Wales is a land steeped in myth and legend, a lair for dragons and a stomping ground for legendary knights. But, for children of the 80s, the country is likely to be associated with one mystical being in particular. Wales’ landscapes starred as the backdrop to George Lucas’ 1988 blockbuster, Willow, a fantastical story about an aspiring sorcerer, played by Warwick Davis, on a quest to vanquish an evil queen.
Now, nearly 35 years after the original film’s release, Wales is set to reprise its role as the setting for Willow’s magical adventures as part of a much-anticipated Disney+ series, which serves as a sequel to the original movie.
The new show, which launches on Disney+, sees an older Willow, again played by Davis, leading a new generation of adventurers on a journey to save their world, crossing wild and mystical landscapes as they go.
It was this desire for a diverse array of beautiful, dramatic settings that served as one of the key factors for the team behind the show opting to return to Wales.
"Initially, that is what caught our eyes," says John Hampian, Vice President of Physical Production at Lucasfilm, "The fact that you could be in a forest and just five miles away is an amazing quarry, a brilliant water feature just down the road, and caves that you cannot find anywhere else. That caught our attention and convinced us to bring ‘Willow’ to Wales."
Some of the scene-stealing Welsh locations utilised in the production include the cloud-scuffing mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia), the long, arching Pendine Sands beach, in Carmarthen, and the jagged, former limestone quarries of Morlais Park, located on the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
"We wanted each of the landscapes to feel like a totally different kingdom, as if the characters were in a different part of the world," says the show’s Executive Producer, Roopesh Parekh. "That is one of the great things about Wales; they have an abundance of gorgeous locations available."
Alongside the natural beauty of Wales, the facilities on offer in the country – including the state-of-the-art soundstage at Dragon Studios in Bridgend – and its skilled, passionate workforce, also played a significant role in bringing the big-budget project to the country.
"Wales has this unique combination of beautiful, natural, timeless landscapes, and industrial sets and stage facilities as well," says Lynwen Brennan, Lucasfilm’s Executive Vice President, and General Manager, who is also Welsh. "There’s great talent in Wales; the quality of the craftsmanship of the crew was just incredible."
The production, which received funding from Creative Wales, is the latest of a number of popular shows to make use of the landscapes and film studios of Wales, following in the footsteps of television series like the BBC’s His Dark Materials and Netflix’s Sex Education, as well as major films like the Tom Hardy-led thriller, HAVOC, and family comedy, Save The Cinema.
Just like Willow’s first outing back in 1988, it’s hoped a whole new generation of viewers will be enthralled by the adventures of the endearing sorcerer, while also being marvelled by the epic landscapes of Wales.
Find out more about the locations used in the series in the Visit Wales location guide.