Disney is Taking Away Willow (and Other Shows)
The other day, the news came out that Disney is planning to remove several shows and movies from Disney Plus and Hulu on May 26th. There are quite a few good stories on the list, from The World According to Jeff Goldblum to Stargirl. But the one that makes me angry is Willow.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with Willow. The original movie was not one that I grew up with, and though I loved it when I finally watched it a few years ago, it didn’t have the lasting impression that it had on many who discovered it earlier in life. But I was still interested in watching the series, if nothing more than for the fact that Warwick Davis was returning to the role — despite the movie itself not being an integral part of my childhood, Warwick Davis has been a major part of the stories that formed my undying love of science fiction and fantasy, so naturally I was eager to see him in this show.
I liked the first episode. And I liked the second episode a little more. By episode four, I was in love with this show. And by episode eight, Willow had cemented itself as one of my absolute favorite shows of the year. Seriously, I mentioned it in my top tv shows from 2022 list (I even had to go back and add it in, since it began airing in December after I’d published the list), and since the season ran into 2023, I was planning on including it again in my 2023 list. In last year’s article, I wrote that “I love the characters, I absolutely love the humor, and it gets exceptionally dark for a Disney+ show…I feel like the humor is more modern, for example, and it leans into other modern troupes like using contemporary music from time to time (and I’m totally here for Kit and Jade), but whether it feels like the original or not, it is a damn good show and I’m absolutely loving it so far.”
Willow seriously was the sleeper hit for me in 2022 and remained one of my absolute favorite shows into 2023 as well. Honestly, we’ve had a lot of exceptional television in the last few years (Rings of Power, Andor, Picard, Arcane, just to name a small few) but Willow hit me in a special way. I’m bummed that the show seems to be on an indefinite hold for season 2, but until we get more, I will cherish the eight episodes that are available — it’s still more than most Willow fans ever thought they would get.
…At least, that’s what I was going to write in my 2023 top tv shows review that I would publish later this year. It’s all true; I was gutted to learn that Disney was not actively pursuing a second season, but I had faith when the showrunner said that even though it wasn’t being produced this year, season 2 was planned and would hopefully one day return. But that faith was shattered into a million pieces when Disney’s list of removals hit the internet, with Willow at the very top. It felt like the series had been canceled all over again. No, it felt worse; now season one is being taken away from me as if it never existed at all. And that hurts.
And look, I know that Willow was not the most well-received show on Disney Plus. I know that it had mixed reviews and that it didn’t appear to be a success — at least, not a success on the level that Disney would have preferred. But I didn’t care. I loved the show, and that was enough. I had come to terms with the fact that it was probably not coming back, because at least nothing could take away the episodes that I already had. Except that wasn’t true; Disney could take them away on a whim.
And yet, I’m still somewhat hopeful. Or at least, I’m expectant; Disney can’t be taking all of these shows and movies off of their platform just to let them collect dust, right? I mean, that would be completely monstrous. No, I expect that Disney will offer these shows and movies up to other streamers to pick up and air on their platforms in an effort to make some money off of them. Or, hopefully, we’ll see some (or all) of these released for purchase either digitally or on Blu-ray and DVD (seriously, if Disney is reading this… doubtful… I would go out to the store today to buy Willow season one on Blu-ray if it were available). But as of this moment, Disney has not shared any inkling on what — if any — plans they have for these removed properties. And this unknowing… well, it sucks. It sucks not to know when or if you’ll ever see one of your favorite stories again.
And frankly, it’s kind of a shitty way to treat the fans, and more importantly, the cast and crew that put everything into making these shows and movies. Some of these haven’t even had enough time on the platforms to gain traction; Willow, for example, just finished airing its episodes less than six months ago. And that’s not even mentioning the poor appearance it gives Disney for disappearing a show that had great LGBTQ+ representation right before Pride month.
These eight episodes mean more to me than I can fully comprehend; not only is it one of my very favorite shows, but it inspired my own creativity, pushing me to finally finish writing the book I’ve spent over a decade perfecting and to begin working on getting it published. Kit and Jade’s story gave me the courage to stick with story decisions in my book that I had been uncertain of, showing me the kind of love story that I hope my own characters get to experience one day. And Boorman introduced me to the brilliantly hilarious Amar Chadha-Patel, who would be the perfect choice to play one of my characters if I’m ever lucky enough to have my work adapted. Even the music of Willow has infiltrated my daily life; so many of the songs from the soundtrack have been on my daily playlist ever since the show aired, and tracks like BEGINNER & Night Panda’s “Guess Who’s Back” and Kin Palo’s “For the Glory” have been constantly repeated (and Xander Rodzinski’s track “Not How This Ends” feels particularly poignant right now…). This show just hit me in the right way at the right time and has become very special to me.
And ever since I heard that it was being taken away, I’ve felt a particular sadness that I never expected to feel over the loss of a streaming show. Each one of these shows and movies is important to someone. They’re important to a lot of people. I’ve already seen plenty of Willow fans speaking up online, sharing their outrage at this move from Disney. And hopefully, the fans will be heard; even if we can’t get a second season, maybe they’ll at least keep these eight episodes available for us to continue to enjoy or give us a way to buy them.
I encourage anyone who has had an interest in this show (or any on this list) to speak up and stream it again this week, to show Disney that we love this story and we want it to stay. They’ve already walked back the removal of Howard, a documentary about the man who wrote the music for The Little Mermaid (which was mind-blowing that they were planning to remove it just days before the live-action remake hits theaters). With that, Disney has said that their removal list is still being finalized, so maybe there’s a chance that Willow or some of these other shows and movies can be saved, too. At the very least, if they do disappear from Disney and Hulu next week, hopefully they won’t be gone forever. Willow fans in particular have had to wait for decades for the continuation of this story, and dammit, we’ll wait decades again if we have to in order to see this show one more time.
But I still don’t want it to go.
On the other hand, I saw that Artemis Fowl was also on the removal list, and, well, at least I won’t miss that travesty of a film in the slightest.