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Clive A. Smith
Long John Baldry,
This series recounts the adventures of Ewoks years before the Battle of Endor. Here Wicket W. Warrick is a young Ewok struggling to achieve maturity in his community. This leads to a series of adventures with his friends, Princess Kneessa heir to the chieftain, Latara the aspiring musician and Teebo the animal empath. Together, they help the adults protect the village from their enemies like Morag the Tulga Witch and their rival species, the Duloks. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
I loved the ewoks between the ages of 11 and 13. That's an embarrassing admission since my age rendered me a little too old to be part of the target Ewoks audience. Nevertheless, I lapped-up every ewok book, comic, toy, and movie. I especially loved the first season of the cartoon series. The DVD release of the Ewoks series reminds me that while I'm not entirely proud of my fondness for ewoks, a little perspective adds a lot of clarity.
I wasn't blind to the fact that the ewoks were kinda stupid in RotJ, and they were even lamer in the ewok TV movies. But as a child who'd grown up on a steady diet of Star Wars I remained unwilling to let go of my Star Wars youth. I was determined to like the ewoks, lest my life be deprived of new Star Wars.
Quite frankly, when stacked against the scant few "Expanded Universe" properties available at that time, the early ewoks projects didn't seem so bad. Granted, most of the ewoks books were too immature for my pre-adolescent tastes (it seemed like nine out of 10 ewoks story lines involved picking berries). But some ewok projects were fun.
For example, Joe Johnston wrote and illustrated a rather enjoyable ewok storybook titled "The Adventures of Teebo" that formed the basis of the Ewoks cartoon. Among other things the book introduced the Duloks (who were originally much nastier than the bumbling Duloks in the TV series).
Overall the Ewoks and the Droids cartoons were fairly well-crafted compared to other Saturday Morning cartoons of the period. The shows featured visual designs that were original at the time. Both shows presented continuing story lines, which were uncommon among mid-80s Saturday Morning shows.
The Ewoks episodes referenced just about every previously developed incarnation of the ewoks and pulled everything together into one plot. Characters from RotJ, the ewok TV movies, the Kenner toys, the coloring books (!) and the storybooks blended together nicely thanks to the show's writers.
The debut Ewoks episode introduced Morag, the primary villain. The segments which featured the Tulga Witch are compiled on the DVD as "The Haunted Village." The collected story represents the best of the Ewoks cartoons. The common story thread has Morag exploring various methods of ewok extermination and Logray thwarting her wicked plots.
A particularly thoughtful aspect of the first Ewoks series was the fact that the debut episode was set in the late Summer (coinciding with its September airdate). The cartoon seasons changed in harmony with North American seasonal changes that were occurring as the episodes aired.
The weaknesses of the show are all rooted in its kid-friendly nature, as well as Ewoks' reliance on vapid Saturday Morning cartoon formulas. For instance, the Duloks are the "silly villains," and not surprisingly they're as unfunny as every 80s "silly villain." The "Wicket saves the day" spiel is exhausted by the second episode. Wicket's brother is a drooling, obese, mentally-challenged disaster of a character embodying the most cringe-worthy elements of broad, uninspired children's comedy. The use of ewok words from Return of the Jedi starts out clever, but quickly becomes irritating as hell.
The most successful single Ewoks episode ("Asha") is thankfully included on the new DVD. "Asha" is the very best episode among all of the Droids and the Ewoks shows. "Asha" demonstrates that the writers could have easily adapted these Star Wars properties into something interesting given the chance.
Alas, the shows were not given the chance to grow after "Asha" aired. Droids was cancelled after its first season, and Ewoks was only renewed when it agreed to a full lobotomy. Even then, very few major ABC markets carried the second season of Ewoks.
Before the lobotomy, I begged my way to see the cartoon Ewoks perform at the Ice Capades. I was 13 ... and I was desperate to see something --- ANYTHING --- related to Star Wars. The Ewoks' Ice Capades performance was very sobering. The skating ewoks sang rap songs, duloks told even cornier jokes than seen on the TV show, and many berries were picked.
I was horrified that my childhood passion had led me to pay to see ... tacky space bears rapping on ice skates! I bid Star Wars a bitter farewell after the Ice Capades. I packed away the toys and books and decided to pursue new interests like goofy 80s pop music and boys. The Ice Capades inspired such acute self-loathing that I didn't look back again at Star Wars until the Zahn novels and really, only Clone Wars has come close to capturing the childhood magic of the original films.
I've since viewed the second series Ewoks episodes on video, and they're utter crap. All cool visual elements were eradicated. The likable secondary characters were turned into bad comic relief. The stories were wholly mindless. The show's second season is a collection of the worst formulas Saturday Morning shows had to offer at the time.
The latest DVD release truly presents the best of Ewoks. If you don't like what you see on the DVD -- know that the show didn't get any better.
As with all Lucas products, the cartoons on the DVD have been 'updated.' The wacky Taj Mahal opening song is now gone, as are many of the ambient flute sounds/music cues heard throughout the series (which were kinda annoying in the original show as a result of overuse). The changes were largely unnecessary, but they do no harm.
It's too bad that I didn't have a show like Clone Wars to embrace when I was 13. No all I had was Ewoks. It was OK for the time, but it surely didn't break any ground. A brave few of us who'd grown-up on Star Wars tried our best to continue loving Lucas' (d)evolving creations, and now we must live with that shame.
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