Last May word leaked out that Disney+ was contemplating a return to the world of Willow, the Ron Howard-directed, George Lucas-produced fantasy film from 1988 that starred diminutive Star Wars: Return of the Jedi actor Warwick Davis. Howard would reteam with not only Davis but also Jonathan Kasdan, who co-wrote Howard’s return to Lucasfilm Solo: A Star Wars Story. Now it’s official: the Willow series is a go at Disney+. And what’s more, they’ve secured Jon M. Chu, director of Crazy Rich Asians and the upcoming adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, to direct the pilot and executive produce the series. This series is going to be huge.
If you’ve never seen the original Willow, it’s on Disney+ right now and is a lot of fun. After its release, Howard said he was the wrong person for the job because he kept trying to direct like he thought Lucas would, instead of investing his own personality into the project. But the story, about the ascension of a very unlikely hero, is full of energetic action sequences, a rousing James Horner score, so truly revolutionary Industrial Light & Magic visual effects and a deeply chaotic Val Kilmer performance.
Plot details for the new show are being kept under wraps but we do know that the pilot written by Kasdan, who also executive produces and show-runs alongside Wendy Mericle. And of course Davis returns for the title role.
Howard returns as an executive producer, alongside original screenwriter Bob Dolman, who serves as a consulting producer.
“It’s creatively exciting to not only revisit the world and characters first conceived by George Lucas, Bob Dolman and myself but to see it take flight in such fresh, fun and cinematic ways through the imagination of Jon Kasdan and Team Willow,” Howard said in an official statement. “This isn’t a nostalgic throw-back, it’s a creative lean-forward and it’s a blast to be a part of it all.”
Even if you aren’t the biggest Willow fan, you’ve got to appreciate that this is the first non-Star Wars project Lucasfilm has worked on since 2015. (The last non-Star Wars project Lucasfilm tackled was the truly bizarre feature-length animated jukebox musical/Shakespeare adaptation Strange Magic.) While we still haven’t gotten any word on the Children of Blood and Bone adaptation Lucasfilm was tackling, president Kathleen Kennedy suggests there’s more non-Star Wars-related storytelling on the way.
“This is an exciting new era for storytelling at Lucasfilm,” Kennedy said in a statement. “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+.”
Count us in.