Thursday, January 5, 2012

Star Wars Ewoks (1985 - 1886) (TV Show Review)


      Continuing Star Wars month on my site, we’ll be picking up where my last post left off and looking at the second animated Star Wars series titled “Star Wars Ewoks”. This show also premiered in 1985, but it lasted till 1986, it had two full seasons, and a total of 35 episodes, so this show got to stick around longer than its predecessor. Now do to its lack of popular characters, obvious look and tone that’s geared more to little children and coming off the heels of “Star Wars Droids”, you’d probably think this show is inferior or one of the worst things to come from the Star Wars universe, right? Well, surprise, this show isn’t just better then “Star Wars Droids”, it’s actually a pretty good cartoon on its own. Obviously of all the Star Wars spin off’s, this show has the least to do with Star Wars. It honestly feels like its own stand alone series, it has to be viewed on its own because if you compare it to anything else in the Star Wars universe, you’ll probably hate this. It’s no masterpiece or anything really timeless, but in regards to what kind of shows are good for kids to watch, this Ewok show is perfectly harmless.   



     The series takes place before the events of “Star Wars 6: Return of the Jedi”, and supposedly it takes place before the events of the two live action Ewok movies from the 80’s because many of the Ewok characters that died in those films are featured in this show, also the Ewoks have had no contact with humans yet. On that note, if you’ve seen either of the live action Ewok movies, you may recognize some of the creatures, magical talismans and characters featured in those films. Also this show sticks closer to a fantasy setting, with creatures that seem more fitting for a fairy tale rather than an alien word. There’s also a lot more magic in this world, including mystical items, prophecies, and there’s even a wizard character named Master Logray, who's kind of like the Ewok version of Gandalf the Grey from “Lord of the Rings”. I love the animation in this show, it’s colorful and detailed which only livens up its magical setting. Everything still takes place on the forest moon of Endor, the only difference is that this series takes full advantage of its setting by showing us far more then what the movies delivered. Every episode is a new adventure for four young Ewok hero’s who are the focus of the show. That’s basically the premise of the series in a nutshell, the four young Ewoks will be having a regular day at home, than another adventure will start up before they know it, usually with some kind of moral or life lesson involved. Other times, they need to protect the forest from danger and subtly tie in a “Protect the Environment” message. Think of “Gummy Bears” meets “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest”, that’s more of less what you get with this show.   



     The Ewok characters are your classic childish arc types, but very likable in their own simplistic way. There the kind of characters that most kids love to fantasize themselves as, which is adventurous, brave, innocent and going on a new adventure every day. Our lead hero is none other than Wicket, who was featured as the main Ewok in both live action movies, and of course in “Return of the Jedi”. He’s a high spirited youth who wants nothing more than to be a great warrior like his older family members. As you’d expect, his love for adventure usually gets him and his friends into trouble, but he’s still an innocent, and knows how to make amends for his actions. It’s interesting to note that this show addresses his full name, Wicket W. Warrick. I’d like to think that his last name Warrick is a tribute to Warwick Davis, the actor who played Wicket in “Return of the Jedi”. At his side is Wicket’s best friend named Teebo, he’s the voice of reason that balances out Wickets recklessness, but he somehow gets himself into just as much trouble. As the series progresses, he becomes an apprentice to the wizard Logray, making him the only one of the four young Ewok cubs that knows magic. 


   
       Of course we need to have a village princess, and in this show it’s Princess Kneesaa who has an albino fur coat, and is always dressed in bright pink. As you’d expect, she’s the heart and soul of the group, always conveying words of wisdom to her friends, and is always there for moral support. I have to say, I really like that she and Wicket are best friends, but they have no romantic interest in one another. That’s so rare to just have a boy and girl be friends, while most other shows feel the need to force their characters into complicated relationships. Throughout the first season she was voiced by Cree Summer, who had previously supplied the voice of Princess Gerin in “Star Wars Droids”, and would later be the voice of Jedi master Luminara on “Star Wars Clone Wars”. She certainly has a voice that’s just fitting for a dignified princess, in fact she was also the voice of Princess Kida from Disney’s “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”. Our fourth and final Ewok cub is another girl named Latara, who’s the polar opposite of the Princess. She’s more of a stick in the mud, mostly thinks of herself and her own greedy interests. But, like all the other characters, she still has her shining moments which prove that she has a good heart, despite her short comings.



