Disney+ to remove the Willow series alongside other content, highlighting the pathetic absurdity of the streaming era

The Walt Disney Company will soon be removing some content from the Disney+ streaming platform, and included among them is the Willow series that premiered last fall.

CEO Bob Iger had indicated recently that they would be pulling some content in cost-saving measures, and the first batch of those cuts were confirmed on Thursday. Included among them were Willow (and The Making of Willow behind-the-scenes special) and plenty more, most of which are original shows, films, or specials created for Disney+ in recent years. CFO Christine McCarthy shared that Disney expects to take a write-down of $1.5-1.8 billion in the June quarter through removing this content, which is about saving money for the future. It’s all part of a bigger picture for the company as they, like everyone else in the industry, tries to navigate the uncertain and turbulent waters of the streaming era.

Willow was a sequel to the 1988 film of the same name, which was created by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard. This new series was brought to life by showrunner and writer Jon Kasdan, and it saw the return of Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood, a legendary sorcerer. He was joined by a terrific new cast that included Ellie Bamber, Ruby Cruz, Erin Kellyman, Tony Revolori, Amar Chadha-Patel, and Dempsey Byrk, plus Joanne Whalley returning as Sorsha. The eight-episode series premiered on November 30, 2022 and ran through early January 2023, and though it never seemed to get the largest following, it was fairly well-received by those who did watch it. There had been hope for a second season, but it was announced in March that it wouldn’t be happening, at least for a while.

Now, they’re taking the incredibly drastic step of removing it from Disney+ entirely. It’s pretty stunning to think about a series from one of Disney’s most influential studios being pulled from the platform it was created for just six months after it premiered for the first time. And, quite frankly, it’s completely absurd.

It highlights the dark side of the streaming era, and one of the biggest downfalls to it. Subscribers have to realize that they don’t actually have a right to any of it, and the platform – no matter who operates it – can just pull stuff down without warning. That’s something that people should think twice about before they subscribe to one of these services, but it also highlights the ridiculousness of it when a lot of this content is unavailable anywhere else. We don’t know yet what the future is for shows like Willow that Disney+ is pulling, but if they follow the HBO Max model (which isn’t exactly the gold standard to follow) they might still be available in other formats. But in this streaming age it’s entirely possible that there would be a series pulled and fans would have no way of watching it again. These shows created specially for streaming aren’t sold anywhere via digital media, which is a drastic change from previous decades of movie and TV watching.

For example, I have the Star Wars movies and shows (pre-Disney+ era) all on a shelf physically, meaning that I’d be able to watch them as long as I have a player that can support it. But what would happen if one day Disney decided to remove The Mandalorian, for example? Nothing. It would just be gone, left to be watched via random clips uploaded to Youtube. Of course, there’s no real danger in The Mandalorian leaving anytime soon, since it’s Disney+’s flagship program. But I say this to highlight one of the most concerning aspects of the streaming age, one that’s rearing its ugly head right now.

It should be troubling to many people who subscribe, whether fans of the content being removed or not, because the reality is this: if the most famous company in the whole entertainment business can remove a brand-new big-budget show from one of it’s most recognized studios not even six months after it was released, it should be a wake-up call that very little is actually safe.

Willow is a fun series, and if you haven’t watched it yet, you’ve got one more week to check it out. After that, you’ll have plenty of time to wonder about this whole streaming business and what its uncertain future will actually look like.

One thought on “Disney+ to remove the Willow series alongside other content, highlighting the pathetic absurdity of the streaming era

  1. I agree that this seems odd and worrisome. However, I am so old (!) that I remember living before VCRs. If I missed a show, I might never see it again. I’d have to wait for syndication and read my weekly TV guide to see if another broadcast was happening. I don’t like a return to that era, but it’s not unprecedented.

    Liked by 1 person

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