Back in May, Disney removed the Lucasfilm original series, “Willow” from Disney+ around the world as part of an impairment charge, which helped Disney write off over $2 billion dollars in costs, to help move its streaming business into profitability.

The fantasy series tells the story of what happens twenty years after vanquishing the wicked queen Bavmorda in the original film, where we see the sorcerer Willow Ufgood leading a group of misfits on a dangerous rescue mission into the unknown. The series starred Warwick Davis, alongside Erin Kellyman, Ellie Bamber and Tony Revolori.

The first few episodes of the show arrived on Disney+ in November 2022, but unfortunately, “Willow” was not a huge hit with Disney+ subscribers, never once making the Nielsen streaming top ten charts, indicating that not enough people were watching. While Samba TV reported that only 481,000 households watched the show in its first five days of release, which was a fifth of the viewership for another British-made series, “Loki”.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that “Willow” wouldn’t be returning for a second season, even after the finale left the door open for two more seasons. But with a budget of around £10 million per episode, it seems Disney decided the series was more valuable to them as a tax write-off.

The information was revealed since the show benefited from the UK’s Television Tax Relief scheme, which allows studios to claim a cash reimbursement of up to 25% of the money spent in the UK. To qualify for this tax credit, at least 10% of the core costs of production have to be made within the UK, and at least a certain percentage of filming has to be made in the UK and promote UK heritage.

The Studios must also register each show as a separate Television Production Company (TPC), and these financial records are available to the public. “Willow” was produced by Barking Lion Productions, which is a reference to the mythical creatures that appear in the show.

One of the biggest reasons why the cost of “Willow” was so much higher than a typical show, is that it was filmed during the pandemic, which resulted in increased costs to comply with restrictions and filming too much longer to complete. Studios like Disney usually use codenames on these businesses to try to hide the information from the public and to not raise attention to what’s being filmed while developing the show.

According to Forbes, it has been revealed that Disney spent $105.9 million (£83.1 million), on the eight-episode Disney+ series. And this number may be even higher, as the financial statements only cover up to December 31st 2021, which covered the period of pre-production and filming, so it doesn’t include all the post-production costs for the special effects.

With “Willow” being filmed across 32 locations across the UK, including a vast majority of it in Wales, Disney was able to get a cash reimbursement for $20.4 million (£16.1 million) and was also able to get an additional bonus of $5.1 million (£4 million) by the Welsh government.

Disney built five sets at Dragon Studios, which helped the local film industry, in addition to filming at key locations such as Morlais Quarry and Merthyr Mawr. Hundreds of locals were also hired to help make the show, including 25 trainees and 17 out of the 29 production departments were run by Welsh citizens. This is in addition to the benefit filming the show in the UK had on other businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and others.  So even though the show was removed from Disney+, the local community still benefited from the creation of the show.

It’s pretty common for countries or regions to offer tax benefits to film movies and shows since it brings in lots of local jobs and other benefits, but the unique way the UK system works, means we do get a clearer picture of how much shows really cost.

With Disney now going on a major cost-cutting exercise, they’ve stated they will be spending much less on original programming in the future, and the additional costs from the pandemic are now thankfully behind us, but with “Willow” simply not being able to pull in big enough audiences, the appeal of an impairment charge as part of a huge $2 billion saving, was too tempting for Disney.

Unfortunately, “Willow” is now unavailable to stream legally following its removal, since it was never released on other digital platforms or physical media.

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Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Twitter: Facebook:

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