Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Today we’re going to a party and to one of the movie’s definitive scenes — the disappearing pig trick! It’s 9:49-11:55 on the Blu-ray.
We begin with an exterior shot of Willow’s farm, with him saying goodbye to Kaia and taking the two kids with him while she stays behind with the baby. Based on the previous scene, we can assume this is the next day, a.k.a. the “big day” Willow has been looking forward to.
Peppy music starts playing, and we’re at a Nelwyn festival. Specifically, this is the Planting Festival of 1342, according to the tie-in books. It might seem backwards to hold a festival celebrating planting instead of harvest, like most farming communities do, but it is consistent in that we just saw Willow plowing his field, and Burglekutt’s talk about seeds. The year 1342 is relevant only to the Nelwyn, as this festival celebrates the time that the Nelwyn first arrived and settled in this land, 1,342 years earlier.
This opening shot of the festival is impressive, with tons of extras and quite a few animals all about, with a lot of bustling activity. Willow can be seen on the right of the screen, on a small stage with a crowd gathering around him. Other than some small huts, there are no buildings of any kind in the background, suggesting that this is not the village center, but instead the Nelwyn have set up this festival out in the woods somewhere. The tie-in books say one part of this festival involves a wicker man, representing peace and generosity. There’s a structure in the center of the fair in the movie that might be this wicker man. It’s just sort of human shaped, so I can’t be sure.
There is a shot of a bunch of Nelwyn men and women dancing, where they dance together at first, only for the women to sit in a small clump of chairs where the men dance in circles around them. We get a shot of the Nelwyn band playing, with two notable (heh) cameos. The first is Kenny Baker of Star Wars fame, and the second is Baker’s longtime friend and performing partner Jack Purvis, who also acted in Star Wars and was prominently featured in Time Bandits.
Still more festival stuff. There is a fire eater, followed by some sort of game where some Nelwyns have bags over their heads and others don’t while they all dance around some poles. I have no idea what that’s about. There is a shot of a woman holding a baby, with the camera slowly pushing in on them (a little foreshadowing there, perhaps). Then there’s a tug of war, with the losing team falling in the mud and a bunch of men laughing as they watch. Throughout this whole scene, several Nelwyn women can be seen wearing light blue dresses with large blue-white headdresses. Is this merely fashion, or do these outfits have some significance?
We then catch up with Willow, doing stage magic. His son Ranon is his magicians’ assistant, adorably. Willow covers his arm with a hollow sleeve, and then makes a small torch pass right through the arm. (No CGI here, actor Warwick Davis learned to perform his illusion and did it in front of the camera.) Burglekutt can be seen in the crowd, nodding in approval (mock approval?) at Willow’s act. We also see Willow’s friend Meegosh for the first time, though first-time viewers won’t know he’s a significant character yet.
We get more festival business, with a spear-carrying guard helping himself to fruit from a fruit cart, establishing that there is a security force present. Then there’s what appears to be a wedding, with a man and woman kissing as everyone around them throws confetti. There’s a shift in the upbeat music, represented by a close up of hands strumming furiously on a guitar-like instrument.
Back to Willow, he has a small pig in hands. Willow is all showmanship, promising the audience an amazing feat, saying the entire pig will disappear. Willow covers the pig in a blanket (heh) and lifts it up, chanting magic words. These magic words sound a lot like ones he will say when doing real magic later in the movie, for what that’s worth. He pulls the blanket away, to show the pig has indeed vanished. The crowd applauds, only for the pig to run out from under the table in front of Willow, breaking the illusion. The crowd, especially the kids, have a good laugh. Burglekutt says “I’ve seen enough.” He starts to leave, and everyone leaves with him.
The word “magic” has been thrown around a lot in this movie, with little definition of how magic works in this world. Here we see stage magic, with no hint of the supernatural. According to the tie-in books, the High Aldwin could see that young Willow had potential for great magic power, but Willow’s father insisted he be a farmer. Sometime later, the Nelwyn were visited by a traveling entertainer, Pesto the Magnificent. Pesto stirred Willow’s interest in magic, albeit of the slight-of-hand variety.
Even though his audience clearly had a good time, Willow sits on his stage looking defeated.
Next: Giving the finger.
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