Where was Willow filmed? The Castle & All the 1988 Locations

Posted by

Before Disney’s new Willow series arrives, we are revisiting the original 1988 fantasy movie, which has become a cult film.

Set in a world of castles, knights, and magic, Willow was filmed in locations as diverse as New Zealand, England, California, Ireland, and even China.

Where was Willow filmed

Warwick Davis played the lead character, Willow Ufgood, a farmer who reluctantly gets involved in an adventure to protect a baby princess called Elora Danan from the clutches of the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh).

Val Kilmer co-starred as the badass antihero and disgraced swordsman, Madmartigan. Joanne Whalley played Sorsha, Bavmorda's warrior daughter and Madmartigan's love interest.

Kilmer and Whalley got married in real life after meeting during the filming of the movie, although they later divorced.

Airk Thaughbaer and Madmartigan

Directed by Ron Howard following a story by George Lucas, the blockbuster is filled with amazing, vintage special effects, both practical and digital, and features a memorable soundtrack by James Horner (Titanic, Braveheart).

Welcome to the most complete guide to the filming locations of 1988' Willow that you can find.


The Willow Castle

Willow castle
Bavmorda's Nockmaar castle was a set built at the massive Dinorwic slate quarry, located in northern Wales between Llanberis and Dinorwig.

Only a small section of the front wall, including four towers, was erected on location.

The rest was created thanks to the work of the famous Industrial Light and Magic visual effects company.
(You can open all the locations on Google Maps by clicking on the links below in the captions ↴)
  Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Nockmaar Castle
The final scene required more than 400 extras and 200 pigs. This former quarry is now home to the Welsh National Slate Museum and a rock-climbing center.

The local press reported that the new Disney series was also filmed here, at the Dinorwic Quarry.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Queen Bavmorda Nockmaar Castle
The landscape surrounding the Nockmaar Castle is the spectacular Tongariro National Park in New Zealand's central North Island.

Home to three active volcanic mountains, Tongariro doubled as Mount Doom, Mordor, in Lord of the Rings, and the entrance to the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit.

Bavmorda's castle was inspired by the desolate fortress that appears in the 1957 classic Throne of Blood and other Akira Kurosawa films.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Nelwyn village
According to IMDb, the village of Nelwyn was filmed on the grounds of the Brocket Hall, a neoclassical country house in Hertfordshire, England.

Located near London, Brocket Hall has been used to film many popular British productions including EastEnders, The Queen, and Agatha Christie's Poirot.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Nelwyn Valley town
Warwick Davis, who was only 17 when he played Willow Ufgood, met his current wife during the shoot, Samantha Davis, who appears as a Nelwyn villager.

The casting call for little people hired between 225 and 240 actors. Davis also has played several characters in the Star Wars and Harry Potter film series.


Cherlindrea fairy of the forest
The scenes in the woods, when the expedition leaves the village, were filmed at Epping Forest in Essex.

Today, this area is known as the Willow Trail walking route.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Willow location
George Lucas was looking for exotic locations and wanted to film the surreal pinnacles of limestone and the karst mountains scenery in China, like the Yangshuo countryside and Li River.

But at the time, the Chinese government didn't allow Western crews to shoot in the country, so Lucas used some images of the area inserted in the background via green screens.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Willow waterfall
In the next scene, we change continents again. The company passes through the beautiful Burney Falls, located within McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in Shasta County, California.

Also, some exterior shots took place at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch near San Francisco.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm and Jim Bahn - Maps: Waterfall / Ranch


Madmartigan crossroads
At Atlas of Wonders, at first we thought that the crossroads scene, where the Nelwyn dwarfs find Madmartigan trapped in a crow's cage, was also filmed in a valley somewhere in the Snowdonia National Park. However, did they take Airk Thaughbaer's army to New Zealand?

According to one of our readers, this scene was filmed near Queenstown, in an area where today there is a new community called Jack's Point, just beneath the Remarkables mountains.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Cannon Elstree Studios
The roadside tavern where Willow and the brownies Mambo-Jumbo re-encounter Madmartigan was a set filmed at the Cannon Elstree Studios backlot (now the Elstree Studios) in Hertfordshire.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Kingdom of Galladoorn
The cart chase scene was filmed at Black Park Country Park in Buckinghamshire.

Located near Pinewood Studios, the park's 500 acres of woodland have served as a filming location for hundreds of productions, including the 2022 blockbuster Jurassic World 3: Dominion.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Fin Raziel lake
On the way to sorcerer's Fin Raziel home, the troupe stops by the famous Powerscourt Waterfall in County Wicklow, Ireland.

The nearly 400-foot-high waterfall is a popular tourist destination along with the house and Italian gardens of the Powerscourt Estate.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Willow island
Raziel's lake is actually located on the other side of the world, in one of New Zealand's South Island's top attractions: Milford Sound.

Surrounded by rainforests and waterfalls, scenes from Mission: Impossible - Fallout and Alien Covenant were also recorded in this jaw-dropping fiord.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Hidden Island on Lake Wakatipu
But the tiny island where the sorceress lives is actually Hidden Island on Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown, the so-called adventure capital of New Zealand.

You can see in the background the Remarkables mountain range, which is not the mortal enemy of the Expendables.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Kingdom of Tir Asleen
The snowy mountaintop settlement on the mountains was a set built at the Cardrona Alpine Resort located between Queenstown and Wanaka.

This was the first production to use the "morphing" process to film the scene where Willow has to restore Fin Raziel from a goat to human form.

Industrial Light and Magic developed a software that created a smooth transition from one image to another, a technology used later on in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Terminator 2.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Willow drehorte
This short scene seems to have been filmed at the striking Omarama Clay Cliffs, a natural rock formation area near the town of Omarama also in Otago, although this is not confirmed.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm - Map


Tir Asleen castle
The Tir Asleen Castle design was inspired by classic medieval European castles. The central tower looks similar to the one of Segovia Castle in Spain.

The interior courtyard, where the two-headed Eborsisk monster sequence takes place, was filmed on a set built at the studios.

Eborsisk is a reference to the movie critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. The evil General Kael (who I always thought looked like the Masters of the Universe's Castle Grayskull) is also named after a film critic, Pauline Kael.

Can you help to improve this article about the filming locations of Willow? To complete and correct this report, any feedback, info, or images that you may have are more than welcome, thank you!

NOTICE: If you’re using this information on your website, please credit and link to this page as a source.
*****

1 comment:

1- Anonymous - Jul 8, 2022, 2:54 AM
The crossroads scene was filmed in Queenstown, New Zealand. There is a new community called Jack's Point around the location.


0 comments

All comments are reviewed prior to publication