May The Seventeenth Be With You: Star Wars: Ewoks

James Proclaims (4)

Ewoks-promo

Alongside ‘Star Wars: Droids – The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO’, another Star Wars inspired cartoon was made in 1985. It was about the Ewoks. It was, appropriately enough, known as ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’. The two shows ran alongside each other, though aside from the fact they both notionally stemmed from the same source material, there was nothing much to link the two. Apart from the fact they were both fairly underwhelming.

Whereas ‘Droids’ lasted for only one series, the Ewoks were granted a second go, in 1986. This time around the show was called ‘The All New Ewoks’.

Unlike ‘Droids’, I did regularly watch ‘Ewoks’ as a child, and I remember really liking it.

But I was a small child, so it’s not that surprising really. Ewoks were always aimed at small children from their initial appearance in ‘Return of the Jedi’, and certainly throughout the two spin-off Ewok movies, Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor. So a cartoon series was, in many ways, the natural home for the little bears.

What I didn’t realise at the time, but what is abundantly clear from re-watching these cartoons as an adult, is that ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’ and ‘The All New Ewoks’ were completely different shows.

When doing my ‘research’ (for I do research these bizarre posts about long forgotten cartoons) the latter is often described as ‘Series 2’ of the Ewoks cartoon, but, even though the narrative ark through both series is fairly weak for the most part, there is even less continuity between the two series. The characters look different, they sound different and they have quite different characteristics. Characters that were prevalent in the first show virtually disappear in the second.

So really, although I’ve already spent far too much time this month writing about Ewoks, it seems only fair to give each series its own post.

And, in the spirit of doing this in chronological order (which isn’t necessarily the ‘Star Wars way’) the rest of this post will be about the 1985 iteration of the show.

But first, the stupid, pointless spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: You aren’t going to watch this so it’s probably not worth me warning you that plot details may follow. But they may and you can still find this show on YouTube so you might be inclined to waste your time, as I recently did, re-watching these. In which case, this series is better than ‘The All New Ewoks’. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. It’s just not as bad as the one that followed. 

‘Star Wars: Ewoks’ has absolutely nothing to do with Star Wars. Whereas ‘Droids’ featured two prominent characters from the movies in C3PO and R2D2, and also had ‘cameos’ from Boba Fett, Stormtroopers and other minor characters, there is absolutely nothing to link the first series of Ewoks to the original trilogy, other than the Ewoks themselves. And frankly they are barely recognisable as the little primitive bear-like creatures that turn up in ‘Return of the Jedi’.

But taken in the context that the two spin-off movies had already moved quite a long way from the Star Wars universe, particularly the second of those movies, portraying the ‘forest moon’ of Endor as a magical place (and also, quite clearly, not exclusively a forest) with lots of different creatures, the majority of which would have been very hard for the Empire not to notice when they set up camp there, then the Ewoks cartoon does make some kind of sense.

In some ways it was slightly disingenuous to promote this as a ‘Star Wars cartoon’. But that’s probably why most kids watched it.

If you can accept it on its own terms though, it’s fine. Not great, not ground-breaking, but not the worst animated show of the 1980s by some way.

The Ewoks can all speak ‘English’, which doesn’t necessarily jar with the movies where they couldn’t, because they don’t ever interact with any of the characters from the films, so we just assume that they’re actually speaking ‘Ewok’ and we can just understand them through the magic of this being a cartoon.

Wicket, who was in all the movies, is essentially the principal character, but he is joined by three friends for most of his adventures called Teebo (who apparently was one of the Ewoks in ‘Return of the Jedi’), Kneesaa and Latarra (who weren’t in any of the movies but there were lots of nameless Ewoks in those so it’s fine). There are other Ewok characters who pop up quite regularly, but those four are supposedly the principal Ewoks for the show.

There is a vague hint of a romantic connection between Wicket and Kneesaa. Latarra has something of an unrequited crush on Teebo. Teebo also has magical powers and is the apprentice of Logray (who was the Ewok that wanted to cook and eat Han, Luke et al. in ‘Return of the Jedi’ but who, by the time we get to the cartoon, is quite a wise and powerful wizard. He doesn’t seem to want to eat people any more. Which would be progress but apparently this series was set before ‘Return of the Jedi’ so one can only imagine what developments led to his desire to eat people later on).

The Ewoks are led by Chief Chirpa who was also in ‘Return of the Jedi’.

There are a host of other creatures, and some recurring antagonists, notably the Duloks, who are largely inept but occasionally get it together sufficiently well to pose a threat. The main antagonist is a witch called Morag who really has it in for the Ewoks and is genuinely competent and, as 80s cartoon characters go, quite scary.

Some episodes are quite dark for a kids cartoon and Morag is particularly nasty, until she is killed off towards the end of the series. And it was pretty unusual for a villain to die in a cartoon back in the 80s, particularly a recurring character. The final episode of the series is about the discovery of Kneesa’s long lost sister who has been living alone, in the wilderness, presumed dead. Again, not exactly the sort of storyline that you’d expect to find in a kids cartoon in 1985.

Series one of ‘Ewoks’ was flawed, but it had the potential to become something better, particularly if it could establish a stronger narrative ark between the individual episodes. And the decision to keep Star Wars out of it, seemed quite clever, because it gave the cartoon the freedom to become its own thing.

Certainly on the evidence of those first 13 episodes it’s pretty clear why this was the show, rather than ‘Droids’ that was commissioned for another run.

But, for whatever reason, they decided to take the show in a ‘different’ direction for the follow-up series.

Best character – Logray

Logray_Cartoons

Nothing like the man-eating Ewok in ‘Return of the Jedi’, Logray is a wizard of some significant power. And he’s wise. He’s basically a cross between Dumbledore and Gandalf. But he’s an Ewok.

Worst character – Bozzie

Bozzie_scolding

Always telling the Ewoks off for no good reason. Doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities. One of the few characters whose omission from the subsequent series was a good thing.

Unsung hero – Paploo

Paploo_(Cartoon)

Viewed as a bit of a bad influence on the younger Ewoks but often involved in the adventures of the ‘main four’ and generally quite heroic for the most part, yet somehow completely ignored for series 2.

And that’s it for ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’. Join me tomorrow when I’ll be concluding my dealings with the little fur balls by writing about ‘The All New Ewoks’.