Ron Howard’s 1988 dark fantasy epic Willow is a daring and adventurous story about a young farmer being chosen to undertake a harrowing and hard journey in order to protect a baby from falling in the hands of sorceress Queen Bavmorda.
Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davies) and his family are ordered by their village leader to return the baby to Daikini, and so they set out on an eventful, intense and memorable journey.
While some scenes can be rather dark and disturbing, there is also a strong sense of humor in the film with constant references to big movies at the time like Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Many fans admit that the film has a very Star Wars edge to it, but that’s certainly not a bad thing.
Star Wars was at its peak during the 80s with anything even being closely associated to the film from clothes to figures being bought in bulk.
The fact that George Lucas was the producer and that John Williams returned to compose the music gave the film an intriguing fantasy element, and this extended to the environments which our character Willow traverses through and uncovers more about the story.
Keep reading to learn about just how wide spanning the production of Willow was and what locations were utilized to give off the unique fantastical atmosphere we see in the movie.
A lot of the movie was actually shot around Wales in the UK, as you can tell by the landscapes and buildings seen throughout the film.
The location works for the movie with many beautiful shots of the Welsh countryside, mountains and towns that really help create the feel of the magical world we’re traveling into.
The first location used was the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, where most of the opening scene takes place.
This is the home of the famous Llangoed Hall, which was partly used for the exterior of the farmhouse. It’s a stunning building and looks great against the green rolling hills and valleys of Wales.
The second location used was the small town of Caerphilly in South Wales. This is where the farmhouse we see in the beginning of the film is located, and it’s a real working farm!
There are horses running free all over the fields, sheep grazing in the distance and cows mooing nearby.
It’s a lovely little spot and gives a good image of what life would have been like back then and the direction Howard takes with the film.
The huge mountain of Snowdonia in North Wales was also used primarily for all the chilly mountain scenes and partly for the shooting of the deserted castle scenes.
This was a great opportunity for Warwick Davies to travel all across his home country at the age of only 17, as he was born in Cardiff but raised in Liverpool later in his youth.
Bavmorda’s castle where we see the final confrontation between Willow and the evil sorceress was actually a facade located at Slate Quarry in the Snowdonia National Park, making for a chilly final confrontation.
Another location that was used was Ireland, specifically Dublin. The city of Dublin was used for the interior of the castle, and the surrounding area was used for the exterior shots of the farmhouse.
As well as this, a few other locations in the Irish countryside were used, including Ballyconnell Castle, Killiney Beach and parts of the Wicklow Mountains.
The location of the beautiful clear waterfall where Willow and companion Val Kilmer refresh themselves and rest for a bit is also in Ireland, being the Powerscourt Waterfall.
It is easy to visit and is well worth it whether you’re a fan of the film, or just want to see some great natural beauty.
Inishbofin, Aran Islands
The last major location used was the island of Inishbofin, which is part of the Aran Islands and just seven miles from the Irish Galway coast.
This is where the witch’s lair is located, and was used for some more establishing shots of the exterior and interior of the castle and is a truly breathtaking location.
It’s interesting to note that Willow travels to these different locations via a magic portal created by the wizard Merlin himself, who is played by actor Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Hopkins had previously worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, and was considered a favorite among fans.
He also appeared in many other films such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jurassic Park and Dracula.
While these were the primary locations for shooting Willow’s mystical adventure, a few other areas in the world can be spotted in several scenes.
The cart chase scene where we see Willow and Madmartigan being pursued by the Queen’s soldiers was actually filmed in Epping Forest in Greater London.
There are also two waterfalls in the movie and while one is located in Ireland, the other was actually Burney Falls in California.
Quite a few additional scenes were actually filmed around the woodlands of California, including the suitably named Skywalker Ranch in the North.
Elsewhere in America, some areas of the San Francisco skyline were also used to display more shots of the interior and exterior of the gigantic castle, along with some partial use of the Manhattan skyline in New York.
Some other areas used very briefly include south China, which was filmed and used as a background plate in a shot of the Nelwyn Valley.
Finally, there is also an old abandoned railway line near the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, England.
It is unknown exactly why it was chosen as a filming location, however it does appear to have been used in several scenes.
While Willow travels across the ‘Mother World’ running into all kinds of beautiful landscapes and mysterious figures, we too come along for this journey since the filming of Willow was truly a globe-trotting adventure for the cast and crew.
Willow may not have been a huge hit with either critics or at the box office, but its beautiful landscapes and areas throughout the film will make any film enthusiast’s jaw drop.
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