Strap in, kiddies (and adults who I am calling kiddies), we’re going to have a nice chat about the strangest corner of the Star Wars universe that is completely unknown to the majority of children who grew up on the prequels and their successors. I’m talking about two whole made-for-tv movies that centered on those lovable fluffballs the Ewoks, and their forest moon full of fairies and witches and castles and all sorts of other crap that the Empire and Rebel Alliance didn’t seem to notice when they landed.
George Lucas decided that he wanted to do an Ewok special because his daughter Amanda was super into them, but ABC would only take on the project if it was a movie. According to him, he wanted to “experiment a little” with the economics of television, and these two movies were made on a tiny budget. They also helped him figure out how to make another little fantasy film called Willow. You might remember it.
The first movie is called Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, and it’s called that because there’s a caravan and it’s full of brave small bears and a couple of kids. It’s all about this kid Cindel Towani and her older brother Mace—
—WAIT A MINUTE. YOU GAVE HIS NAME AWAY TO SAMUEL L. JACKSON?!
Anyway, these kids and their family crash-land on Endor. Wait, no—it’s the forest moon of Endor, that’s what Admiral Ackbar says in Return of the Jedi. But the next movie is called Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, and that’s clearly referencing the forest moon, so….
This already got way too complicated.
Okay, so Cindel and Mace and their useless parents crash on the moon and this weird beast called a Gorax kidnaps ol’ mom and dad. Nearby is the Ewok village, with our pal Wicket and his family. Wicket’s dad Deej (Ewok naming conventions are a mystery to us all) has two missing kids of his own, so he goes out searching and comes across the Towani kids and tries to help them. Mace waves a blaster around, so Deej and his crew knock the kid out and bring them both back to the village where they eat them.
Sorry, that doesn’t happen. Ewoks were all into eating people the last time we saw them, but maybe they have a rule about eating children? Who can say. Well, they can say, but they won’t because—as we know from Return of the Jedi—Ewoks don’t speak galactic Basic. Wait….
Now that you are appropriately unsettled, I should point out that Endor has lots of familiar animals on it, for some reason. Like buns and ferrets. There’s a raven in the next one, but that’s just a witch’s magical form, so it probably doesn’t count as an actual raven. Maybe they have ravens on Dathomir. It seems like the kind of Star Wars planet that would have ravens.
There’s a lot of boring stuff that occurs after they make it to Ewok Town: Cindel gets sick and Mace has to get extra medicine, and then he wants them to escape because he thinks that the Ewoks are just animals, and then the two get stuck inside a tree after they get attacked by a boar-wolf. That boar-wolf somehow has one of their family bracelets, which features a light indicator on it for each of their parents, signaling that they’re still alive. Deej and his progeny come to their aid and Mace has to admit that bear friends are pretty darn helpful in a pinch. The village shaman Ewok (this guy) figures out where the Towani mater and pater are, which freaks everyone out because the Gorax is bad news—Ewoks can kill stormtroopers and bring down AT-STs, but this is a really bad idea. Deej and fam still offer to help because they’re stand-up bears.
There’s a ceremony to see the party off, and they are each given special tokens that belonged to Ewok warriors of old. Deej gets the White Wings of Hope, Weechee gets the Red Wings of Courage, Wicket gets a magic walking stick, Widdle gets the Blue Wings of Strength, Cindel gets the Candle of Pure Light, and Mace gets… a rock. He deserves it really. At least Cindel is a nice kid who becomes buddies with Wicket. Mace is grouchy and disrespectful to bear friends (who sometimes eat people, but he doesn’t know that). Wicket, being way nicer to strangers than he needs to be, picks up the rock when Mace tosses it aside, for safe keeping.
The adventure is ridiculously long, and on the way they get into several jams. They persuade a woodcutting Ewok warrior from another tribe to go with them after an axe-throwing contest, they hang out with an Ewok priestess, Mace gets trapped under magic water, then they make friends with the Queen of the wisites (basically fire fairies), Izrina. Eventually they make it to the Gorax’s fortress. Yeah, he’s got a fortress. Apparently the Empire was not interested in using any infrastructure left over on the planet when they arrived. Which is too bad because housing a shield generator in a freaking fortress would have been rad. Mace’s rock turns out to contain a special instrument that allows them to find their way, which is wrong—it should have just been a rock.
Mace and cohort rescue his parents. (Cindel waits outside with Wicket and Widdle because they are the smol ones.) Apparently, Towani ma and pa haven’t been eaten because the Gorax keep some of their captured creatures as pets? In weird cages? Sure.
And then there’s a happy reunion, and everyone is just pleased as pisco sours that the Towani family is together, and now they can somehow repair their damaged ship in the middle of a forest without a garage nearby, and nothing can possibly go wrong.
Did I mention there’s a sequel?
