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10 fun things from the Ewok movies that should be Star Wars canon again
In the mid-1980s, after Return of the Jedi but before the heyday of the Expanded Universe, George Lucas and his collaborators at Lucasfilm began imagining new ways to grow Star Wars. Given the market dynamics and kid-friendly nature of their movie finale, they decided that the rambunctious space teddy bears known as Ewoks were a good vehicle for a standalone sub-franchise.
The result was two live-action TV films starring the furry residents of the forest moon of Endor, both of which heavily relied on fantasy elements and neither of which ever actually ventured out into the stars. Between Caravan of Courage in 1984 and The Battle for Endor in 1985, Lucasfilm greatly expanded the mythology surrounding the moon that had basically just been a sidequest location in Jedi, and while the films might not hold up as well as the Star Wars trilogy, they're still full of interesting ideas.
Unfortunately, like most of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, these Ewok Adventures were swept out of the franchise's canon — along with virtually anything that wasn't the live-action theatrical films or The Clone Wars — in 2014, as Disney made way for its own new integrated system of Star Wars lore. You can still go watch the films anytime you want (though not yet on Blu-ray, sadly), but they don't count in the way that The Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens, or Star Wars Rebels count.
Because Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker seems primed to revisit the events of Return of the Jedi, and specifically the wreckage of the Death Star II, I got to thinking about the greater mythos surrounding Endor that was set up by the Ewok films, and the things about those movies that I still think make pretty cool additions to Star Wars as a broad galaxy of tropes and creatures and themes. As we approach the end of the Skywalker Saga, here are 10 things about the Ewok movies that should make a comeback in Star Wars canon.
01. The Gorax
The big villain in Caravan of Courage is, quite literally, a Big Bad, taking the form of a giant hairy monster known as the Gorax. The Gorax is a Star Wars version of your classic fairy tale giant. He’s massive, he’s mean, and he kidnaps humans (and, presumably, Ewoks) to take them back to his mountain lair and have them for dinner. The whole point of the titular caravan is an attempt to rescue some people he’s managed to kidnap, and when the Ewoks finally have to fight him at the end of the film it’s a legitimately harrowing experience, in part because he seems almost unkillable at certain points. Thankfully, the Forces of Destiny animated shorts have recently featured the Gorax, which means he’s technically canon again already, but I’d still like to see him return to live-action. Imagine Chewbacca having to take down a thing that’s basically him but 20 times taller and 20 times meaner.
02. Giant spiders
Because Caravan of Courage functions as basically The Fellowship of the Ring for Ewoks, there are a number of mini bosses our heroes must face on their way to kill the Gorax, and if you watched these movies as a kid you’ve never forgotten at least one of them. Having infiltrated the mountain home of the Gorax, our heroes come to a chasm bridged only by a gigantic, net-like spider web. They start to climb across, only to have gigantic spiders with massive fangs and massive eyes descend on them. Yes, in retrospect these spiders sometimes look like some of the cheaper creatures ever filmed for a Star Wars movie, but watching as a kid, they were terrifying, and they could be terrifying and fun again in the right hands.
03. Ewoks on horseback
Star Wars is full of creatures which sorta, kinda remind us of things from our own world, but are just a little off. For example: Luke Skywalker doesn’t ride a horse, he rides a Tauntaun, and we understand what the Tauntaun’s function is on Hoth. That’s not always the case in the Ewok movies, though, as those films repeatedly show the Ewoks using plain ol’ horses as both pack animals and personal mounts, adding yet another layer of fantasy questing to the stories. Seeing the Ewoks mounted on ponies and trotting across the wider landscapes of the forest moon (more on that in a minute) is a genuinely fun thing, and adds a greater sense of depth to their little civilization. Also, keeping them around means we could get a callback to the unforgettable Cindel Towani line “That’s not a starcruiser, that’s a horse!”
04. The wider landscape of Endor
Endor is repeatedly referred to in Star Wars canon as a “forest moon,” and we have no reason to doubt that description based on what we see in Return of the Jedi. It’s forests as far as the eye can see, nothing but ferns and moss and giant, redwood-like trees. But Endor is a pretty big place, and its first live-action appearance only showed us a small sliver of it. Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor both greatly expand the moon’s landscape, revealing everything from grasslands to mountains and even a little bit of desert. Star Wars sometimes catches flack for constantly showing us planets that seem to have only one climate, so the diversity of landscapes on Endor was a truly wonderful thing to see, and it could also create opportunities for characters to go back there and do more than just kick it in treehouses. Perhaps there’s even some Death Star wreckage scattered among the mountains.