      The villains in the show changed frequently, more often than not the adversary is an evil witch or a phantasm with a color scheme of purple and black. The most frequent reoccurring villains in the show were a rival tribe called the Duloks, who kind of look like the Grinch if he was a cannibal. Needless to say, their pretty stupid villains, their voices are annoying, their antics are silly, heck they actually make those stupid battle droids from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” look threatening by comparison, which I don’t say lightly.  



     It’s probably best to look at each season on its own and highlight some of the episodes, as well as changes between the two seasons. Unlike “Star Wars Droids”, this show really didn’t have any story arch’s, it was mostly just self contained episodes. However, there were a series of episodes that revolved around an evil Tulgah Witch named Morag, who’s an old rival of the wizard Logray. She’s actually a pretty cool villain, with a sinister voice and awesome shape-shifting powers. Morag became the main villain of season 1, however, at the end of the season, she challenges Logray to a wizard dual, which was actually really cool. In the end, Logray is victories and Morag is killed, yes, a villain actually dies in a children’s program, that doesn’t happen to often. All her episodes were edited together to make an animated movie titled “Ewoks: The Haunted Village”, which was definitely season one’s biggest highlight. The worst thing about this season by far was the opening theme song, my gosh, it was terrible. The lyrics were bad, the melody was annoying, and it’s one of those openings that would more likely turn people away from the show rather then entice them to sit down and watch an episode.        


                                   
     Season 2 made some huge changes with the show, some changes were for the better, while others weren’t as good. The first positive change to note is that the new opening theme song was a huge improvement, it’s not one of the best intro theme songs or anything that special, but at least the melody was charming, I like how the characters were introduced, and the clip montage definitely got me excited for the episode to come. I especially like the new design changes that the characters went through, for example, back in season one, Wicket wore an orange hood like the one he had in the live action movies, but now his hood is a bright green color. Other characters like Teebo and Latara went through some major design changes, originally Teebo had a brown fur coat, and Latara’s coat was dark grey, but for this season both their fur coats have a white creamy look. Another big change is that most episodes went from a run time of twenty minutes to ten minutes in length, which meant featuring two back to back episodes in the half hour time slot. The biggest change was the new voice cast, seriously hardly any of the same voice actors reprised their roles from the previous season. Some of the new voice actors were really good replacements, while others were inferior by comparison. One voice change I didn’t like at all was with Princess Kneesaa, back in season one Cree Summer supplied her with a voice that was sweet but it also made her sound smarter than her age would suggest. In this season, she has a much softer, Mini-Mouse like voice which wasn’t terrible, but definitely a step back from before.     



    I must confess, some of the ideas in this show were rather creative, and dare I say a little exciting. For example, in the episode titled “A Gift for Shodu”, Wicket needs to get a special birthday present for her mother, which sounds like a simple, boring premise at first, but then things suddenly get interesting. Wicket and friends soon find themselves exploring a temple right out of an Indiana Jones adventure, complete with booby traps and a treasure chamber guarded by a dragon. At first they seem successful in getting some treasure for Wicket’s mother, but the diamonds are later revealed to be dragon eggs, which also get the attention of the enemy tribe, the Duloks. That’s just one example of how this show could take a basic concept, and turn it into something fun. Another really great episode is the season 1 finally titled “Asha”. In this episode we learn that Princess Kneesaa actually has quite a tragic back story, her mother was murdered by a savage forest creature, and her sister was lost in the woods for years, that’s not the kind of content you usually get in a children’s program. The princess soon learns that her sister is still alive in the woods, so she and her best friend Wicket set out on a journey to find her. It all leads to a surprisingly touching ending, in fact, it might just be the most heartwarming episode of the whole series.    




