Is Disney+ series Willow a sequel or a reboot?

By Nicole Ackman
Published: November 30, 2022 (Last updated: December 30, 2022)
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Is Disney+ series Willow a sequel or a reboot?

This article discusses whether the new Willow series is a reboot or a sequel. 

Willow is not only the latest series on Disney+, but also the latest fantasy series in a market that is full of them. Some people may remember the 1988 movie of the same name directed by Ron Howard from a story by George Lucas, who also served as the executive producer. The film featured Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Jean Marsh, and Billy Barty.

The movie Willow is set in a world in which pregnant women are imprisoned by an evil queen who is afraid of a prophecy that states a girl will be born who will bring her down. When the child is born and identified by a birthmark, she is entrusted to a farmer and aspiring sorcerer Willow who must keep her safe from the wicked Queen Bavmorda.

The film received mixed reviews but made a good profit at the box office and became a cult classic. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and was praised for its development of new film technology around digital morphing.

So it’s not surprising that Disney is eager to bring the franchise back to life. In fact, it’s more shocking that it hasn’t happened before now, especially as many of the fans of the original film are older and a new generation has yet to be introduced to it.

What is Willow about?

According to Disney, Willow is about:

“The Nelwyn sorcerer returns, years after rescuing the infant empress Elora Danan, to lead group of misfit heroes on a harrowing rescue mission through a world beyond imagination.”

The series has been developed by Jonathan Kasdan who also wrote the first episode.

Warwick Davis returns to the titular role of Willow and Joanne Whalley returns to the role of Queen Sorsha, mother of twins Kit and Airk. The cast includes:

The eclectic group joins together to attempt to rescue Prince Airk who has been kidnapped. Princess Kit is more than happy to escape her pending wedding to Prince Graydon to rescue her brother and buy her more time with her best friend Jade before she leaves for training. The story unfolds over eight episodes, which are having a staggered release on Disney+. The first two episodes were released together on November 30 and the following episodes will have a weekly release schedule.

The unfolding relationship between Kit and Jade is notable for being real and overt representation for queer romance — something that is still rare within Disney’s properties and within fantasy TV series at large. This isn’t another example of Disney’s “blink and you’ll miss it” gay representation, but a true love story that the series isn’t afraid to embrace.

In his review for Ready Steady Cut, Jonathon Wilson said, “Willow seems to have set out on an accessible new adventure with an old-school sense of discovery and fun.” However, he also states, “As things stand in 2022, though, Willow feels like a pale imitation of the better, bigger shows that its original incarnation almost certainly inspired.” The series has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, holding an 87% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

Is Willow a reboot or a sequel?

Disney’s press site calls the series, “An all-new sequel series to George Lucas’s 1988 fantasy adventure Willow.” It is set years after the original series, hence Davis reprising his role as the titular character. The character of Elora, the baby that much of the action of the film centered around, does not return in the new series, but rather it pivots to follow a different set of characters. This allows Lucas Film and Disney+ to flesh out the world that it’s set in, rather than simply following the same storyline and introduce a younger cast of characters.

This sequel series stands separate from the novels that George Lucas and Chris Claremont released after the original film. The Chronicles of the Shadow War series is also focused on the character of Elora. This series represents entirely new material within the Willow world, though tied to the original film through the character of Willow. To compare it to other George Lucas properties, it has more in common with something like Rogue One than the Star Wars sequel trilogy as it doesn’t bring back all of the main characters of the first film.

In an interview with Polygon, producer Jonathan Kasdan talked about the new series. He said, “Because it’s a part of the landscape of the world around us, just like the diversity elements of casting. If you look at the original Willow, by no fault of anyone, it’s not very diverse. And as we enter 2022, the world has changed, in the way we’re absorbing entertainment, and the faces we’re reflecting in entertainment have expanded enormously, and we hope the show can be growing as the world grows. Just as, frankly, the movie was.”

With the series coming out now, the cast is much more diverse — as are the stories they’re telling, which include a queer romance. It allows for a chance to deepen and expand the original world of Willow and provide representation so that many more people can see themselves reflected in it. This follows a trend we’ve seen in other fantasy series, like The Rings of Power, the Lord of the Rings series released earlier this year on Prime Video.

The Willow series serves as a sequel to the original film but can stand alone without having seen the movie. This is ideal in that it allows fans of the 1988 movie to return to the fantasy world while also inviting in new viewers who might discover the series on Disney+ with no knowledge of the film that came before it.

Are you watching the Willow series? Were you a fan of the original film Willow? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Disney+.

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