30 years ago tonight, November 25, 1984, Lucasfilm unleashed its first made-for-t.v. movie, “The Ewok Adventure” on ABC. (When it was released internationally in theaters, it was re-christened “Caravan Of Courage: An Ewok Adventure.”) The movie featured up front and center its furry little stars of ROTJ, the Ewoks. Warwick Davis reprised his role as Wicket as he meets a couple of kids whose parents were abducted by a big monster called the Gorax after the family ends up marooned on the moon of Endor. It’s up to Wicket and his pals to help out young Mace–must be a popular name in the GFFA–and cute little Cindel find their parents before it’s too late.
It’s hilarious to think that the first true Star Wars “spin off” movie was about kid-friendly Ewoks. Bwahahaha! The film was directed by longtime Lucas buddy John Korty and written by Bob Carrau–a first timer I believe–with Lucas’s help. Plus it was narrated by the late folk singer/Christmas special narrator Burl Ives. Given the film’s focus on the popular Ewoks, its pedigree, and the fact it was free NEW Star Wars on t.v., it was heavily-promoted and given a prime movie-of-the-week slot on Sunday night. I was 15 at the time and of course I watched. As an unabashed fan of the fur balls and of all things Star Wars, how could I miss it? I was really looking forward to it ever since the film was announced on “Entertainment Tonight” some months earlier. You see, after ROTJ came out, Star Wars had been starting to fade from the public consciousness and any sign that it was still alive was good enough for me.
I liked the movie well enough even though it had nothing to do with the battle between the Empire and the Rebels (it was unclear at the time it aired when it took place in relation to the films, especially since Wicket is able to speak with the kids but wasn’t able to talk to Leia in ROTJ), it was clearly skewed toward young children, and the production values were obviously not quite as high as the films that inspired it. The big spider thing looked a little fake and I do find it funny Mace and Cindel’s mom Catarine blurts out, “Oh my God!” at one point. God is canon in the GFFA, folks. But it had plenty of Ewok hijinks, whimsy, and family friendly adventure. In fact, the Tinkerbell-like “wistie” Izrina first indicated a Lucas fascination with fairies, something that continues with the brownies in “Willow” and the animated movie “Strange Magic” coming out in January. The movie came out in a time when high fantasy was in vogue at the movies; this is the era that produced stuff like “The Dark Crystal,” “Labyrinth,” “Ladyhawke,” “Legend,” etc. and it definitely reflects those kinds of movies. Plus in those days, it was any port in a storm when it came to Star Wars. By today’s standards its flaws are more apparent, especially in the visual effects and in how it really did look like they shot the whole thing behind Skywalker Ranch. But most made-for-t.v. movies from that era probably wouldn’t hold up all of that well today either. For that matter, most of what Lifetime makes today doesn’t hold up!
The movie did very well in the ratings, enough to justify a sequel in 1985. Stay tuned in 365 days for a look back at the most depressing family movie ever!