The new Willow live action original series has a premiere date of November 30th on Disney+, which is not as far away as it seems, and fans of the classic 1988 feature film are starting to get excited. That premiere date was announced at the Star Wars Celebration in May, along with a teaser trailer:
As many already know, this new series will be picking up some 20 years after the events of the movie, and introduces a number of new characters. Obviously Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis, reprising his role from the film) and the new cast will get up to some magical adventures.
Here is a “Meet the Cast” video, released in November of 2021:
You may not recognize these folks, but allow me to jog your memory of where you’ve seen some of them. Starring in the Willow cast are Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (Tyene Sand in Game of Thrones), Erin Kellyman (of The Green Knight and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), Tony Revolori (known as Flash in Spiderman: Homecoming and Zero in The Grand Budapest Hotel). Actors you may not know but are likely to become household names include actor/writer/directors Amar Chadha-Patel and Dempsey Bryk and Ruby Cruz, last seen in Mare of Easttown.
The official synopsis from the Disney+ page reads:
“An epic period fantasy series with a modern sensibility set in an enchanted land of breathtaking beauty, “Willow” features a diverse international cast with Jonathan Kasdan, Ron Howard, Wendy Mericle, Kathleen Kennedy, and Michelle Rejwan serving as executive producers. The story began with an aspiring magician from a Nelwyn village and an infant girl destined to unite the realms, who together helped destroy an evil queen and banish the forces of darkness. Now, in a magical world where brownies, sorcerers, trolls, and other mystical creatures flourish, the adventure continues, as an unlikely group of heroes set off on a dangerous quest to places far beyond their home, where they must face their inner demons and come together to save their world.”(Disney+)
Here you can see Warwick talking about Willow 2022:
Originally, John M. Chu would have helmed the pilot episode, but after both he and his replacement Jonathan Entwistle exited the project due to scheduling conflicts, director Stephen Woolfenden (Outlander) stepped in for the first two episodes. Four of the eight episodes are directed by female filmmakers, two by writer/director Philippa Lowthorpe (The Crown, Call the Midwife), and two by writer/director Debs Paterson (A Discovery of Witches, Harlots).
One of the most exciting aspects of the show to me and to the Alvin family, is the fact that they are using John Alvin’s logo treatment from the original feature film, which he hand-designed, to promote the film and as its title:
On the left is John Alvin’s Willow advance poster, and the second and third are posters used around the world at the film’s release.
He designed it pretty early on in the work for the 1988 Willow poster:
The three above images are comps for the Willow advance poster. John has already designed the typography and is using it as an integral part of the design.
The original Willow film was released in 1988, and though it wasn’t an immediate triumph at the box office, it became a huge cult classic, leading to the creation of a board game and a number of computer games.
John Alvin was brought in quite early in the 1988 production, and in those days, John, who was already storied for creating the E.T., Blade Runner, and Cocoon posters, had a lot of interaction with both Ron Howard and producer George Lucas. The Alvin key art for the Cocoon movie, which was also directed by Ron Howard, who was set to direct Willow, is a perfect example of that “Alvin-izing”, that drew fans to films with ‘the promise of a great experience’.
Here is another example of John’s typography, which he was integrating into his marketing design in a complex image including all the main characters.
Below are several images based in iconic archetype imagery, one that used that emotional and dramatic shadowing, and the other that included more of the kitchen sink style that showed the lead characters more distinctly.
Here are some good examples of comps for the “kitchen sink” poster that included all the lead characters featured in the film. Of course the title treatments are in evidence in all the images. Creative kitchen sink designs were used beautifully by Bob Peak and Richard Amsel, two other greats of film history.
Although Val Kilmer made a cameo appearance in Top Gun: Maverick, there has been no indication that he’ll do the same for the Willow series, something Warwick Davis has mentioned he hoped would happen.
Here for fans of the Val Kilmer-starring original, and for those who have no idea why Willow is such an enduring cult classic, is the official trailer for the 1988 Ron Howard film:
We celebrate John Alvin every day. When you watch the new series, think of his contribution to the beloved classic, and to the whole of film history.
*The estate of John Alvin is currently not accepting offers for purchase of single images from his Willow art collection. For more information about the work and art of John Alvin, contact Artinsights.