December 12, 2015

STAR WARS: DROIDS

STAR WARS: DROIDS – THE ADVENTURES OF R2-D2 AND C-3PO
(ABC, September 7, 1985-June 7, 1986)


Nelvana, Ltd., Lucasfilm, Ltd.

MAIN CAST:
Dan Hennessey – Jord Dusat (episode 4), Uncle Gundy, Jyn Obah, Vinga, Yorpa, Governor Koong
Stephen Ouimette - Narrator

George Lucas had always been interested in animation. Once his Star Wars trilogy had concluded with 1983’s Return of the Jedi, Lucas suspended the idea of his sequel trilogy feeling that technology had not yet gotten to a place where he could tell the sprawling space epic he wanted to without compromise. However, animation, not restricted by the same physical limitations, could allow him to do just that; or, at the least, an extension.

Droids and Ewoks, together again.

Lucas conceived of two shows; one focusing on C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 before they encountered Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil) in Star Wars (now known as Episode IV: A New Hope), the other on the teddy bear-like Ewoks from Return of the Jedi. The idea was to focus on characters that had no important ties to the overall plots of the films, allowing more creative freedom while not hampering the continuity of any future theatrical efforts. Also, both sets of characters would lend themselves well and benefit from animation, as well as greatly appeal to young audiences.

Starlog Droids promo image.

Lucas wanted his shows to be the best seen on Saturday morning, raising the bar for animation quality and voice acting. This desire is what convinced Daniels, initially hesitant, to sign onto the project. Daniels was also allowed to rework some of his dialogue in order to make it better representative of the character. Pre-production began in 1984 and Lucas met with the producers, directors and writers of both series to collaborate on story ideas. A lot of influence was drawn from the science-fiction stories of Jean Giraud (aka Moebius), specifically from The Airtight Garage. After the initial planning, Lucas wasn’t involved in the day-to-day production of the shows, although he was screened the rough cuts of episodes as they were made.

R2-D2 and C-3PO creating a distraction.

The show’s writing staff included Richard Beban, Ben Burtt, Sharman DiVono, Joe Johnston (who also handled the visual effects for the films), Gordon Kent, Michael Reaves, Peter Saunder, Steven Wright and Paul Dini, who also served as an associate producer and story editor. Writing for the series was not without its challenges. Not only did they have to adhere to the broadcast standards set by the FCC, but by ABC’s own Standards and Practices Board. ABC wanted safe children’s programming and fought the writers every step of the way when they tried to push the envelope even the tiniest bit.

The droids fleeing Boba Fett and Vlix.

Lucas contracted Nelvana, Ltd. to produce the animation for both shows; his having been impressed by their work on the Boba Fett animated segment of the much-hated The Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978. Nelvana, in turn, contracted the Korean animation company Hanho Heung-Up to provide the artwork for the series. However, they struggled with the shows’ designs and the massive amount of work involved (up to 24,000 cels per episode), which forced Nelvana head Clive Smith to move to Korea for the eight months of production to assist them. Droids proved the bigger challenge, due to the need for more locations, perspective drawings, and recognizable humanoid characters. Producing episodes for both shows ran $500,000-600,000 per pair, making them one of the most expensive animated series to produce.



Star Wars: Droids – The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO (known originally as simply Droids) was previewed the Friday before its debut in the preview special ABC Saturday Sneak Peek and Fun Fit Test with Tony Danza, C-3PO and R2-D2. As the title suggests, it was hosted by Tony Danza, then-star of Who’s the Boss?, who was taught gymnastics along with the droids by Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton. It ran for a single season of 13 episodes, ending with the two-part special “The Great Heepin 1986 (although it took place before the 10th episode). It was rerun for a second season alongside episodes of Ewoks as part of the Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour beginning on March 1, 1986. The series’ theme, “Trouble Again,” was performed by Stewart Copeland of The Police, who wrote it with Derek Holt. The show’s score was handled by Patricia Cullen and David Shaw.

Thall and Jord.

While each episode was a self-contained story, there were three continuing storylines that spanned four episodes each known as Cycles. Each Cycle saw the supporting cast and foes changing as the droids continually bounced from master to master. After they were abandoned by Raymus Antilles, the droids were first found by speeder racers Thall Joben (Andrew Sabiston) and Jord Dusat (Peter MacNeill & Dan Hennssey). They were often at odds with the Fromm Gang, a local crime family, and had help from resistance fighter Kea Moll (Lesleh Donaldson). When Thall and Jord declined a lucrative job that required memory-wiping the droids, the droids left their masters.

Mon Julpa, Gordy and Jann.

In the next Cycle, they were rescued by Jann Tosh along with a kidnapped prince, Mon Julpa, whom they returned to his kingdom with the help of freighter pilot Jessica Meade. When Jann was accepted into the Imperial Space Academy, he parted ways with the droids.

Mungo.

In the final Cycle, the droids were in the command of merchant Mungo Baobab (Winston Rekert, who came into conflict with Imperial forces under the command of The Great Heep. With his family fleet facing financial ruin, Mungo and the droids set out on a quest to establish a trade route to Roon, planetary home of valuable Roonstones. Unfortunately, a maniacal despot named Governor Koong (Hennessy) wanted the stones in order to keep in good favor with the Empire and continue on with his illegal activities.

Droids figure preview sheet.

