).

If you prefer to watch old-school, "Willow" is also available on Blu-ray and DVD. The 30th-anniversary edition of the movie was released in early 2019, with all-new title artwork (per Warwick Davis on Twitter).