How Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo Shaped the New Willow Series

If it weren't for a fateful meeting in a galaxy far, far away, Disney+'s Willow may not have happened.

Jade (Erin Kellyman) on Willow
Photo: Disney+

It’s been 34 years since George Lucas and Ron Howard came together to create the cult fantasy world of Willow. Starring Warwick Davis, the story centers on a young Nelwyn sorcerer who discovers a Daikini baby, setting him on a wild adventure to save the world. Though it didn’t set the box office on fire, it’s gained a huge following in the years since. One of its biggest fans is Jon Kasdan, who’s bringing the hero back in the new Disney+ series named after Davis’ titular hero. In the lead up to its release, Kasdan chatted to Den of Geek magazine about his decades long fandom and how his work on two Star Wars projects helped bring the series to life. 

After the massive success of Lucas’ previous movies, young Kasdan—like many Willow fans—expected a sequel. But it wasn’t until years later that he realized why it hadn’t emerged. While the film captured the imaginations of young kids everywhere it didn’t have the widespread financial success of Lucasfilm’s other more famous movies. But that never stopped Kasdan dreaming of continuing the story of the young sorcerer who had inspired him so much. 

That would become more of a reality for Kasdan in 2012 when Disney acquired Lucasfilm. Thanks to his father [Lawrence Kasdan] becoming very closely involved with the newly merged studios, Kasdan realized that he might be closer than ever to bringing Willow back to the screen. Though that might have seemed like a longshot, but while he was working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo, Kathleen Kennedy let slip to Kasdan that George Lucas also harbored an ambition to continue the story of Willow

“She should never have told me because I never let it go,” Kasdan says.

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The experience of working on The Force Awakens also shaped the way that Kasdan approached Willow, encouraging his excitement of continuing a story with a new generation. 

“I personally am just not as interested in prequels as I am in sequels,” he explains. “So the other unique quality that Willow had was an opportunity to continue a story rather than go back and tell you where that story began. The cultural moment around when Episode VII came out, the amount of excitement just to see what happened next, it’s irreplaceable. I’m a huge fan of House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings [The Rings of Power], but it’s not the same feeling to me as going to see Episode VII was. We get to see where that world might go.” 

Kasdan’s personal connection to The Force Awakens is part of what made it make such an impact. 

“It was a movie that I got to really be on set with and live with because my dad and JJ were sort of collaborating through the moment when we were starting work on Solo, so I was really close to it and had done some work with them on it. Specifically, I remember going to see that movie and the moment when the lightsaber flies into Rey’s hand, the explosion in the room, it’s everything you love about movies, entertainment, and storytelling.”

That wasn’t the only Star Wars project that shaped the series, though, as it was while working on Solo that Kasdan connected with Ron Howard and Warwick Davis, who both shared his passion for bringing Willow back to the screen. So he quickly brought them in on his scheme. 

“[Kennedy] was suddenly confronted by three people conspiring for more Willow. The timing of it was perfect for the launch of Disney+. That was the only place this could have happened. The stars really aligned in an in-world kind of way that allowed this magic to be cast.” 

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The first two episodes of Willow are available to stream on Disney+ now.