There are an endless number of ways to celebrate Star Wars Day. This year, I’m taking a look back at my introduction to a galaxy far, far away. It didn’t come from the original trilogy, but rather repeat airings of two made-for-TV movies that were in heavy rotation on The Disney Channel in the first half of the 90’s. I hadn’t seen Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure or Ewoks: The Battle for Endor since then, and the revised Disney cannon sort of eradicated them from existence when they limited the impact of expanded universe content that predate the acquisition.
While The Mandalorian is branded as the first live action Star Wars television series, the two Ewoks films from 1984 and 1985 stand apart for expanding the Ewok world with two feature-length films. Produced by Lucasfilm, Ltd. and based on stories by George Lucas, these films include the work of many of the talented artists that brought the original trilogy to life and were the last projects from Industrial Light and Magic to blend traditional stop motion animation with live action characters. Not for nothing, George Lucas also serves as Executive Producer on both films and was reported to have even directed a few scenes. The majority of the film was shot in the redwoods of Marin, with some scenes being filmed on Skywalker Ranch.
The reason I chose to revisit these films is that i recently learned that they are now available for digital purchase exclusively from Amazon. This peculiar era in Star Wars history can be yours for the low-low price of $7.99 per film and they apparently debuted on the service before the Fox acquisition was finalized, sometime between January and March. This brings up a great question: Who owns the Ewoks films?
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, they didn’t just get Star Wars, but also many of the Lucasfilm projects that were independently produced. Granted, a significant number of Lucasfilm productions were co-produced with other companies, Labyrinth for example. But films like Willow are now Disney owned, and they even released it on Blu-Ray several months back. So it would stand to reason that Disney owns all of the rights to the Ewoks films.
However, this Amazon release negates that in several ways. For starters, the “Studio” information on Amazon says “Korty Films/Lucasfilm” for the first film, but just “Lucasfilm” for the second. Even more puzzling, the first film has a Fox intro before the film, whereas the second only has a Lucasfilm logo. If Disney owned these films, the Fox logo would’ve been stripped from this release since the titles debuted on Amazon before the acquisition was finalized. But even more bizarre than anything is the fact that both films open with a bumper advertising something called “Artvid.tv.” Navigating to that website brings you to a DIY video service from Lowe’s, the hardware store. Confused? Me too.
Regardless of who owns these films, revisiting them as an adult filled me with a lot of nostalgia. They are pure 1980’s cheese, with poor pacing, terrible dialogues, and bad acting. While there is an abundance of Ewoks, the films feel quite removed from the Star Wars saga, in large part due to the lack of travel between planets. The films also contradict Return of the Jedi as they take place before the events of that film. Wicket is the star Ewok (played by Warwick Davis) and manages to learn fluent Basic in the second film. It’s a shame he forgot it by the time he met Princess Leia a short time later, or he could’ve helped the Rebels much faster and also translated that C-3PO is not a god.
While the Ewok characters were initially met with resistance from adults, I feel like they’ve guaranteed future generations of Star Wars fans for decades to come. While these films are obscure in modern times, you’d be hard pressed to find a child who doesn’t know what an Ewok is and the level of merchandising still readily available for these characters is proof that they have endured and become a cherished part of the saga. So grab your spears, tunics, and Ewok ears. It’s time to celebrate!
Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.