Is Willow a sequel? What the Disney+ Warwick Davis Fantasy is based on

Fans have waited 34 years for this moment

Warwick Davis in Willow on Disney+
(Image credit: Album/Alamy/Future)

Willow became a cult classic film on its release in 1988, and fans have waited several decades for more action from the same universe.

Back in 1988 the film Willow was released and immediately became a cult hit, maintaining a status as cult classic 34 years down the line. Telling the story of the evil Queen-sorceress Bavmorda who has imprisoned pregnant women because of an ancient prophecy, a prisoner gives birth to a child who is said to put an end to the reign of the Queen. A midwife saves the baby from Bavmorda, who finds safety in the village of Nelwyns, and is adopted by Willow Ufgood. Chased by hounds unleashed by the Queen, Willow must undertake the difficult journey to return the baby to her people, and see the prophecy fulfilled. Discussions about continuing the film began in 2005, but were only greenlit in 2020. Now the release date is finally here, and Willow returns to Disney+ on November 30 in the form of a series. But is it a sequel or a reboot, and what is the source material? Read on to find out.

Also on Disney+, Disenchanted (opens in new tab) was recently released, 15 years after its predecessor, Enchanted. We have everything you need to know about the film that was also a long time coming. Disney's Strange World (opens in new tab) is also currently enjoying a theatrical release, and will arrive on the streamer in the future. One for the adults, comedy star Rachel Bloom has a brand new sitcom on Disney+, and fans have been asking for the Reboot true story (opens in new tab) - the show creators had some interesting inspiration for the series.  

Is Willow a sequel?

Yes, Willow 2022 is a sequel, despite having the same name as the original 1988 film. It is not a remake, but will see Warwick Davis reprise his titular role of Willow.

The official synopsis for the film reads "The story began with an aspiring magician from a Nelwyn village and an infant girl destined to unite the realms, who together helped destroy an evil queen and banish the forces of darkness. 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 the world".

The original film saw Davis in the role of young farmer Willow, on a quest to save a child and overthrow the evil queen Bavmorda. The new instalment is set years after the film, introducing some entirely new characters alongside returning faces, and a new plotline - this time around, the heroes group together to save a kidnapped prince.

 When asked about capturing the essence of the original film and making it accessible to new audiences, showrunner Joanthan Kasdan told ScreenRant (opens in new tab) "It's a day-to-day thing you're finding. And I think as a fan of the movie, it's not hard for me to lean into the parts of it that I love, and want to continue the story, and build out the world that George [Lucas] and Ron [Howard] so beautifully designed and rendered."

Warwick Davis as Willow in Willow

(Image credit: Imagine Entertainment / Lucasfilm Television / Album)

What is Willow based on?

Following the original Willow film, George Lucas and Chris Claremont came together to write three additional sequel novels entitled the Chronicles of the Shadow War series. However, none of these are serving as source material for the 2022 instalment. 

According to CBR (opens in new tab), the first novel in the sequel novel series Shadow Moon,  saw much of the world destroyed in a cataclysm. The next two instalments - Shadow Dawn and Shadow Star - put an older Elora into the main protagonist role. This acted to distance the novels from the Willow movie, which was was one of elements fans of the film didn't like about the novels, as well as branding them "confusing" overall. 

Sorsha and her children are also set to return to the Willow series, while Elora doesn't. Therefore, the show isn't an adaptation of the Chronicles of the Shadow War books, as she acted as the main protagonist throughout them. Although he hasn't commented on the nature of the storyline, Showrunner Jonathan Kasdan saw the original film at the cinema as a child, and told EW (opens in new tab) "From the moment it ended, and the credits rolled, I thought, 'Well, there's going to be more,' this has always been in the back of my head."

Characters from the new series of Willow

(Image credit: Imagine Entertainment / Lucasfilm Television / Album)

Will Val Kilmer be in the new Willow TV show?

No, Val Kilmer will not be reprising his role in the new Willow show, due to logistical problems getting to the set, and existing health issues that could've been exacerbated by filming taking place during the pandemic.   