Kenner, who had the license to produce Star Wars toys, made various products related to the show such as action figures, ships and more. The toys, however, came during the decline of Star Wars’ popularity and sold poorly as a result. A second wave of figures was in the planning stages until the line was cancelled. Glasslite in Brazil bought out the remainder of Kenner’s stock and released their own limited run of Droids and Return of the Jedi toys in 1987, including an exclusive Vlix action figure whose mold was made but never produced by Kenner.

The Droids book adaptation.

Random House published a series of children’s books based on various episodes, while the series’ music was released on an LP and cassette in France. Plans for the release of a storybook and cassette by Rainbow were abandoned when they lost the rights to the franchise due to the poor sales of Buena Vista RecordsFurther Adventures series. Editoral Roma also had a series of Spanish pop-up story books. Mungo was featured as a character in the short story Lando Calrissian: Idiot’s Array written by Rich Handley, which was published in 2008 on Hyperspace, the official Star Wars fan club, and later reprinted on Suvudu by Random House.

The Marvel Droids comic.

In 1986, Marvel Comics published a comic based on the show as part of their Star Comics imprint, although it was set a few years after the chronology of the series. Running only 8 issues, the comic crossed-over with Marvel’s Ewoks series and gave a droid-centric retelling of the first movie. Spanish publisher Editorial Gespa produced an anthology series called MyComyc which featured 2-page stories centered around Droids. The strips, drawn by studio Beaumont C. de B., were later collected but have yet to see an English translation or North American reprinting due to Lucasfilm’s inability to determine the legitimacy of their being properly licensed. Translations were made available by Handley on his website and translator Abel Pena’s. Dark Horse Comics would publish two mini-series, a one-shot and a special with a similar theme a decade later, as well as collect the two Marvel series together in an omnibus.



In 1988, Mastertronic developed a computer game loosely based on the cartoon for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. The game was under-promoted and largely went ignored for the brief time it was available. The game was eventually pulled from production due to licensing issues with the end title theme used. In 2007, Gentle Giant, Ltd. created a maquette of Boba Fett based on his appearance in an episode. The maquettes were sold at Celebration IV, where some Droids merchandise was auctioned off from the Lucas Licensing archives, and Celebration Europe. In 2015, Gentle Giant reproduced several Droids figures as 12” convention exclusives for the series’ 30th anniversary.



In 1995, an Easter Egg was included by LucasArts on the game Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire. In it, entering a code would allow R2-D2, C-3PO and Darth Vader (Scott Lawrence) to watch the cut scenes and comment on them in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000. One of their comments was delivered in an impersonation of the playable character Rookie One and mentioned the “…Ewoks/Droids cartoon hour!”

The Droids compilation movie VHS.

CBS/Fox Video handled the international releases of the series to VHS in 1988. They released 12 of the episodes to England and Germany and eventually released the entire series to Mexico. J2 Communications released The Star Wars Trilogy Animated Collection in 1990, which featured three VHS tapes that featured five episodes between them (one repeated twice). ). In 1997, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox edited together he episodes from Cycle 2 to create the film The Priates and the Prince and released it to VHS under the title Star Wars Animated Classics, complete with a commercial for it and its similar Ewoks release. In 2004, Star Wars Animated Adventures: Droids came to DVD collecting the previous movie and the additional compilation film Treasure of the Hidden Planet made from the episodes in Cycle 3. The edits led to several scenes and the intros being removed and some of the soundtrack being altered. The entire series has yet to see a modern release.

EPISODE GUIDE:
“The White Witch” (9/7/85) – The droids’ new master Jord Dusat is kidnapped by Tig Fromm and they have to help their other master Thall Joben save him.

“Escape into Terror” (9/14/85) – The droids, Thall and Kea Moll sneak into the Fromm gang base to steal the Trigon One weapon.

“The Trigon Unleashed” (9/21/85) – Tig kidnaps Jord and Kea’s mother for the weapon, which Thall gives to him after having sabotaged its controls.

“A Race to the Finish” (9/28/85) – The Fromms contract Boba Fett to take out the speeder racers, but finding it too difficult Fett decides to claim a bounty on them set by Jabba the Hutt.

“The Lost Prince” (10/5/85) – The droids and their new master Jann Tosh are captured and put to work in the mines on Nergon-14 where they meet Mon Julpa, prince of the Tammuz-an.

“The New King” (10/12/85) – The droids and their friends head to Tammuz-an to stop evil vizier Zatec-Cha from claiming the throne.

“The Priates of Tarnoonga” (10/19/85) – Pirate Kybo Ren-Cha captures Jessica and a shipment of fuel she was delivering and takes them to the water planet Tarnoonga.

“The Revenge of Kybo Ren” (10/26/85) – Kybo Ren escapes and kidnaps the daughter of Mon Julpa’s political rival, resulting in a new rescue mission.

“Coby and the Starhunters” (11/2/85) – The droids are captured while chaperoning Lord Toda’s son Coby and are rescued by Jann, who has been accepted into Imperial Space Academy.

“Tail of the Roon Comets” (11/9/85) – Mungo Baobab drags the droids on his quest for the Roon Stones, but runs afoul of Imperials.

“The Roon Games” (11/16/85) – Mungo and the droids escape to the planet Roon with Governor Koong in hot pursuit.

“Across the Roon Sea” (11/23/85) – Mungo is about ready to give up his search for the Stones.

“The Frozen Citadel” (11/30/85) – The search continues as Governor Koong closes in on his former captives.

Special:
“The Great Heep” (6/7/86) – The droids confront an evil Abominator who built itself up from the remains of other droids.

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