The Battle for Endor had the same problem that the first Ewok movie had: how do you create a movie about a kid having adventures with her tiny woodland pals when adults are nearby, and she’s constantly bothered by a really annoying brother? So the sequel had a creative thought—
Apparently, George Lucas had just watched Heidi with his daughter and was really keen on having the next movie focus on Cindel. So the film starts with Cindel’s entire family—complete with recast parents—getting attacked by Sanyassan Marauders (these guys crash landed on Endor a century earlier and the Empire didn’t seem to notice them either), and every single one of them dies. Remember those bracelets that the Towani family has, with the light indicators for each family member? Cindel sees her mother’s light go out and realizes mom is dead. Then she finds Mace right before he gets blown up. Then her dad gets shot trying to defend her from the pirates, and they have a little goodbye before he tells her to run, warding off more of the Marauders as she makes her escape.
First off: Whoa, movie. Second: Yes, Cindel gets to do her own thing, whooooo Cindel! Nobody wears space workout gear like you, girl. And third: Who invented those sadistic bracelets, what the hell is wrong with people, who would ever want a bracelet that blinked out lights when your loved ones were dying and deaded, you monsters.
I should mention that the Marauders are being led by this woman:
Who is probably Maleficent’s godmother, or the sister who taught her everything she knows. That’s Charal, who was retconned into being a Nightsister. Which makes sense. Because she’s basically a witch, but Star Wars doesn’t have witches, it just has certain Force-users who look a loooooot like witches. Nightsister it is! She has a ring that lets her turn into a raven. She stole it because she is just that boss.
So Charal captures Cindel and the whole Ewok village, and they load all of them up into carts and drag them off. Cindel tells Wicket about her family being dead, and he assures her that the Ewoks are her family now. The two of them escape the cart and run away, getting trapped in a cave by rock fall. Wicket makes a glider, but then there’s a condor dragon and it tries to kidnap Cindel too, and Wicket has to use the glider to go after her, and then they’re sleeping rough in the woods. They run into a very irritating speedy gremlin called a Teek, and he leads them to a house that seems abandoned and messy. Cinder tells Wicket they should try to straighten the place up and live there, but it turns out to be occupied by a grumpy old man named Noa, who wants nothing to do with their problems. (Yes, he is also just THERE, everyone sets up shop on Endor’s moon because why not, they are the California redwoods, after all.) He tries to kick them out, but they come back with wildflowers, and he’s clearly starting to soften on them.
Charal is working for his guy named Terak who wanted the power source of the Towani ship for some ritual. He’s worried that the power supply isn’t the right one, but Charal thinks it would be fine if Cindel hadn’t escaped. So Terak suddenly cares a lot about finding the kid. He screams about it a bunch. Uh-oh.
Cindel and Wicket follow Noa one day to find out where he goes off to and find a crashed ship. They set off a trap, and Noa comes to get them. It turns out, Noa and his friend Salak crashed in this ship on their first mission together. Their crystal oscillator shattered, so Salak set out to find another one (because that sounds like a common part you find lying around) and never came back. Cindel sings a song for Noa that her mother used to sing because they are bonding now. The next day, she is lured out of the house by a lady in white who is singing her mother’s song. That woman turns out to be Charal in disguise and she kidnaps the kid. Noa, Wicket, and Teek head after them. Charal takes Cindel to Terak’s castle, where he tells the little girl to make the power converter work with magic or he’ll hurt all the Ewoks.
Yeah, the Empire doesn’t care about putting shield generators in castles either, apparently.
Charal interrogates Cindel—eventually revealing to the girl that Salak came to ask Terak about a power source and was killed for it. Noa and friends come rescue everyone from the castle, and Cindel is able to tell him what happened to his pal. They take the power source and leave. We do get to see Salak in the castle before they head out, and he’s not looking so great:
Terak is so angry, he takes Charal’s ring from her once she’s in raven form, so she can’t change back. His Marauders head to the Ewok village and there’s a big old fight. Noa gets his ship running with the power converter and tries to fight Terak, badly. Wicket ends up using his slingshot to hit Terak in his fancy amulet, reducing the guy to dust. (It’s just that easy! Hey, someone should try that on Vader’s chest plate too!) The bad guy is defeated and the Ewoks are free. After it’s all settled, Cindel and Noa take off in his repaired ship. Where are they going? Who knows!
I should also mention that both of these films are supposed to take place one year before Return of the Jedi. Originally it was set something like 150 years in the future, but they decided that it didn’t make sense for Wicket to still be a kid, so it was changed to just a few years after the Battle of Yavin. So all this stuff happened right before the Empire showed up. Which means that Wicket could talk to Leia the entire time and just chose not to because he’s a little sh*t.
I’m just kidding, attempting to graft a timeline onto these stories is totally meaningless.
And now you know that they exist! Or have been reminded of them! And while they are ridiculous in the extreme… I loved them as a kid. Especially the second one. You know, since there was an amazing space witch and Mace wasn’t around to ruin it.
Yeesh. Sorry, Mace. That got dark.
This article was originally published in May 2017.