December 12, 2015


(ABC, September 7, 1985-December 13, 1986)

Nelvana, Ltd., Lucasfilm, Ltd.


For the history of Star Warscheck out the post here.

With the embarrassment that was The Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978, George Lucas vowed to take a more active role in future television projects. The first of those projects came in the form of two television movies centered around the teddy bear-like Ewoks from Return of the Jedi called The Ewok Adventure (or Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure) and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.

The projects were Lucas’ attempt to make a movie for his daughter, Amanda, who was a fan of the Ewoks. Originally, Ewok Adventure was meant to be a one-hour Christmas special, but ABC kept increasing the run time until it reached two hours. The film followed the Towani family that crash-landed on Endor and whose children had to partner with the Ewoks to rescue their parents from the Gorax. Amongst the Ewoks featured were Wicket Warrick (Warwick Davis with Darryl Henriques providing the voice) and his family, Deej (Daniel Frishman with Sydney Walker voicing), Weechee (Debbie Lee Carrington), Widdle (Tony Cox) and Shodu (Pam Grizz). The film was broadcast on November 25, 1984 and was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards, winning one for “Outstanding Visual Effects.”

ABC wanted the film to be the pilot for a TV series, but Lucas wasn’t interested. Instead, he began work on the sequel, Battle for Endor, which aired a year after the first. Initially, Lucasfilm planned to make an animated special, but opted to continue it in live-action. Since the youngest member of the Towani family, Cindel (Aubree Miller) was Amanda’s age and her hero, Lucas decided the sequel should focus around her. The rest of the Towanis appeared briefly before Cindel was orphaned; inspired by Heidi, which Lucas had watched with Amanda before working on the special. Cindel and the Ewoks mainly had to deal with evil Marauders who took control of Endor. Though not nominated for any awards like its predecessor, Star Wars fans have come to regard the sequel as the better of the two. More Ewoks films were planned, but never materialized.

Wicket is one swinging Ewok.

In the interim, Lucas turned his attention towards animation, having always been interested in it. Feeling technology couldn’t adequately handle the grand epic vision he wanted following the conclusion of his original film trilogy, Lucas put his sequel trilogy on indefinite hold and conceived of two shows: one focusing on the Ewoks and the other on C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 before they encountered Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in Star Wars (now known as Episode IV: A New Hope). Lucas chose those subjects as they would be best represented in animation as well as greatly appeal to a younger audience.

Teebo learns from Logray.

Lucas wanted his shows to be the best seen on Saturday morning, raising the bar for animation quality and voice acting. Pre-production began in 1984 and Lucas met with the producers, directors and writers of both series to collaborate on story ideas. While the show would somewhat follow the two movies (although the established Ewoks would change slightly between incarnations in appearance and personality), Lucas wanted the Ewoks’ culture to be based on themes universal to Earth mythology and suggested the crew familiarize themselves with The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim. Story inspiration often came from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Walt Kelly’s comic strip Pogo and Disney’s Uncle Scrooge stories. Joe Johnston’s storybook The Adventures of Teebo: A Tale of Magic and Suspense also featured many elements that would work their way into the show. After the initial planning, Lucas wasn’t involved in the day-to-day production, although he was screened the rough cuts of episodes as they were made. Davis auditioned to reprise his role, but lost out to Jim Henshaw.

Princess Kneesaa.

The show’s writing staff included Bob Carrau (who wrote the Ewoks movies), Michael Dubil, Earl Kress, Stephen Langford, Michael Reaves, Linda Woolverton and Paul Dini. Dini 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, 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. In one instance, Dini had a script he wrote rejected by the network for being “too Star Wars-y.” The episode, “The Starman”, would have focused on an Imperial pilot crashing on Endor and being helped by the Ewoks, and then choosing which side to be on when the Empire attacked.

Dangers on Endor.

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 Holiday Special. 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. Ewoks wasn’t as troublesome for them as Droids ended up being, mostly due to the fact that it was easier for them to handle tree-filled backgrounds and animal-like characters. Producing episodes for both shows ran $500,000-600,000 per pair, making them two of the most expensive animated series to produce.

