May The Eighteenth Be With You: The All New Ewoks

James Proclaims (4)

EwoksS2intro

Eighteen days into my month-long homage to Star Wars and I appear to have lost all reason.

Not that I had much of that at the start of all this.

I could have just stopped when I’d written about Episodes I – IX, though I’m sure no-one would have begrudged me writing about ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Solo’ as well.

But that would still only have been eleven posts.

That’s not excessive.

And had I done that, I’m sure most people would have agreed that I’d completed a pretty thorough retrospective on Star Wars.

Instead, here I am, on day 18 of this madness and I haven’t even touched on the aforementioned spin-off movies.

Because I’ve been writing quite a lot about Ewoks.

Some might say too much.

But it ends here.

The Ewok stuff I mean.

Obviously I’m going to carry on writing about Star Wars.

However, I assure you that this is my last post about the bloody Ewoks.

But it is still probably a post too far.

Because I’m writing about series 2 of the 80s cartoon.

I wrote about series 1 yesterday.

But I irrationally felt the two series deserved separate posts.

Because, they were, essentially two different shows.

But before I go on, here is today’s redundant spoiler alert:

Spoiler alert: On the off chance you were planning on watching this long forgotten cartoon, then I would implore you to reconsider. It is not good. It is bad. Series 1 wasn’t great, but series 2 was abysmal. Nonetheless, if you insist on putting yourself through the horrors of this, then I may reveal some plot details in the text below. If I can find any to reveal. I don’t remember there being too much in the way of plot though. 

So, 1985’s ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’ was renewed for another series. But it was also ‘revamped’ and made into something different.

The new version was called ‘The All New Ewoks”.

And it was ‘all new’.

Rather than each episode being dedicated to one 20-minute story, they were split into two 10-minute stories.

Although the first series also concentrated on the exploits of the four main characters of Wicket, Kneesaa, Teebo and Latarra, there were a few other Ewoks who featured quite regularly. Most of those characters, while notionally still in this series are very much in the background.

And, aside from Kneesaa, who is, in fairness, largely the same character, the others are all completely different. And not just because they’ve been drawn differently and they are being voiced by different actors (both of which are true) but because they have entirely different personalities. And they’re much less likeable. Oh and bizarrely, whereas it used to be Latarra who had an unrequited crush on Teebo, it’s now Teebo that has an unrequited crush on Latarra.

Series 1 had recurring villains, and some sort of continuity across the episodes, but each of the mini-stories in series 2 has a new villain and there is no continuity at all. There are so many new characters and species introduced in this series that it appears that the forest moon of Endor (which we’ve established across the two stand-alone movies and the first iteration of this cartoon, is only partially forest at best) is incredibly densely populated with creatures who all possess varying degrees of magical powers. And the Ewoks are the most magical of all because they possess the Sunstar, which is a kind of magical stone, that everyone else wants to steal. I don’t remember the Sunstar from ‘Return of the Jedi’. Or the two Ewok movies for that matter. It is in series 1 of the cartoon, but it’s only central to a couple of episodes. In series 2, virtually every story is about someone trying to steal the Sunstar. And failing obviously.

The two main antagonists in series 1 were Morag the witch, who was killed in that series, and the inept Duloks. The Duloks are back for series 2, but only in a couple of episodes. They mostly have to make way for the plethora of new antagonists, who mostly show up for ten minutes and then are never seen again.

It is rubbish, but it is a kids cartoon. And I didn’t notice any of the changes when I was young and I still watched it so I shouldn’t be too annoyed. But I am a bit annoyed because series 1 was better and I don’t know why anyone would go out of their way to make an ‘ok but not great’ cartoon into a really bad cartoon.

Both versions of the cartoon were extremely far removed from anything resembling Star Wars. But series 2 is the one when any pretence that these are the same Ewoks that helped the rebels defeat the Empire has finally been eroded. ‘The All New Ewoks’ was a cartoon about some bears who live in a magical land and have magical powers. It was a bit like another 80s cartoon, Disney’s ‘Gummi Bears’, but nowhere near as good.