05. The narrator
Though the The Battle for Endor would find a narrative workaround for it, Caravan of Courage is forced to contend with a key storytelling problem that had not yet been solved: Ewoks don’t speak Basic (the Star Wars term for English), so how do you explain what’s going on in a scene that’s just Ewoks talking to each other? You could go the route of the Star Wars Holiday Special and just... not explain anything, but we all know how George Lucas came to feel about that little detour. So instead, Caravan of Courage employs the services of a narrator to guide viewers through the Ewok scenes, which means we get to spend much of the film listening to the smooth tones of the great Burl Ives. By Battle for Endor, Wicket had learned to speak to Cindel, so no narrator was required, but that’s kind of a shame. It was fun listening to Ives narrate Ewok life like he was making a nature documentary. In fact, Disney+ should be packed with Star Wars nature mockumentaries. The mating habits of Rancors! The migrations of Mynocks! All described by a wise celebrity’s soothing voice. Make it happen, Disney.
The Ewok Adventure movies are children’s adventures in a way that the original Star Wars trilogy, with its broader all-ages appeal, is not. So, by the time The Battle for Endor rolled around, the filmmakers knew it was important to introduce even more fuzzy friends for kids to giggle it. Enter Teek, a white-furred, buck-toothed forest creature who hangs out with the hermit Noa (Wilford Brimley) and happens to have super-speed and an infectious little giggle. Remember when Qui-Gon Jinn told Anakin he’d have to have Jedi reflexes to race pods, implying the other alien races just have those reflexes naturally? Well, bring Teek back and put the little scamp in a podrace! He’s earned it.
07. Castles on Endor
If, broadly speaking, Caravan of Courage is a classic quest narrative, then The Battle for Endor is the classic great war against an evil king and his witch sidekick. The second Ewok film sees the titular creatures fighting the Marauders, a group of alien beings with a limited grasp of technology but an unquenchable thirst for power. The Marauders don’t seem to be from Endor originally, but they’ve made a nice home for themselves, as the film shows us they’ve managed to set up shop in a massive castle. This fortress is an intriguing blend of classic fantasy stronghold and dirty space scrap heap, similar in some ways to Maz Kanata’s castle in The Force Awakens. How did it get there? Did the Marauders build it or was it pre-existing? Is the Star Wars universe just scattered with castles where you least expect them? We’re not sure, but we want more.
Speaking of evil witch sidekicks, The Battle for Endor is the film that gave us Charal, a frankly fabulous sorceress who could change her shape with the help of a magic ring that was controlled by her master, the Marauder known as Terak. Charal spends much of the film in a quandary as Terak asks her to do things she simply can’t do, and it ultimately costs her as her magic ring is destroyed while it’s around Terak’s neck, leaving her in bird form forever. Charal’s story is particularly interesting because, as Pablo Hidalgo once explained, she very nearly almost made it back to canon already as a character on The Clone Wars. We say it’s time she got another chance. Maybe a Nightsister can stumble upon her in bird form and change her back to the armor-clad woman we knew and loved.
09. Ewok magic
Return of the Jedi makes it clear that the Ewoks at least believe in the supernatural, as they’re willing to cast C-3PO as a god, but the Ewok films have to look beyond this little bit of comedy and give the characters a real culture. We don’t learn anything about the Ewok religion, exactly, but we do get to see that our furry friends actually have a rather vibrant, somewhat Shamanistic culture with a good bit of magic of their own. This mostly comes through the character of Logray, who manages to show the humans Mace and Cindel what’s happening to their parents by conjuring up an image on a little spinning viewscreen, but Caravan of Courage also shows us how much the Ewoks embrace magic artifacts like crystals and magic arrowheads that can seek out hidden entrances. It’s all in service to the fantasy quest narrative of the first film, but it’s the kind of thing that makes the wider Star Wars universe more interesting.
10. Ewoks learning Basic
Though Caravan of Courage relied heavily on a narrator to explain Ewok conversations to viewers, The Battle for Endor opted to streamline things a bit, and that’s when Wicket the Ewok learned to speak Basic. He’s not great it, but he does understand pretty much everything the humans around him say, and he can speak rudimentary sentences. Many viewers might find Wicket shrieking human words at the top of his lungs to be annoying, but can you imagine how wild it would be for him to show up in The Rise of Skywalker and just start saying words like “starcruiser” and “friend” to Rey and Poe and Finn? Can you imagine how Chewbacca would react to the little dudes he fought with 30 years ago speaking Basic to him? Yes I’m being facetious, but only a little bit. I’d genuinely like to see this play out on the big screen if someone from Lucasfilm just had the courage to make it happen.