Star Wars: Ewoks (known originally as simply Ewoks) was previewed on Friday, September 6, 1985, 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 titular droids by Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton. It made its official debut the next day on September 7 where it ended up against strong competition in Muppet Babies and Smurfs and was constantly moved around the schedule. The show’s theme was written and performed by Taj Mahal, while the score was handled by Patricia Cullen and David Shaw.

Latara gives Teebo a smooch.

Like the Ewoks movies, the series focused on the adventures of trouble-prone Wicket (Henshaw & Denny Delk) and his friends: the clumsy and irresponsible magic-enabled Teebo (Eric Peterson & James Cranna), stubborn and greedy hoodmaker apprentice Latara (Taborah Johnson & Sue Murphy) and their voice of reason, Princess Kneesaa (Cree Summer & Jeanne Reynolds) as they adventured around the woods of Endor dealing with local problems (both outside and of their own making) and hostile creatures like the Duloks. A stronger focus was given to their respective families, who served as supporting characters in their antics. Unlike the earlier movies, the Ewoks spoke Basic (the Star Wars term for English) with Ewokese words and phrases peppered in to make them more understandable to younger audiences. 

Although ratings for the series weren’t great, it was renewed for a second season. The hiring of new executive producers Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser saw some changes come to the world of Endor. Lucasfilm took over the majority of the production in their own studios, gaining more direct control over the content. Greater focus was placed on Wicket and his friends, with other characters being relegated to lesser roles or written out entirely. Stories would alternate between a single story to two shorter segments together. The music underwent some revision, including a new theme song sung by the cast over a new intro. The show was given the title The All New Ewoks and was paired up with Droids to form the Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour.

The cast between the seasons.

Along with an entirely new American cast to replace the Canadian one, the remaining characters underwent some changes in order to better distinguish them from each other. Wicket’s fur became darker and his hood was changed to green. Teebo’s fur was given more of a golden tone and his hood and sash became purple and gray, respectively. Latara’s fur became gray and white and was given a new pattern along her front, and her hat and feather changed colors. Latara’s crush on Teebo was reversed to have him be the one infatuated with her. There was also a noticeably different style of animation between the Lucasfilm and Nelvana versions. Unfortunately, for all these changes, the ratings failed to improve and the series was cancelled at the conclusion of the season. Dini would state in Starlog Yearbook, Vol. 3 that had there been a third season they would have done stories focusing on Teebo’s sister Malani (Alyson Court), Kneesaa’s sister Asha (Tabitha St. Germain) and the younger children of the respective families called “Woklings.” 

The Ewoks toys.

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. An LP and cassette featuring music from the series was released in France.

The Ewoks books.

Random House published a series of children’s books with the subtitle An Ewok Adventure that was meant to tie into both the series and the first Ewoks movie. In 1986, Marvel Comics published a comic based on the show as part of their Star Comics imprint. Much like the show, the comic ran longer than Marvel’s Droids comic, with which it had a crossover with. Some of the stories were collected and reprinted in the UK with new prose stories in Ewoks Annual. Spanish publisher Editorial Gespa produced an anthology series called MyComyc which featured 2-page stories centered on 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 contributor Rich Handley on his website and translator Abel Pena’s. In 2012, Dark Horse published an omnibus collecting both Marvel series. The following year, they released Star Wars: Ewoks – Shadows of Endor, which was designed to tie together all the various aspects of Ewok lore, including the animated series. After Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise, Marvel, also owned by Disney, printed their own omnibus collection in 2016.

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!” For the 2003 MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies, the developers at Sony Online Entertainment reportedly watched episodes of Ewoks as research for creating Endor in the game. In 2009, another reference came in the novel Fate of the Jedi: Outcast by Aaron Allston where the character Ben Skywalker’s helium-rich voice was described as “as high and ridiculous as that of an animated Ewok in a children’s broadcast.” 

Ewoks' sole DVD release.

CBS/Fox Video handled the international releases of the series to VHS in 1988. They released the complete series in the United Kingdom. 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 “The Haunted Village”, “The Cries of the Trees”, “Rampage of the Phlogs” and “Sunstar vs. Shadowstone” to create the singular movie, The Haunted Village. They released it to VHS under the title Star Wars Animated Classics, complete with a commercial for it and its similar Droids release. In 2004, Star Wars Animated Adventures: Ewoks came to DVD with the previous movie and the additional compilation film Tales from the Endor Woods featuring the episodes “Wicket’s Wagon”, “The Traveling Jindas”, “To Save Deej” and “Asha”. 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.

