Cartoon Spinoffs: Ewoks

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After tackling one half of the Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour, with the pleasantly not-that-bad Droids, I figured I should sit through the other show. It’s telling that, as Star Wars crazed as I was back then, the young me was not a fan of the Ewoks cartoon. Dear reader, it has not gotten better with time. While Droids was a legitimate extension of the Star Wars world, albeit with that market stall aesthetic, Ewoks feels completely unrelated; a generic and incomprehensible kids show about magical teddies. Maybe it’s because I’m a man in his late 30s watching an old cartoon meant for children, but I found it hard to follow, with its enormous cast, each name stupider than the last. Funnily, that’s the one kinship with the source material. There’s a brilliantly in-depth series of books by J. W. Rinzler about the making of the original trilogy, which follow the various evolutions of the screenplay, from draft to draft. Here’s how George Lucas’ original treatment began:

“…the story of Mace Windu, a revered Jedi-bendu of Ophuchi who was related to Usby C.J. Thape, a padawaan leader to the famed Jedi.”

Oh, that Usby C. J. Thape, the Jedi padawaan. I thought you meant Usby C. J. Thape of Thapes the Fishmongers, next to the pound shop; Colin Thape’s son who burnt his dick on a toaster. All of the cute little bears and associated aliens in Ewoks have similarly gibberish names, like a rack of letters you’d exchange during a shit round of Scrabble. Look at some of these genuine episode synopsis.

After rescuing Mring-Mring’s brother Oobel, Wicket and his friends journey with them to save the Gupins’ homeland from the Grass Trekkers.”

The Gorph Queen Slugga kidnaps Latara masquerading as a princess for her son to marry. Wicket and his friends rescue Latara and trap the Gorphs.

Kneesa takes in a Quarf (actually a monster) called Silky sent by Jadru to hold her ransom for the Sunstar. Wicket and Baga come to the rescue and turn the tides on Jadru.

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Clippy the Paperclip just popped up to ask if I was having a stroke. Thanks to the names, coupled with a simplistic design and limited colour palette, as well as being bored by Ewoks, I felt confused and old. One of the main reasons it doesn’t feel like Star Wars is that the Ewoks speak English. Droids gave us the actual Anthony Daniels, and R2D2’s regular beeps n’ boops, but if R2 had been voiced by some wise-talking child actor, all “Threepio, you golden ninny!” I daresay it would take you out of the moment. Ironically, like the urban legend about Charlie Chaplin coming third in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest, Warwick Davis tried out for the lead voice role of Wicket, a character he played in ROTJ and both the live-action Ewok spin-off movies, but lost out to another actor. Incredibly, the same thing happened to Ernie Hudson, who auditioned to reprise Winston Zeddemore in The Real Ghostbusters, even being told in the booth to do it “like Ernie Hudson in the movie,” while the role went to Arsenio Hall.

Ewoks centres around the adventures of Wicket “World Wide Web” W. Warrick and his tribe of family and friends. The show nails down a family tree for the creatures, Holiday Special-like in its idiocy — the show that gave us Chewie’s family, Itchy and Lumpy. Wicket has one sister, Winda, and two brothers, Weechee, and another who’s a real two-fer in childish toilet humor, alternating between the names Willy and Widdle. Who are Chief Chirpa’s kids; Poo and Wee? The Ewok voices are the same ‘voice actors pretending to be children’ deal familiar from every other cartoon featuring anthropomorphised animals or vehicles or kitchen implements, and like any alien tribe who lives in an outdoorsy environs, there’s an overpowering vibe of faux Native American mysticism.

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After my Droids experience, with C-3PO re-enacting Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em in every scene, I’m filled with dread as barely 15 seconds into episode one, The Cry of the Trees, Wicket slips over and tumbles down a big hill. Everyone’s excited about the upcoming Festival of Hoods, which sounds like another alt-right march, though Endor’s in the middle of a dry spell, leaving Wicket in trouble for playing with “fire folk,” aka little fairies called Whispies, in case he sets the forest alight. The theme here is that Wicket’s always in trouble, particularly with his aunt Bozzie, forever shaking her fist as he accidentally tips a tub of water on her head, or chases some weird purple bull thing, which butts her into a fish stall, covering her with smelly dead fish.

