Produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, Willow has managed to connect pretty well with audiences over the years, but received mixed reviews from critics when it hit theaters back in 1988. Although the film earned a rather modest $57 million at the American box office, it has a cult following in the intervening years.

Short-statured actor Warwick Davis—who got his acting start as Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi—stars as Willow, a member of the Nelwyns, a race of little people who live in a small hamlet far from the strife of the belligerent average-sized humans, or Daikini. Willow is an earnest guy, a farmer and would be sorcerer’s apprentice who lives quietly and two adorable kids.

WillowOne day, Willow discovers a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, floating down the river. Unsure of what to do, Willow’s wife and children eventually convince him to keep the child, Elora Danan. Unbeknownst to them, Elora is a Daikini princess destined to overthrow the wicked Queen Bavmorda of Nockmaar (Jean Marsh), who has recently been ordering babies killed in a bid to get rid of Elora. When one of Bavmorda’s dog/boar hybrids descends on the town looking for the baby, village elder The High Aldwin (Billy Barty) orders Willow to travel with a group of other Nelwyns to the crossroads and give the child to the first regular sized human he sees. That person happens to be Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a reckless swashbuckler—hardly the sort to eagerly take on a baby.

Madmartigan reluctantly agrees to accompany Willow on his journey. The rest of the film has the unlikely threesome traveling far and wide, facing down monsters and various other obstacles in a bid to save the kingdom. In truth, there’s nothing particularly new here; nothing that hasn’t been done before. As a matter of fact, a strong argument can be made that Willow is little more than a sword and sorcery version of Star Wars. Comparisons are easy to make: the wise, evil ruler of an empire with magical powers and her black-clad henchman, a young man asked to make a journey he’s not sure he’s prepared for, a mentor who teaches him the true meaning of being a hero. It all sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

Even so, the performances by both Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer are fun and engaging. On top of that, the film’s New Zealand locations are visually stunning, and really add a fantastical look to the proceedings. And while the special effects may seem outdated by today’s standards, for those people who grew up watching Willow, it’s nice to see this little gem making the leap to high definition.

Overseen by George Lucas personally, this 1080p, 2.40:1 aspect ratio transfer is stunning. The print is flawless, with nary a scratch, hair or smudge to be seen. While their does appear to be minimal DNR use in a few scenes, grain is still apparent throughout the image. In general terms, the image looks incredibly sharp, with balanced contrast and an even, vibrant color palette.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is just as impressive. Engaging and immersive, the setup puts you right in the middle of the action. The entire soundfield is utilized in nearly every scene, but dialogue is never comprised, coming through clean and clear.
English: Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1., French: DTS 5.1, Catalan: DTS 5.1, German: DTS 5.1 and Italian: DTS 5.1 audio options are available, as are English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles.

The following special features are included:

  • Willow: Deleted Scenes with Ron Howard: (HD, 12:32) The director explains a series of deleted scenes, including an entire subplot about Sorsha’s father, and a “fish boy” that was too difficult to pull off.
  • The Making of an Adventure with Ron Howard (HD, 23:39) Howard introduces this vintage making-of documentary, featuring interviews with himself (he looks much younger), and George Lucas. We also get some nice behind-the-scenes footage and a look at the special effects.
  • From Morf to Morphing with Dennis Muren (HD, 17:24) Visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren introduces a 2001 documentary about how ILM accomplished certain shots in the film.
  • Willow: An Unlikely Hero – Personal Video Diary of Warwick Davis (HD, 10:53) Davis discusses shooting the film, and shares some of his personal video diary from the production, shot on VHS.
  • Matte Paintings (HD, 1:09) A montage of the film’s matte painting composite shots.
  • A DVD Copy of the film.