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Disney officially orders 'Willow' sequel series; Ron Howard and Warwick Davis returning
Our return to the Nelwyn Valley is assured! Disney+ confirmed today that it has officially given the green light to a sequel TV series based on 1988's Willow. The beloved fantasy movie was co-written/produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard. The latter is returning to executive-produce the show, while Warwick Davis is locked in to reprise the titular role of Willow Ufgood.
Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, In the Heights) will sit in the director's chair for the pilot episode, written by co-showrunner Jonathan Kasdan (Solo: A Star Wars Story). Chu will also executive-produce, alongside Kasdan and co-showrunner Wendy Mericle (Arrow).
"Growing up in the ’80s, Willow has had a profound effect on me," Chu said in a statement. "The story of the bravest heroes in the least likely places allowed me, an Asian-American kid growing up in a Chinese restaurant looking to go to Hollywood, to believe in the power of our own will, determination and of course, inner magic. So the fact that I get to work with my heroes from Kathleen Kennedy to Ron Howard is bigger than a dream come-true. It’s a bucket-list moment for me. Jon Kasdan and Wendy Mericle have added such groundbreaking new characters and delightful surprises to this timeless story that I can’t wait for the world to come along on this epic journey with us."
Marking Lucasfilm's first foray into non-Star Wars storytelling since 2015, the Willow show takes place several years after the events of the movie and will introduce brand-new characters into the mythos of fairy queens and two-headed Eborsisk monsters.
"So many fans have asked me over the years if Willow will make a return, and now I’m thrilled to tell them that he will indeed,” Davis said. “Many have told me they grew up with Willow and that the film has influenced how they view heroism in our own world. If Willow Ufgood can represent the heroic potential in all of us, then he is a character I am extremely honored to reprise."
"This is an exciting new era for storytelling at Lucasfilm," added Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who is producing as well. "Jon Chu's vision, coupled with the writing of Jon Kasdan and Wendy Mericle, is going to take Willow into new and exciting directions for the series. Reuniting Ron Howard and Warwick Davis in the world of Willow is something that they've both wanted to do for some time, and I couldn’t be more proud of the incredible team we’ve put together to bring this series to Disney+."
Production on the Willow TV show is scheduled to kick off in Wales (where the first movie was shot) sometime next year. Bob Dolman, who wrote the original film, is attached to the project as a consulting producer. Released in May of 1988, Willow was met with mixed critical reception (it currently holds a 51% on Rotten Tomatoes) and made $57 million at the domestic box office against a budget of $35 million. Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Billy Barty, and Jean Marsh co-starred alongside Davis. By all accounts, however, the effort was a failure, but like Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, Willow is another '80s-era fantasy flick that's only grown in popularity over the years after an underwhelming theatrical debut.
Disney has been flirting with the idea of a follow-up for some time now. Our last update came over the summer when Howard admitted that the sequel series was "in very active development." The scripting process began in early 2020.
"What's lovely about Willow is that there's so much love for the film, so much excitement about the possibility of there being more Willow, and there has been for years and years and years," Davis told SYFY WIRE in January. "So now, when there's a little bit of work being done to actually develop this and make this something that will be a reality, the internet has got ahead of itself a little bit and the excitement of the fandom has got ahead of where we are."