Kilmer appeared in the original film in the role of disgraced knight, Madmartigan. Although originally slated to appear in the new series, Kilmer was unable to make it to the Willow set. During a press conference, Jonathan Kasdan addressed how Madmartigan would be part of the series. 

He said "We had a lot of ideas about ways to pay it off and ways to leave it open. One thing that happened, because Val himself wasn't able to come out to Wales and work with us, was that we added this texture of a friend of Madmartigan's who could give us some clues about his whereabouts and deepen the mystery around what happened to him in a way that actually extended the story we were already telling. It was very satisfying and it provided an opportunity for us to add a whole new element that we didn't expect to the show".

When asked if Madmartigan would ever return in physical form in the future, Kasdan replied: "Madmartigan is still out there. I've had many conversations with everyone involved and our feeling is he is out there to be found, should the day arrive. I think Warwick and I would both love to see him pick up that sword again".

Val Kilmer as Madmartigan and Warwick Davis as Willow, in the original 1988 movie Willow

(Image credit: United Archives GmbH / Alamy)

How many episodes will Willow have?

There will be eight episodes of Willow in total. The first two will air consecutively on Novemeber 30, with the remaining episodes airing weekly thereafter. The series is exclusive to Disney+. 

A Disney Plus subscription (opens in new tab) costs £7.99 per month in the UK, or £79.90 for a year’s access. The majority of Disney Plus content is available with the subscription, although Disney occasionally releases Disney Plus Premier Access titles, requiring additional payment. However, such titles are usually added to the catalogue a short time later, where they are free to watch.

UK subscribers can stream on four screens simultaneously, and register up to 10 devices - the service will support 7 profiles. There is no free trial offered with Disney+. When the streaming service launched in 2020, an initial one week free trial was offered at the time to celebrate. However, this was discontinued after the first month, and has not been reinstated. 

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Willow: Cast

  • Warwick Davis (Harry Potter, Star Wars) as Willow Ufgood
  • Christian Slater (Interview With the Vampire, Mr. Robot) as Allagash
  • Ruby Cruz (Mare of Easttown, Castle Rock) as Kit
  • Erin Kellyman (Raised by Wolves, Top Boy) as Jade
  • Ellie Bamber (The Trial of Christine Keeler, The Serpent) as Dove
  • Tony Revolori (The grand Budapest Hotel, Spiderman) as Graydon
  • Amar Chadha-Patel (The Third Day, Aladdin) as Boorman
  • Dempsey Bryk (The Fight Machine, The Silence) as Airk
  • Joanne Whalley (Daredevil, Tin Star) as Sorsha
  • Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (Mia and Me, Game of Thrones) 
  • Talisa Garcia (Silent Witness, Doctors) as Graydon’s mother
  • Kevin Pollack (Grumpy Old Men, Better Things) as Rool
  • Rick Overton (Groundhog Day, Mrs. Doubtfire) as Franjean
  • Ralph Ineson (Game of Thrones, Chernobyl) as Commander Ballantine
  • Annabelle Davis (The Dumping Ground, Star Wars) as Mims

Warwick Davis spoke about the physical challenges of reprising his role. He said "this time around, I’m not seventeen anymore. Fifty-two, so rough terrain, mud, very unwieldy dialogue from Mr. Kasdan, all of those things were challenging". He also weighed in on the original ethos of the film, and keeping that alive for the series.

He said "You’ve got it in your mind the whole time. It can give you a lot of responsibility and bring a lot of weight to the whole thing. But nonetheless the experience was a fun one, it’s one I look back on with great affection and fondness. What makes projects special are the people, not the material, the character, it’s the people you work with. This amazing ensemble cast we have here, and Jon our writer, the various directors we had throughout the series. And also the creatives at the top of the ladder, namely Kathleen Kennedy and Ron Howard himself as well, presiding over everything."

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Lucy Wigley
TV writer - contributing

Lucy is a multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ experience writing about entertainment, parenting and family life. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and telling you why you should watch them.