26 September 2019

Star Cruiser Crash Crash

This year has seen the opening of Galaxy’s Edge in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World and the end of the year will see the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga. For all the Star Wars comics, books, movies, toys, and experiences in the world, there are a few items from the vault far, far away that aren’t discussed very often. I have many guilty pleasures, more than I would like to admit, but among these weaknesses is a made for television Star Wars production. No, I’m not talking about the Star Wars Holiday Special or even Droids, I’m speaking specifically about Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor was a made for television movie was released in 1985 and was actually a sequel to the 1984 television movie, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. Both had been brought to the screen with George Lucas’ vision as a part of The ABC Sunday Night Movie. Keep in mind this is long before Disney controlled ABC and certainly further back than when Star Wars would come under their banner. The film centers around a little girl named Cindel Towani, portrayed by Aubree Miller, and her Ewok companion, Wicket, depicted by Return of the Jedi alum Warrick Davis. Rounding out the main cast we have King Terak, played by Carel Struycken, leader of the villainous Marauders, and his sorceress counterpart, Charal, portrayed by the recent transplant from Dune, Siân Phillips. Last, but certainly not least, is the crusty curmudgeon, Noa Briqualon, who could be played by no one other than Wilford Brimley.

The story follows Cindel and her best friend, Wicket, who escape from a Marauder attack, only to meet a small, furry speedster named Teek. Teek takes the pair to meet the reclusive Noa, who wants nothing to do with their troubles. Slowly, and not surprisingly, he takes a shine to Cindel and agrees to help them. Meanwhile, Terak and Charal are trying to figure out how to harness the power of the fuel cell his Marauders took from the Towani family starspeeder, after they had wiped out the rest of the family. It is their belief that Cindel knows how to unlock the magic of the cell and they are trying to find her. Cindel is kidnapped, a massive battle ensues, evil is defeated, and Noa is able to power cell to restore his own ship and leave Endor, with Cindel deciding to go with him. It’s rather simplistic, but it’s also a fun and bizarre expansion of the Endor story.

While not coming up to the level of The Empire Strikes Back, there are a ton of interesting details from this production. The sorceress Charal is the first representation of the Sith-aligned Nightsisters, and while not identical in depiction to the Nightsisters we would see later in books or the Clone Wars animated series, it is fascinating to see the roots of this mythology going back so far. The Marauders use a pack animal known as blurrgs, which have their roots in Phil Tippett’s designs for tauntauns in The Empire Strikes Back, and can be seen in Clone Wars, Rebels, and coming back to the screen again in The Mandalorian. Perhaps most intriguing to me, however, is the fact that Brimley didn’t get along with the directors, Jim and Ken Wheat, any scene that featured him was actually directed by the film’s production designer, and renowned director in his own right, Joe Johnston.

It’s almost hard to remember at this point how much Endor became a center of the Star Wars universe after Return of the Jedi concluded the original trilogy of the Star Wars saga. In less than a decade it would have two television movies, the animated Ewoks series, and was the destination never to be reached as a part of the original Star Tours. Heck, one of the only Halloween costumes I remember from my childhood was my vinyl with a plastic mask Wicket. Is it any wonder that so many of us, while being able to admit that Return of the Jedi isn’t the gold standard of Star Wars films, hold the forest moon so fondly in our hearts? My guilty pleasure may be out of the bag, but you can bet your sweet starspeeder I won’t be giving up my Ewoks: The Battle for Endor anytime soon!

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