Willow Series Was Made To Intentionally Terrify Children

Disney+'s new Willow revival series was made to fascinate and terrify children, evoking the tone of classic 1980s fantasy movies.

By Sean Thiessen | Published

warwick davis willow

Audiences returned to the world of Willow this year with the release of a new Disney+ series from creator Jonathan Kasdan. Set decades after the events of Ron Howard’s 1988 film, the sequel series follows original Willow star Warwick Davis as a much older version of his character as he leads a new generation in a fight to save the world from overwhelming forces of darkness. In a recent interview with Collider, Kasdan discussed the show, revealing that he and his team set out to capture the terror contained in the original Willow and give the new series the same frightening overtones that were present in many kids’ movies of the 1980s.

At the table read for the show, before production had even begun, Kasdan laid out his goals for the cast and crew: “I sort of hope for only two things: that we can make people laugh — that we can make children laugh — and that we can scare the living *hit out of them,” Kasdan said. “And if we can achieve those two things, we will have succeeded.”

Willow is a fantasy adventure, but the evil forces in the show and the original film are reminiscent of cosmic horror. For Kasdan, this connection is very intentional. He stated that he grew up loving books like Stephen King’s It, and as he investigated the lineage of such stories, he said it inevitably led back to H.P. Lovecraft.

Lovecraft is the king of cosmic horror, and Kasdan said the author’s work profoundly influenced his Willow series. The monsters from the minds of Stephen King and Lovecraft create an existential terror because of their scale, and Kasdan leveraged those dynamics to raise the stakes for the new Willow adventure. He explained that authors at the time of Lovecraft were all building on each other’s work, and that’s what filmmakers must do today in order to raise the bar and build bigger worlds.

Executive Producer Jonathan Kasdan on his goal for the series: “I sort of hope for only two things: that we can make people laugh — that we can make children laugh — and that we can scare the living *hit out of them, and if we can achieve those two things, we will have succeeded.”

Kasdan went on to talk about the creations of Phil Tippett, who did creature design for Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and the original Willow. Tippett’s designs for Willow were, to Kasdan, truly unsettling, and that was something he wanted to replicate in the show. He went so far as to cite John Carpenter creatures from films like The Thing (1982) for their “tactile and gooey” qualities.

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The cast of Willow on Disney+

Another influence embedded in the new series is Wolfgang Petersen’s 1984 film The NeverEnding Story. Kasdan associates that film with Willow, and described both as invoking a massive scale that was itself a little frightening to witness as a child. He said both films shaped his fears as a kid, and he has carried that influence forward into the Willow series.

The sequel show was conceived on the set of another adventure, Solo: A Star Wars Story, which Jonathan Kasdan co-wrote with his father, Lawrence Kasdan. That film was helmed by the original Willow director Ron Howard and co-starred Willow himself, Warwick Davis. The younger Kasdan’s love of Willow inevitably came up, and eventually led to the creation of the series, of which Ron Howard is an executive producer.

Willow is five episodes into its eight episode run on Disney+. So far, fan responses have been mixed, but the series has a good chunk of story left to tell before its conclusion. Time will tell whether it’s the show’s creatures or its fan response that keeps Kasdan awake at night. Regardless, there is no question that Willow has been made with love.