Season 1:
“The Cries of the Trees” (9/7/85) -  Morag forces Izrina to set fire to the forest and the Ewoks have to save it via glider.

“The Haunted Village” (9/14/85) – When Master Logray fails to get his invisibility soap on the Sunberry Trees, the Ewoks have to save them from the Mantrigrue.

“Rampage of the Phlogs” (9/21/85) – Morag tricks a family of Phlogs into attacking the Ewok village.

“To Save Deej” (9/28/85) – Wicket and Willy are sent to find ingredients for a cure for a poisoned Deej.

“The Traveling Jindas” (10/5/85) – When no one appreciates her skills with a flute, Latara runs off with the Travelling Jindas.

“The Tree of Light” (10/12/85) – Wicket, Princess Kneesaa and Latara follow an expedition to restore the tree of light, which Duloks intend to destroy.

“The Curse of the Jindas” (10/19/85) – The Rock Wizard becomes angered when Logray removes his curse from the Jindas when they rescue the Ewoks.

“The Land of the Gupins” (10/26/85) – The Ewoks have to save the Gupins from the Grass Trekkers.

“Sunstar vs. Shadowstone” (11/2/85) – Morag captures Teebo and his friends as ransom for the Sunstar in order to merge it with the Shadowstone.

“Wicket’s Wagon” (11/9/85) – The Duloks steal the battle wagon Wicket rebuilt.

“The Three Lessons” (11/16/85) – Kneesaa and Wicket have to retrieve ingredients needed to shrink a Stanglethor she accidentally overgrew.

“Blue Harvest” (11/23/85) – Umwak causes Hoona to fall for Wicket as part of a plan to steal the Ewok’s harvest.

“Asha” (11/30/85) – Kneesaa and Wicket find her long-lost sister and help her stop the Duloks from hunting defenseless creatures.

Season 2:
“The Crystal Cloak / The Wish Plant” (9/13/86) – Wicket and his friends set out to retrieve the crystal cloak stolen by Gracca. / Kneesaa’s friends abuse the power of the wish plant she was tasked to care for.

“Home is Where the Shrieks Are / Princess Latara” (9/20/86) – Larry the Shriek tries to convince new roommates Wicket and Teebo they’re better off at home. / Wicket and friends have to save Latara from having to marry the Gorph prince.

“The Raich” (9/27/86) – Wicket gets help from his friends and the Two-headed Gonster to restore the Raich to the prison Wicket accidentally freed it from.

“The Totem Master / A Gift for Shodu” (10/4/86) – Creatures disguised as totems rob the Ewok village. / A jewel found for Shodu turns out to be an egg.

“Night of the Stranger” (10/11/86) – A Dulock attack hides the theft of the Sunstar.

“Gone with the Mimphs / The First Apprentice” (10/18/86) – Wicket has to rescue his captors from the very thing he was captured hunting. / Zarrak turns on Teebo when he proves unable to learn from him.

“Hard Sell / A Warrior and a Lurdo” (10/25/86) – The Ewoks get into a competition trying to outsell each other. / Teebo flunks his warrior training but is still called upon to help the Tumbles.

“The Season Scepter” (11/1/86) – Odra has the Snow King freeze Endor.

“Prow Beaten / Baga’s Rival” (11/8/86) – The Ewoks lose Chirpa’s canoe prow carving to the Duloks. / Jadru sends a disguised monster to Kneesaa in order to take her captive for the Sunstar.

“Horville’s Hut of Horrors / The Tragic Flute” (11/15/86) – Wicket tries to hide what made the Woklings so upset. / Latara is captured by a creature he takes greedy people for his slaves.

“Just My Luck / Bringing Up Norky” (11/22/86) – A bad luck sprite causes Wicket to fail his warrior test. / Wicket has to babysit the bratty Norky who makes things difficult for him and his friends.

“Battle for the Sunstar” (12/6/86) – Imperial scientist Dr. Raygar steals the Sunstar.

“Party Ewok / Malani the Warrior” (12/13/86) – When Kneesaa has to throw a party for Prince Delvy, it’s complicated by her own inability and the arrival of bandits. / Creatures convince Malani to steal the Sunstar as a way to win Wicket’s heart.

Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2019.

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