In an interview with Collider, Jonathan Kasdan made a great point that touched on why some of the kids movies of the ’80s seemed so frightening. Kasdan compared the events in “Willow” to the arduous journey of Atreyu in “The NeverEnding Story,” stating that he linked both adventure stories together in his mind when developing the new Disney+ series:
“‘NeverEnding Story’ was huge to me in this period, and I pair it with ‘Willow’ in a lot of these conversations because one of the things that both were [sic] Ron [Howard] and Wolfgang Peterson gave each of those movies was a sense of scale that was a little terrifying when you were a kid.”
Kasdan, it would appear, was referring to the fear induced by the films’ awe-inspiring, vast fantasy landscapes and how they seemed insurmountable to humble ’80s movie heroes like Atreyu and Willow. When Atreyu reaches the Southern Oracle and tries to pass through the Sphinx Gate in “The NeverEnding Story,” the oracles tower over him. It’s incredibly daunting and his life is at stake. Similarly, once Willow reaches the castle gates of Tir Asleen, the mission to scale those walls and defeat the evil Queen Bavmorda appears to be an impossible task.
Kids who grew up watching Willow face incredible odds saw a little of themselves in the role, largely because they were watching a character who was smaller in stature refuse to let fear get the best of him.