So when, in the penultimate episode, the Empire turns up in a Star Destroyer, complete with stormtroopers, it really is quite a surprise.

Particularly as Emperor Palpatine is referenced a few times and is sort of, but not quite, in the actual episode (he’s notionally in a shuttle that we see a few times on screen).

And you kind of remember at this point that the Ewoks did originate in ‘Return of the Jedi’, but it’s all been so different to Star Wars for so long that it’s actually quite weird when Star Wars appears. It just doesn’t feel right.

I can’t bring myself to fully hate this cartoon, because I did watch it and love it as a child. But I do wish I had only watched the first series as kid, because then I could dismiss ‘The All New Ewoks’ as utterly worthless.

Sadly, however, I know I loved both series equally, so nostalgia does help to redeem this abomination a little bit.

Best character – Kneesaa

kneesa

She was one of the more likable characters in series 1 anyway and as she’s pretty much the same character in this, she is the best by default, because the others have all become so much worse.

Worst character – Teebo

Teebo

Was pretty cool in series 1 and really isn’t at all cool in series 2. Seems to by a hybrid of some different characters from series 1 that were subsequently written out. Possibly the most irritating of all the irritating changes that were made.

Unsung Heroes – The Duloks

duloks

As antagonists, the Duloks were the most fun in series 1 and they’re severely underused in series 2. But when they do appear they are still pretty good value and those rare appearances are definitely the best episodes.

And that really is all I have to say about the Ewoks. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll probably still be writing about a cartoon, but it will be a much better cartoon than this was.

 

 

 

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’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May The Thirteenth Be With You: Ewoks: The Battle For Endor

James Proclaims (4)

Ilm-ewok2

Following on from 1984’s ‘Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure’, 1985’s ‘Ewoks, The Battle For Endor’ was another TV movie that somehow found itself in cinemas in the UK.

But you wouldn’t have found me in any of those cinemas. Because unlike the first Ewok film, which is firmly established as a seminal moment in my childhood, I had no idea this one even existed until a few years ago.

And I’m glad I didn’t in many ways because it just might have left me a little disturbed had I been exposed to it in my youth.

But before we get into the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of all that, I should issue a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: You probably have no intention of ever watching this, but if, like me, you did enjoy the first Ewok movie as a child, then you might be interested in seeing the sequel. So you should know that I’m going to discuss some plot points from here on in and frankly, although spoilers may not ruin your enjoyment of a movie that is about as complex as a two-piece jigsaw puzzle, there are some plot points you may find upsetting. And indeed deeply deeply traumatising…

So, the first Ewok movie ends with the Towani family happily reunited after the events of that story, in which the parents were kidnapped by a giant creature that apparently lives on the forest moon of Endor alongside the Ewoks. And that creature, the Gorax, died, which, assuming there was only one of him, would explain why there were no goraxes in ‘Return of the Jedi’.

So we re-join the family at the beginning of the second movie, and it’s about six months later and they’re still on Endor, but the dad, who in the intervening time appears to have turned into Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson from ‘Die Hard’ has nearly fixed their spaceship. Which is particularly impressive because there can’t have been too many available spare parts on the forest moon of Endor.

So far, so good. Cindel appear to be really good friends with Wicket, who by now has learned to speak English to a fairly proficient standard, (which begs the question, why didn’t he ever talk to Princess Leia? Because this movie is supposedly set before ‘Return of the Jedi’. Maybe Wicket is a bit of a ‘scoundrel’. Which would actually explain why he gets on so well with Leia. Because there aren’t enough scoundrels in her life…) The Towani family appear to have made no effort to learn the Ewok dialect though.

Anyway, it’s all good. The ship is ready to depart and the family will soon be able to get back to their normal lives after their unscheduled sabbatical on Endor. And while they’ve obviously struck up a bit of a bond with the Ewoks, it’ll be nice to get back to life under the Evil Galactic Empire, which is presumably where they normally live.