Paploo, another character from ROTJ, suggests Wicket unwind with “a nice, relaxing game of Drop the Sack!” The suggestive phrasing is not helped by the conspiratorial way he looks around to check the coast’s clear before saying it into his cupped hand, nor the fact Paploo, with his moustache and grizzled gold prospector voice all adult Ewoks have, is a grown up, suggesting this to Ewok children. Given his lowly status, he seems the equivalent of the college dropout hanging round highschools in a leather jacket, looking all cool and worldly. Forbidden by the elders, Drop the Sack, as we discover, involves one Ewok running through the forest while the others drop sacks of mud (or possibly faeces) on them from the treetops. Of course, who gets dumped with a load of the wet brown stuff? Only bloody Aunt Bozzie! Wic-kettt! [shakes fist]

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Meanwhile, fearful of forest fires amid the heatwave, Logray’s been “brewing a magic foam,” which sounds like another euphemism. “What are you doing in the bathroom with those Carol Kirkwood pictures?! You’d better not be brewing any magic foam!” Beyond the Ewok village, some weird monsters that look like Beast Man riding giant spiders help Morag the Witch capture the queen of the Whispies, Izrina, to enact Morag’s terrible vengeance on “those cursed Ewoks!” With the fairy queen manacled up like the Spanish Inquisition, Morag enchants her to set the Ewok forest alight. However, Wicket redeems himself, saving the day by playing Drop the Sack, only this time dropping sacks of magic foam onto the burning trees from an Ewok glider. Strangely, the glider gives me the first real kick of Star Wars nostalgia, from the memory of wistfully gazing at the toy version in the Argos catalogue.

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Episode two, The Haunted Village, concerns the Ewoks’ eternal feud with a race called the Duloks, who resemble Cyril Sneer from The Racoons cosplaying as the Grinch. Naked (but genital-free), and with the bumbling nature of your classic cartoon foe, the Duloks are so filthy and stinkin’, they’re covered in flies, which becomes an actual plot point. But first, Morag sends a giant bird called the Mantigrue to destroy all the Ewok sunberry trees. Chief Chirpa tells a story about the last time Morag took their trees, and how the Ewoks soon became ill without their precious sunberries. Wait, so do the Ewoks have some congenital medical disorder that can only be kept in check with the sunberries, akin to insulin for a diabetic? Or do they become ill without their berries in the same way one might go all sweaty and achy when they can’t cobble together the money for a wrap of heroin because their Patreon’s not been doing so great lately? Either way, the Mantigrue’s coming back tomorrow, and they must figure out how to defeat it.

Luckily, the chief has a secret plan, revealing… a bar of soap. Made from the Shadowplant, anything it washes becomes temporarily invisible. I’m not saying Ewoks strays from the original source material of the movies, but the plan is to wash magic trees with invisible soap to hide them from a big bird. What a sentence! While Wicket’s stuck babysitting the younger ‘woklings’, they’re seen by the smelly old Duloks, spying a (normal) bar of soap as the Ewoks bathe in the river, and deciding to steal it. Ewok soap, it’s said, is the best for keeping flies off. Hoo boy, I wonder if there will be some kind of exciting soap mixup?! But really, two episodes in, someone pitched the storyline involving a misunderstanding between two important but different bars of soap?

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While the Ewoks are busy making trees invisible, the Duloks, honking of BO, with nuggets of poo matted into their green fur, sneak into the village, looking for the regular soap. Of course, they find the wrong one, and after disappearing themselves with it, create an evil plan to go to the Ewok village and scare them. The invisible Duloks spank the Ewoks with brooms and chuck plates about like poltergeists, before announcing in spooky voices “we are the tree spirits!” and banishing them from the forest. Mercifully, the Ewoks figure it out immediately, switching the Dulok soap with a third soap, which attracts flies, and leaving the dirty bastards to get swarmed. Finally, Wicket redeems himself again, having previously dropped the last bar of invisibility soap into a puddle, by scooping the puddle into a sack, and dousing the final trees in it, so the Mantigrue can’t wreck any berries. Though the sack didn’t turn invisible? Sadly, we got this over my better idea of the idiot Dulok shaman stealing what he thinks is invisible soap, and cut to him immediately being arrested in a women’s locker room.

Skipping forwards into Ewoks‘ second and final season, there’s a noticeable dip in quality, with a more simplistic look, severely reduced frame-rate of animation, and the bears themselves redesigned to be even cutesier. The voice for Wicket has been recast, and it’s still not Warwick Davis, but the guy who does Murray the talking skull in the Monkey Island games. Home is Where the Shrieks Are is one half of an episode split into two stories, where Wicket tires of his mum’s nagging about chores and declares he’s moving out, stuffing his possessions into a bindle and shaking up in a dilapidated treehouse with his mate, Teebo. Thinking they’ll be self-sufficient big boys, all that keeps them staying through the leaky roof and starvation is Wicket’s fear of ridicule at going back so soon. But even worse, the treehouse is haunted!

