After the announcement that Disney+ would cancel Willow, the popular fantasy realm series based on the 1988 Lucasfilm production directed by Ron Howard, many fans who appreciated its LGBT representation have raised an outcry.
Deadline broke the news yesterday, with speculation that the Walt Disney Company decided not to pursue a second season of the live-action show due to professed goals by Disney CEO Bob Iger to reduce its repertoire in order to heighten the quality of upcoming releases. Of course, Howard himself worked closely on the adaptation, set decades after the events of the original film, alongside a team of showrunners like Wendy Mericle and Jonathan Kasdan, writer Bob Dolman, and executive producers Kathleen Kennedy and Michelle Rejwan.
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Moreover, this new mythological setting introduced beings such as brownies, trolls, and sorcerers, causing one fan to note it was “possibly the most ‘Disney’ story to come out of a Disney+ show since they started streaming.” Lead Warwick Davis returned as Willow Ufgood, assembling an unlikely cast of heroes for a dangerous quest played by Disney+ alum Erin Kellyman, Amer Chadha-Patel, Tony Revolori, Ellie Bamber, and Ruby Cruz.
willow being added to the cancelled sapphic media list while having tanthamore as two main butch lesbian characters and their relationship is not seen as "bizarre," but instead, they're supported, celebrated and written well in a fantasy story. yeah, we have the right to be mad pic.twitter.com/I0hEsYvFJu
— van (@mcutanthamore) March 15, 2023
Plus, it’s possible the political views of the new Walt Disney World district head, Governor Ron DeSantis also impacted this decision with his crackdown on LGBTQ+ content from Disney. In fact, Cruz and Kellyman gained notoriety with LGBTQ+ viewers for their queer romance arc between Princess Kit Tanthalos and her knight Jade Claymore, something which has deeply impacted fans of the show now that its storyline will not continue.
TAKING AWAY OUR GAY DISNEY PRINCESS & HER KNIGHT IS A HATE CRIME #WILLOW 😭❤️ pic.twitter.com/pJUXppQ2Vl
— Gabby (@gabkirschh) March 15, 2023
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Despite niche viewership and, therefore, revenue, Willow garnered an 83% from Rotten Tomatoes critics, and many loved it for including one of the first substantial representations of a sapphic couple, not just for Disney, in the fantasy genre at large. As one fan wrote: “Yes, I’m going to be very dramatic about the Willow cancellation ’cause I was so happy to finally have a fun fantasy show with sword lesbians and now it’s gone.”
Devastated that #Willow was canceled.
I’m convinced that if they had announced a renewal, new audiences would’ve watched the first series.
Audiences don’t commit to new shows for this very reason. Who wants to fall in love with a show that’s going to be abandoned? pic.twitter.com/gZM2lB24PO
— Doctor Longscarf (@DoctorLongscarf) March 15, 2023
Furthermore, others added that the show meant more to them for its inclusion of people of color and/or the representation of butch lesbians and a princess who presented outside of typical standards of femininity. Pink News attributes this to the fact as streaming platforms change the way we consume media, many fans don’t choose to watch a series until they know it won’t be canceled after one season, and that fans raise the issue that networks hold shows with LGBTQ+ rep to a higher standard than heteronormative media to warrant a renewal.
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Resultingly, this ends up creating a “self-fulfilling prophecy” where scared fans don’t watch a show only for the show to then flop due to poor audience numbers in the critical first few weeks. Though Willow has currently taken a backseat to other Disney+ projects, fan support for the entire cast of characters may warrant a fresh perspective in the future should another opening arise for the three-volume franchise to continue onscreen.