The small but sweet love affair with Willow that led to a bright new series


Willow, the 1988 fantasy film starring Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer, tells the story of an aspiring wizard in a magical world who is destined to greatness despite his small stature and a treacherous journey. The plot could be an allegory for the film itself as well as its legacy, as some 35 years later the relatively esoteric title is given a brand new life with a big-budget fantasy series premiering this week on Disney+.

It’s a refreshing twist on recent trends that a cult classic without the sizable built-in fan base of, say, a Star Wars or Marvel property would get the fancy reboot treatment. But those who loved the Ron Howard-directed film are excited for its arrival — even if they’re not necessarily strong in numbers.

Alban Leloup, the admin of the Willow wiki page at Fandom, told CNN that “Willow” fans are a little “hard to locate,” describing them as “little pockets” scattered across sites like Tumblr and Facebook .

“Until now, there hasn’t been a centralized community,” he said.

According to fandom community partnerships specialist (and “Willow” fan) Mike Delaney, there is Also quite a bit of crossover with “Star Wars” – most likely because George Lucas came up with the idea original movie.

“Willow” loyalists, he said, “view ‘Willow’ as a very fun part of the LucasFilm family of films.”

Delaney compared Willow to the Jim Henson gem Labyrinth and other seminal films of the era, saying it was “one of those movies in the ’80s that introduced a lot of people to the idea of ​​fantasy movies in general and brought them into the mainstream.”

“There’s this great generational aspect,” he added. “Like ‘Star Wars’ and other ’80s-era movies that have that nostalgic factor, people like to carry it around and pass it on to their own family and friends.”

Nonetheless, “Willow” remains a fairly obscure reference alongside “Star Wars” and countless other titles, with Delaney acknowledging that as a single film there “isn’t much to draw from,” indicative of the sparse other “Willow” content is in the Meanwhile came – a comic book, a role-playing source book, and a trilogy of novels written by Chris Claremont (and sketched by Lucas).

A good indicator of how niche “Willow” is, Leloup and Delaney agree, is how seldom the film is celebrated at film or fantasy conventions.

“You could be walking around a convention floor and spotting a Willow in a sea of ​​Harley Quinns,” Delaney remarked. “You have that little moment where you’re like, ‘I know who you are. I know you play Willow!’ And there’s probably a lot of people who have no idea who they’re dressed as.”

Since the series was announced, “interest has increased,” Leloup said, which was reflected in her web traffic and interactions on her website.

“There’s always a delicate balance of keeping the old fans in the herd, with familiar respect, familiar themes, familiar feeling, but at the same time you want to attract a whole new group,” Leloup said of the growth.

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

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

In terms of what he’s most excited about in the new series, Leloup points to the lore from the original film and where it might go next.

“There are many types of nerds, and I call myself a lore nerd. What I like first and foremost, almost on an equal footing with storytelling, is world-building,” he said. “I’m just curious to see where they will take this world and how much world building they will add to it.”

Within this lore, the central character is Elora Danan in the original film – a baby princess destined to defeat the evil Queen Bavmorda and be protected by Willow – and how she will appear in the new series.

The Elora character, mentioned but not seen in the promotional materials for the show, is actually credited with being the reason why such a small property of LucasFilm’s oeuvre was brought back in the first place.

Willow showrunner and creator Jonathan Kasdan told this month, “There’s a million unanswered questions from the movie, but for me there’s only one, and that’s why we made this show in the first place: what happened to this baby I think more than anything George Lucas did, ‘Willow’ was the one who said ‘continued’ to me.”

He later added, “‘Willow’ ended with the most powerful person alive as an eight-month-old baby, so it felt like there was still a story to tell.”

Not much has been revealed as far as this new storyline goes, other than the fact that it takes place decades after the events of the original film and Willow is called on another dangerous quest, this time to rescue Kit’s (Ruby Cruz) twin brother after being struck by mysterious was kidnapped by evil forces.

Fandom Director of Community Activations and “Willow” superfan Brian Linder also mentioned another recognizable name in the new cast. “It will be interesting to see what Christian Slater’s character is all about.” Slater is credited as part of the cast of the series, but no information about his character is available yet.

Original star Kilmer, who played dashing swordsman Madmartigan in the original film, was pulled from the series just before filming due to Covid-19 restrictions, but Delaney points to fan theories that Slater might fill in for the character somehow. Kilmer’s ex-wife, Joanne Whalley, who he met in the original film, will return in the series as the warrior Sorsha.

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

New additions to the series include Raised By Wolves and Solo star Erin Kellyman, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Tony Revolori and Amar Chadha-Patel.

Delaney said there’s nothing to lose by bringing “fresh ideas to a 35-year-old franchise.”

“I think it’s a little bit exciting to see exactly what they can do to help make ‘Willow’ more relevant to the current generation and the current entertainment landscape,” he said.

The Willow series launches on Disney+ on Wednesday.

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