Why It Took Ron Howard So Long To Get On Board The Willow TV Series

The team behind the Disney+ series "Willow" knows a thing or two about arduous journeys. I'm not talking about Willow's (Warwick Davis) epic adventure across the realm in the 1988 movie, but about everything that came afterward: the decades-long journey to the small screen. /Film's Jeff Ewing attended an advanced screening and Q&A with executive producers Jonathan Kasdan and Michelle Rejwan, and Kasdan opened up about the roundabout path the story took to its final destination.

"The two people who have really wanted this all along are George [Lucas] and Ron [Howard]," Kasdan shares. Howard directed the Val Kilmer-led fantasy film, while Lucas executive produced and came up with the original story of the young hero Willow. Although Howard was apparently into the idea of more "Willow," he wasn't sold at first on the idea of a TV series. "To hear Ron tell it, George had always sort of imagined the TV space living as a place where Willow could continue," Kasdan says, "and I think for a good two decades Ron sort of rolled his eyes at that notion because it just wasn't a space where you told these kind of stories."

A TV continuation wasn't always in the cards

To be fair, plenty of small-screen spinoffs came and went in the '80s and '90s, and for years, television budgets were not built to match the cinematic vision of epic fantasy films. Kasdan also points out that the movie was initially meant to kick-start a film franchise that didn't happen. Instead, we got a trilogy of "Willow" sequel novels published in the decade after the film, beginning with 1995's "Shadow Moon." Any good journey has some unexpected detours, and this was one of them, as Kasdan says that according to author and Lucasfilm exec Pablo Hidalgo – who is on board the new series as its official "Lore Advisor" – the books weren't even originally planned as "Willow" sequels.

"As Pablo has always explained it to me, there was this thing that happened in the '90s where I guess Chris Claremont had written a series of novels, he just wanted to write some fantasy novels and they were looking for a publishing entity," Kasdan shares. Claremont was paired up with Bantam Spectra, the publishing house that's also responsible for many Star Wars books, and according to Kasdan: 

"There was a conversation in which it was sort of agreed that some minimal alterations could be made to those novels to make them sequels to the movie."

'He was absolutely right, he stuck to it'

Kasdan says that, although the books may not have been a smash hit, they "fueled the fire" around the idea of more "Willow" stories. Kasdan himself finally approached both Howard and Davis, and says "they were both very intrigued because they both wanted that." Yet it seems prolific producer, writer, and director Howard wasn't ready for a "Willow" resurgence until the opportune moment – which turned out to be while working on another project entirely. Kasdan continues:

"It wasn't until the moment that Disney+ was announced and 'Mandalorian' was in process at that very moment, that Ron and I were in London working on 'Solo' and he came in that morning very excited and said, 'This is how we could potentially convince Disney to let us do more 'Willow.” And he was absolutely right, he stuck to it."

In the end, it took a trilogy of novels, a whole host of other projects, and 34 years to get a "Willow" TV series off the ground, but Howard, Kasdan, Davis, and the rest of the team finally made it happen. We'll find out whether or not it was worth the wait when "Willow" debuts on Disney+ on November 30, 2022.