But, lo and behold, some other people apparently live on Endor. They’re called the Sanyassan Marauders. And, like many a marauder, they aren’t the loveliest of people. Somehow, even though they’ve definitely been on Endor for several years (long enough to have built a castle no less) the Towani family have managed to avoid them to date. Yet, just hours away from leaving Endor forever, they’re unlucky enough to be caught up in a raid.

Which is really very unfortunate.

Particularly as the marauders kill both parents and older brother Mace.

Yes, that’s right, 75% of the family whose entire reunion was the premise for the last movie are brutally murdered at the beginning of this one.

It’s not generally what you expect of a sequel. Particularly of a movie aimed at kids.

Mace was essentially the main character in the first movie and he gets about two lines in this one before he is blown up. The mum literally gets no lines. She’s already dead by the time she appears on screen. We see her corpse being dragged into a hut by Mace, shortly before the hut is blown up.

Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson lasts a bit longer but he too meets his end pretty quickly.

Cindel and all of the Ewoks are captured by the marauders but she and Wicket manage to escape. And so the entire narrative rests on the shoulders of a six year old girl and a talking Ewok.

And if you pitched that to me as a movie I might like to watch, I would laugh in your face.

But I didn’t hate this.

Even though it is, objectively, awful.

But somehow Cindel manages to not annoy me at all. She’s actually quite likeable. The actress who played her went on to star in literally nothing else and I can’t help but feel that a genuine talent was overlooked here, because she’s absolutely not the worst thing about this movie. And neither is Wicket. Although it is unsettling that he can talk.

Anyway, Cindel and Wicket hook up with some bloke called Noa who has also apparently lived on Endor for ages. And he’s a bit mean but it turns out that he’s quite kind really and they all bond and Cindel manages to get over the horrifying violent deaths of her family quite quickly.

But then she gets kidnapped by the witch. Because there is a witch. In a Star Wars spin-off. Which is a bit weird. Also the witch looks nothing like any of the marauders so I’m not sure why she’s hanging out with them. But she is.

The leader of the marauders is called Terek and even though he looks exactly the same as all of the marauders, he’s apparently more powerful. Somehow. It’s never really explained why he is powerful. And even though the marauders all use weapons that seem quite technologically advanced, they are also a bit naïve about technology because it turns out that they killed the Towani family and also killed Noa’s friend many years earlier, because they believed they had access to an unknown power. But it turns out that what the marauders think is a source of unlimited power is essentially a car battery. Except it’s a battery for, y’know, a spaceship.

So it’s really all a lot of senseless death over a misunderstanding.

But it turns out the the car battery from the Towani spaceship is exactly the same as Noa would need for his spaceship, even though they are clearly different models of spaceship. So that’s quite fortunate.

Anyway there’s a bit of a fight and somehow, I’m not sure how, Terek turns to stone and the witch, who can turn into a bird, is now stuck being a bird.

And Noa and Cindel fly off in Noa’s spaceship, to return to life under the Evil Galactic Empire. And Cindel’s family are still dead.

Most of the marauders survive but apparently are all hiding during ‘Return of the Jedi’.

There were no further live-action Ewok adventures after this one and I personally feel that was a missed opportunity.

Best character – Cindel

cindel

She wasn’t especially annoying in the first Ewok movie, which is all you can expect of a child this young but she’s actually by far the best thing in this one. And there were some pretty accomplished actors playing some of the other parts. Although they do have to work with some dreadful dialogue, which in some ways may be easier for a small child to carry off. 

Worst character – Noa

noa

He’s not that bad, but honestly when the entire family are killed off at the beginning, including Mace, who was pretty much the hero of the last movie, I wasn’t expecting someone like this guy to step into the breach. It’s not like he’s a even a Jedi or anything…

Unsung hero – Teek

The_Teek

Another native of Endor that we never saw in ‘Return of the Jedi’. But that’s probably because he was so quick. Because he is really fast. Which, had I seen this is a child, I would have thought was really cool. His speed is definitely the only advantage the good guys have over the bad guys, but he often seems to be overlooked by the others. And he seems like a really nice guy too.

And that’s it for the standalone Ewok movies. But there are plenty more entries in the Star Wars Universe for me to write about. And write about them I will.