       My favorite episode is titled “Battle for the Sunstar”, which set the stage for the events to come in “Return of the Jedi”. In other words, the Empire make their first and only appearance in the series. In this exciting episode, an evil doctor seeks to steal the Ewoks magical sun stone in order to defeat the Emperor and rule the Empire. Now Wicket and his friends join forces with a little robot to reclaim their stolen talisman, and along the way they learn a valuable lesson in helping others. That’s all good, but it’s really my favorite episode because it’s the closest the show ever gets to feeling like classic Star Wars. Seeing storm troopers, Ti-Fighters and star destroyers in the Ewoks series is thrilling, and it’s also a real treat to have an episode set in outer space, and on a space ship. One minor complaint is that the Emperor is mentioned throughout the episode, there’s even a moment when an officer says he arrived on a shuttle, but we never actually see him. Wouldn’t that have been awesome if the Emperor made an appearance in this show, oh well, this is still a great episode, with a subtle message and lots of battles with the Empire.       


     Now for every good episode in this series, there was also a really boring one, or one that might have been a little too silly for its own good. However, when this show was bad, it’s was bad in a rather harmless and forgettable way. When the show was good, it was actually quiet good. It’s very important to remember who the target audience is for this show, and to only judge it on those terms. Obviously “Star Wars Ewoks” is geared directly to children more than anything else in the Star Wars saga, and many long time fans can get really picky about that. For example, when Disney bought out Star Wars, there was an outcry from fans who thought that the series was going to be far more child friendly then it already was. Well, in my defense for “Star Wars Ewoks”, this show really isn’t targeted to fans to the series, this is a TV show aimed for kids that just happens to take place in the Star Wars universe. But then again, I think most people would know what to expect from a show like this. It’s not on the same level of the original Star Wars trilogy or the new Clone Wars series, but being targeted to young viewers doesn’t make a show bad either. On the level of children’s programming, this is a perfectly good show, in fact I really wish kids had more shows like this today.    



    Overall, the show was nothing out of the box, but considering how bad children’s TV shows have gotten, this is the kind of series I’d prefer my kids to be watching. It’s not brain food for the mind or anything, but at the very least it can still spark the imagination in children, which is always great. It’s not one of my absolute favorite animated shows, nor is it one of the best things to come from the Star Wars expanded universe, but I do still like it. It’s cute, the characters are very likable, and it’s honestly fun to go on adventures with them. I suppose I do still have a warm little nostalgic spot for this show, but I don’t know how to recommend it. You really just need to be either young at heart or a long time Star Wars fan to appreciate this. Personally, even if I wasn’t a Star Wars fan, I’d still enjoy this on some level. Just know what you’re getting yourself into because this show can come off as really irritating, silly and annoying for some viewers, but for all the reasons stated above, I think it's good.  


                                          I give the TV show “Star Wars Ewoks” 3 stars out of 5.

    So those were the two 1980’s Star Wars cartoons, they were simple, enjoyable and harmless, however, things are going to improve immensely when I review the next stage of animated Star Wars TV shows.  


2 comments:

  1. I actually LOVED Ewoks - because I used to watch it as a kid. I wonder if they ever got proper DVD releases!

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  2. I thought Droids was great! I really liked the intro too. It was Star wars but not as serious. I thought it was great to get a continuing Star wars show when we only had one movie every so many years before that. I was 12 at the time and I'm enjoying rewatching them a lot. The cartoon was actually fairly rich for the time.

    You must have watched this later when animation had gotten more sophisticated. The Ewoks was very much more for younger kids I thought, but Droids felt like it actually came out the Star Wars universe in a lot of ways.

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