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The eponymous Shriekers, seen only as three eyes peering from the darkness, keep the lads awake, even ruining a card game between Teebo and his mates; a trio of big squirrel things who talk like gruff truckers from the Bronx. In the morning, they venture into the tree trunk to hunt them out, jumping at booming warnings to turn back. However, it’s the old Wizard of Oz ruse, and the Shriekers are but one weird little furry pink creature with three eyes and a Groucho mask nose/tash, who farts when they jump on him, called Larry. Larry?! Your classic Star Wars name. He’s even got the sad-sack voice of a Larry, like a Rodney Dangerfield type complaining about his old broad, who gets constipated and takes it out on him. Larry he says he’s been living alone in the tree since he ran away from home as a kid, and when he returned, everyone had left. This makes the lads run back to the village, just in time for the Harvest Festival, where everyone’s pleased to see them, and their new friend Larry, who psychotically scoffs down food like only someone who’s been living off bark and ant-piss for forty years could.

Until now, there’s been no clue where Ewoks stands chronologically in the SW timeline. The mystery’s finally solved in season 2, episode 12’s Battle For the Sunstar, introducing actual Star Wars accoutrements to the show. We open in space, as a Star Destroyer zooms overhead, and cut to Doctor Raygar, bragging how he’ll soon take Endor’s powerful Sunstar. This is the Empire’s first contact with Endor, placing Ewoks as a prequel to the original trilogy. I guess they forgot how to speak English and reverted back to animalistic behaviour after washing with magic reverse-evolution soap or something?

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Though the sight of an admiral flanked by proper Stormtroopers inflames glorious nostalgia, the ludicrously outfitted, ridiculous looking Raygar is so out of place, it’s like when you pulled other random 80s toylines into your play, teaming the Thundercats with He-Man, or as someone tweeted at me after my Noel Edmonds posts, using the Ghostbusters firehouse playset, a tub of slime, and a Ted DiBiase WWF figure to recreate Noel’s House Party. Raygar’s mission, to liberate a magic stone from a planet guarded by “furry warriors” is sneered at by the sceptical admiral, but has been approved by the Emperor. We get a trademark SW wipe back to Endor, where it’s right back to Ewoks bullshit, halfway up a mountain, carrying the “jing-jang berries up to the gooba-bird’s nest or else the baby goobas will starve!” The cross-eyed gooba birds knock the Ewoks out of their nest, where they fall 1000ft into a bush and are perfectly fine, like in the shit Hobbit movies.

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On the way back to the village, they’re kidnapped by Dr. Raygar’s giant robots, as he shoots lasers from a giant flying cereal bowl. Tossed in a cell, they land on each other with a fart, farting again as they bounce off the force field door. Whoever was in charge of the fart button this week went buck wild, with each of the many pratfalls punctuated with a toot. Anyway, soon the Ewoks are rescued by Raygar’s droid, a cute little robot called PD-23. Uncomfortably shortened, post-Yewtree, to ‘Paedy’, PD-23 looks like he’s been recycled from R2D2’s component parts; same colour scheme, same little noises, though he can speak too. There’s also a cameo by the mouse droid from the Death Star, though in the babyfied Ewoks world, it’s got a pair of eyes and a tail that wags when it gets excited.

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They find an escape pod, accidentally launching it by sitting on the controls, and it careens around Endor, while everyone inside falls around farting. Raygar launches an assault on the Ewok village, in a battle scene that harks back to ROTJ, except instead of that horrid scene where the Ewok weeps over the corpse of his dead friend, they all just land safely onto bags of flour, farting as they fall. Raygar steals the Sunstar we keep hearing about, and makes his escape, but it’s got the purple and yellow colour scheme of UKIP, so he can chuck it in the trash compactor for all I care.

Though it is interesting how the Ewoks have no concept of spaceships, and like the myth of indigenous peoples who simply couldn’t see the first approaching ships, they refer to Raygar’s hi-tech vehicles as “canoes,” as is their only frame of reference. Chief Chirpa even confuses the escape pod for a living creature. The Ewoks and PD-23 jack a canoe and chase Raygar to the Star Destroyer, disguising themselves as droids by putting buckets on their heads, and overhear Raygar outlining his evil plan to himself, where rather than hand the Sunstar to the Emperor, he’ll destroy him with it, before taking his throne. Then there’s a half second shot of a conveyor belt. Could it be…?

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After more bumblin’ and fartin’, the Ewoks defeat Raygar, who accidentally shoots at the Emperor’s shuttle, and is arrested for treason. He’s last seen begging for mercy, with the Emperor wanting to punish him “personally.” Back at Ewok village they’re Yub Nubbing at the return of the Sunstar, and invite PD to stay, but he goes off in search of his kindly original master, from whom he was stolen by the Empire. After that, I guess the Empire figure Endor, with its population of cretinous farting teddies, is a good place to set up base. But what I’d most like to see is the mysterious traumatic event that turned the Ewoks from clumsy mischief-makers, spinning round in hammocks and playing Drop the Sack, to the fucking savages who tried to BBQ Han Solo alive. What a glow up.

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~ by Stuart on March 16, 2019.

One Response to “Cartoon Spinoffs: Ewoks”

  1. […] [previous entries in this series — Droids — Ewoks] […]

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