W is for Willow
As I inch toward the finish line of my 2017 AtoZ Challenge series, Dragons in Our Fandoms, this time let’s look at a dragon from the modern classic fantasy movie Willow.
Above is the official Tonka action figure (which I’ll talk about more in a moment) of the dreaded Eborsisk dragon from the movie, since there aren’t a lot of great images from the movie itself. As Wikipedia describes the movie:
Willow is a 1988 British-American high fantasy film directed by Ron Howard, produced and with a story by George Lucas, and starring Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Jean Marsh, and Billy Barty.
Davis plays the eponymous lead character and hero: [Willow Ufgood, a Nelwyn dwarf, aspiring sorcerer, and] farmer who plays a critical role in protecting a special baby from a tyrannical queen, who vows to destroy her and take over the world ….
That’s the original movie poster from MoviePoster.com. Willow was not a blockbuster hit, but neither was it a financial flop, and has an average 5.6 out of 10 rating on the review site Rotten Tomatoes.
Despite that low rating, however, it’s become a cult classic fantasy movie, and is one of director Ron Howard‘s early successes. It’s also a major film for actor Warwick Davis, who had previously starred as the Ewok Wicket in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi, and who would go on to star as Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter franchise.
I found a clip of the actual battle scene with the Eborsisk from the movie uploaded by Youtuber Chaoticmoogle. Check it out if you’re interested in a bit of fantasy movie nostalgia, and also to see how the Eborsisk is created, which I’ll also explain below. You can watch the entire 7 minute video, but by about the 2:30 mark, I think you’ll have gotten the jist of the dragon.
According to the Willow Ufgood Wiki, complete with movie still of the dragon:
During the battle of Tir Asleen, Willow Ufgood was surprised by a troll. He used Cherlindrea’s wand to transform it into something else, and it resulted in a two-headed mass of flesh.
He kicked it into the moat. The water started to boil, and shortly after, a fully adult Eborsisk emerged, scaring both Madmartigan and the Nockmaar soldiers who were after [the baby] Elora Danan.
Ugly thing, isn’t it? *shudder* So as I mentioned, Tonka Toys released a line of action figures from the movie, including that large model of the Eborsisk above. I found great photos of the entire collection at a neat site called Toy Back the Clock, which is “dedicated to [the blogger’s] childhood toy collection and to the fans of Toys, Games, Movies, and TV Shows of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and beyond,” and you can check them out at the site, including Willow, Madmartigan, and Sorsha.
So, according to many sources, including the wonderfully detailed blog Monster Legacy, the name of the “Eborsisk” is “a portmanteau of ‘Ebert’ and ‘Siskel’, two famed film critics — towards whom George Lucas reserved mild contempt. The two of them would later claim that they ‘weren’t flattered’ with the film; in a review Ebert gave Willow 2 stars and a half, but praised its advanced special effects.”
Read more at Monster Legacy about the creation and prop work that went into the Eborsisk, and see more production stills like this below from the movie. Interestingly, the dragon was created using a technique called “go-motion,” developed by Industrial Light & Magic — not “stop-motion,” as is sometimes reported.
When Willow failed to reach blockbuster numbers, creator George Lucas decided to continue the story in novel format rather than try making a film sequel. According to Wikipedia:
Author Wayland Drew adapted Lucas’ [Willow] story into a film novel, providing additional background information to several major characters and various additional scenes, including an encounter with a lake monster near Razel’s island which was filmed, but ultimately not used in the movie. …
Lucas [then] outlined the Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy to follow the film, and hired comic book writer/novelist Chris Claremont to adapt them into a series of books. They take place about fifteen years after the original film and feature the teenage Elora Danan as a central character.
Before you rush out to read Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn, and Shadow Star, however, I will warn you that the reviews of the first book on Goodreads are… less than complimentary. With notes such as, “The authors’ names were the most exciting part of this book….” and “As a sequel, it sucks. Willow bears no resemblance to himself from the movie to the book…” I think I might pass on this fantasy series, myself — but there are some positive reviews mixed in with the bad, so I leave you to make up your own mind. If you’ve read these, I’d be interested to hear what you thought in the comments!
However, the movie was originally released in 1988 — thirty years ago! And since reboots of eighties movies are all the rage nowadays, Wikipedia again reports some interesting tidbits of information regarding a possible sequel:
On February 15, 2013, Val Kilmer posted a photo via Twitter implying that [a sequel movie] was “Right around the corner!” However, this coincided with a Life’s Too Short mockumentary featuring [Warwick] Davis and Kilmer, and is likely to have been a hoax.
In March 2013, Davis indicated an interest in seeing a sequel (perhaps as a TV series), but gave no indication that any development was ongoing.
In September 2016, Warwick Davis went on record again in stating that he would not like to see a remake of Willow, but he would like to see a sequel that explores if Willow became a sorcerer or not, and what happened to Elora Danan when she grew up.
So who knows? Perhaps someday soon, we’ll be hearing about another installment of the Willow story. I hope they bring more dragons into it, if that happens! (There’s at least one other dragon in the novels, anyway.) But since that’s all speculation, let’s see some fan art of the Eborsisk as it’s shown in the 1988 film.
Up first, here is The Eborsisk Rises by U.K. deviantartist CerberusLives. Here it’s shown breathing fire — in the film, the beast is finally killed when someone jams a sword through one of the chins, pinning the mouth shut. When the dragon is unable to breath out its fire, the head explodes! See more art and portraits in his gallery.
Scottish artist Graeme Neil Reid posted a sped-up video of a painting he did called The Eborsisk which is only two minutes long, and definitely worth a watch. You can see more of Graeme’s artwork at his website, and purchase his work at his Etsy shop.
Up next is a goofy but cute piece called Eborsisk Valentine by American deviantartist Joel R. Carroll. I’m definitely not a fan of this dragon’s design in the movie, but in this image, it looks a lot more friendly, and like the bull elephant seal that I can imagine it was based on. You can see more of Joel’s fantastic superhero and comic art in his gallery.
And finally, ending on another (kinda) cute picture, here is Eggorsisk by Australian artist James Flaxman. It’s tiny here, but when Willow first bespells the troll to create the Eborsisk, it’s tiny as well — I wonder if this one is going to grow into a giant terror! 🙂 Check out James’ weirdly creepy and cool gallery for more.
All right, that wraps up “W” in the AtoZ Challenge! There’s only “X,” “Y,” and “Z” left, and after that, I will be getting back to my weekly posts. I’ll also finally be able to get back to working on Finding Dragons, and perhaps Neeka’s Story as well — I have high hopes for a productive writing summer.
Thanks for reading, take care, and stay creative!
Official Eborsisk action figure by Tonka found at Toy Back the Clock
Original movie poster from MoviePoster.com
Clip from Willow called “Midgets, trolls, and 2 headed dragons oh my.” uploaded by Youtuber Chaoticmoogle
Movie still of the Eborsisk from Willow from the Willow Ufgood Wiki
Additional images of Official Eborsisk action figure and box by Tonka found at Toy Back the Clock
Phil Tippett, head of Industrial Light & Magic Special Effects crew working on Willow, from the Monster Legacy blog
Book covers from Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn, and Shadow Star from Amazon
The Eborsisk Rises by CerberusLives
The Eborsisk by Raul Garcia, posting as Blood50
The Eborsisk painting and video by Graeme Neil Reid
Eborsisk Valentine by Joel R. Carroll
Eggorsisk by James Flaxman