(l-r) erin kellyman as jade, ruby cruz as kit, warwick davis as willow ufgood, ellie bamber as elora, amar chadha-patel as boorman, and dempsey bryk as airk in willow (2022 disney+ series)

Lucasfilm Ltd.

‘Willow’ is the epitome of the latest streaming purge

The final image of 'Willow' is a fitting—and frustrating—encapsulation of streaming’s recent pitfalls.


Michelle Jaworski


Posted on May 25, 2023   Updated on May 26, 2023, 7:31 am CDT

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The final image of Willow, Disney+’s short-lived TV legacyquel to Ron Howard’s cult fantasy film, is a fitting—and frustrating—encapsulation of streaming’s recent pitfalls.

After an enjoyable and mostly self-contained story (apart from a post-season stinger) and a stylized and illustrated credits sequence, the camera zooms out to the final page of a worn and dusty brown book, which features Elora Danan’s distinct birthmark stamped on its cover. Someone’s hand places the book on a shelf: The brown book is Volume I, located right next to Volumes II (in blue) and III (in red). It’s a suggestion that Willow just closed the book on the first third of what looked to be a planned three-season arc.

Unfortunately, thanks to Disney+—which aired Willow’s entire first season, canceled it (although creator Jon Kasdan characterized it differently), and will disappear from its platform entirely in the span of six months—we won’t find out what that story is. Of the dozens of shows that will be removed from Disney+ and Hulu, Willow might be the one fans are most vocal about. The streaming gods giveth and the streaming gods taketh away, especially if it means the potential to stop paying residuals.

Willow isn’t without its fair share of problems (pacing issues, the flat murkiness that comes with using the Volume), but it embodied much of what is possible from Hollywood’s IP-obsessed era. Using a beloved property as a backdrop and with several members of the original cast in tow, it quickly put the onus on the found family at its core. It had an inclusive cast at the center, and in a rarity in major Disney properties (and Lucasfilm properties), it had a queer couple at the center of it. (The show literally had “Lesbians With Swords!”) And it wasn’t just a complete, Force Awakens-esque retread of the film.

After reviewing the first two episodes, Willow fell off my radar amid an ever-growing pile of shows to watch. But with its removal imminent, I binged the rest of the series and really enjoyed myself. If you have the time to barrel through, I’d recommend it.

But Kasdan’s framing of Willow’s Disney+ removal and that comparison to the Disney Vault only seemed to enrage people even more

“The Disney vault opened periodically so you could buy and own a copy of a film,” Rob Hunter tweeted, pointing out a flaw in Kasdan’s comparison. “Removing streaming-only titles means they are gone… period. Disney is now straight up encouraging bootlegs/piracy.”

Why it matters

“I guarantee that the Willow TV show, like the movie, would have become a cult classic if they left it on Disney+,” writer Noah Evslin theorized

But with its removal imminent, we may never know.

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*First Published: May 25, 2023, 6:00 am CDT