How George Lucas and The Mandalorian Made Disney+'s Willow TV Series Possible

During the making of 1983's Return of the Jedi, visionary Star Wars creator George Lucas asked 12-year-old Ewok actor Warwick Davis to play an aspiring sorcerer in his next fantasy film. Five years would pass before Lucasfilm's Willow — produced by story writer Lucas and directed by Ron Howard — made it to the screen in 1988 with Davis in the leading role of the Nelwyn Willow Ufgood. 30 years later, the idea for a Willow television sequel came together during production of another project set within the galaxy far, far away: The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars series that helped launch the Disney+ streaming service in 2019.

"The two people who have really wanted this all along are George and Ron," Willow showrunner and executive producer Jon Kasdan told Rotten Tomatoes. "To hear Ron tell it, George had always sort of imagined the TV space as a place where Willow could continue … [but] the expectation coming off of the movie was that it was going to launch a new cinema franchise."

While the world of Willow would live on in the Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy of novels, the film was not as big a blockbuster as Lucas' Star Wars or Indiana Jones, and a hoped-for film franchise never materialized. Plans to continue Willow on television date back to the early 2000s, but it wasn't until Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 — and prepared to launch its own streaming service with a live-action Star Wars show in 2019 — that the Willow sequel series could become a reality. 

After working together on the 2018 spin-off film Solo: A Star Wars Story for Disney and Lucasfilm, Kasdan recalled, "It wasn't until the moment that Disney+ was announced and The Mandalorian was in process, [Ron] 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."

Kasdan and Howard serve as executive producers on the series alongside Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, producer of such Disney+ series as The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Andor. While Lucas does not reprise his role from the 1988 film as a creative or executive producer, the Willow creator gave Kasdan his blessing on the series during a Solo set visit. 

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Lucas "has decided on a philosophical level that he couldn't have one foot in the door and one foot out of the door," Kasdan said, explaining it was up to the writer's room and producers to carry on the Willow world-building in the eight-episode series. See our viewer's guide for everything you need to know about the Willow series, streaming with a two-episode premiere November 30th on Disney+.