TV Review / Recap: “Willow: Behind the Magic” Combines Documentary with Mockumentary on Disney+
Back in 2011, actor Warwick Davis combined his considerable talents with comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to create the BBC / HBO mockumentary series Life’s Too Short, in which the diminutive artist played a heightened version of himself, not unlike Seinfeld -co-creator Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
And now, with Warwick Davis back in the spotlight thanks to the Willow revival series on Disney+, the actor has given us a pseudo-sequel to Life’s Too Short in the behind-the-scenes documentary Willow: Behind the Magic, which was released recently is. Wednesday.
But while the trailer for Willow: Behind the Magic led me to believe that the special would be all about humor, it actually ends up being about 25% mockumentary and 75% actual information about how the Willow series was put together by a talented cast. and team working for Lucasfilm. The doc opens with Ron Howard (director of the original Willow film and executive producer of the TV show) talking about how there had been discussions of a Willow sequel for decades, although for various reasons these talks never came to fruition until Disney + became available as a platform several years ago. At that point, Jonathan Kasdan (son of legendary screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and co-writer with him on Solo: A Star Wars Story) stepped up and gave his own take on how the Willow story should continue. Then we meet the new cast of Willow, and learn how Warwick Davis became jealous of rising star Ellie Bamber, who stepped into the role of Elora Danan – this is where the mockumentary role creeps in. But aside from the laughs, of which there are quite a few, my favorite parts of Willow: Behind the Magic saw Lucasfilm and its in-house visual effects department Industrial Light & Magic create some of the most incredible looking VFX for the show has. Like The Mandalorian before it, Willow used a wonderful combination of techniques old and new to bring the world of the series to life on the small screen, and those efforts shine through here.
From there we learn about the stunts and fight choreography, the set decoration and production design, and the use of real locations in and around Wales, where the 1988 Willow film was also shot. Returning to the comedy segments of the special, which are sprinkled throughout and benefit almost exclusively from Warwick Davis’ willingness to poke fun at himself, the funniest part of Willow: Behind the Magic is an extended series of failed Willow- follow-up pitches Davis made. to Ron Howard over the years, including Willow: Lost in New York and Willow: Spring Break: Miami Beach. There’s also a bit detailing Davis’ feud with fellow actor (and Willow guest star) Christian Slater since the latter allegedly stole the former’s idea for a movie in the 1980s. But these clearly tongue-in-cheek sections serve as mere punctuation for the real draw of this behind-the-scenes documentary: seeing a cast and crew work together on set to create a fantasy series they’re all obviously proud of of. Whether or not we get more Willow on Disney+ in the future, it’s great that the team that made it found a temporary family among themselves during production, and it’s so much fun to see those relationships play out in footage that – if it weren’t for this half -hour special– wouldn’t otherwise be available elsewhere. And that sounds like a much more rewarding project than Willow: Willow’s Colon.
Willow: Behind the Magic and the full first season of Willow are available to stream exclusively via Disney+.