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Willow Fans, Writers Stunned by Disney+ Removing Series: “Absolutely Cruel”

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On May 26th, Willow will be no more: Disney+ will remove the series from the service alongside dozens of other streaming titles. Along with the adventure fantasy series that was canceled after one season in March, titles slated to be removed from Disney+ next week include the recently canceled Mysterious Benedict Society and The Mighty Ducks: Game ChangersBig Shot, Turner & HoochJust BeyondDiary of a Future President, and The World According to Jeff Goldblum. Disney-owned Hulu will also pull content, removing Y: The Last ManDollfaceThe Hot ZoneMaggiePistol, and Little Demon. All titles will cease to be available on Disney+ and Hulu starting May 26th.

“They gave us six months. Not even,” Willow staff writer John Bickerstaff, who co-wrote episode 3 of the Disney+ series, tweeted Thursday. “This business has become absolutely cruel.”

“Well, you work on something for years, pour your heart and soul into it, as do hundreds of other artists. You make it during a global pandemic, far from home. Then it is canceled before it even has a chance to finish airing,” Hulu’s Y: The Last Man showrunner Eliza Clark tweeted. “Then, it is disappeared…”

The eight-episode first season of Willow, which premiered in November, served as a sequel to the 1988 Ron Howard-directed fantasy film and saw Warwick Davis reprise his role as the Nelwyn sorcerer Willow Ufgood. Developed by Jonathan Kasdan (Solo: A Star Wars Story), the series featured a diverse international cast that included Ruby Cruz, Erin Kellyman, Ellie Bamber, Tony Revolori, Amar Chadha-Patel, Dempsey Bryk, and Joanne Whalley.

Fans had similarly stunned reactions to the removal news. “Disney+ purging Willow is such a pathetic move. Purging any content — already bought and paid for — is a pathetic move,” Collider‘s Maggie Lovitt tweeted. “They better shop it to another streamer and not just bury it.” Another Twitter user criticized a “multi-billion dollar company removing a show that hasn’t even been out for half a year due to ‘cost-cutting reasons’,” while others praised the show for its “hopeful, love-led storytelling with diversity and queerness forefront.” 

Disney+ described Willow as “an epic period fantasy series with a modern sensibility set in an enchanted land of breathtaking beauty,” but fans won’t be able to return to the magical realm — not officially — if Willow doesn’t wind up on another streamer. 

“We are in the process of reviewing the content on our DTC [direct-to-consumer] services to align with the strategic changes in our approach to content curation,” Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said during the company’s earnings call last week. The Disney+ and Hulu scale-backs come after Warner Bros. Discovery pulled content from HBO Max to license to third-party FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels like Xumo (NBCUniversal), Pluto TV (Paramount Global), Tubi (Fox Corp.) and The Roku Channel.

All episodes of Willow are available to stream on Disney+ until May 26th.

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