For those old enough to remember, today marks the 30th anniversary of the first televised Ewok movie — yes, the first — there were two – called The Ewok Adventure (or Caravan of Courage). Airing in the US on the evening of November 25, 1984 (and subsequently screened theatrically in select theaters abroad at Christmas), it was followed in 1985 by Battle for Endor, which continued the adventures of Cindel Towani, the young girl marooned on Endor in the first Ewok Adventure (the original title before Caravan of Courage was added).
Admittedly, the Ewok Adventure movies aren’t remembered for much these days, apart from a couple mentionable footnotes — Caravan of Courage introduced the saga’s first Mace, Mace Towani, older brother to Cindel — and Battle for Endor starred Wilford Brimley, the only bespectacled Star Wars character filmed in live action to date. (Okay, Saul Dann from the Star Wars Holiday Special donned specs in a couple shots, which I seemed to block from memory — can you blame me?) Since there was little merchandising associated with the Ewok movies, and the DVD release of the movies several years back was accompanied by muted fanfare, these movies are easily overshadowed by the rest of the Star Wars experience.
Not to worry — there are still a few bits of trivia to chew on from the first Ewok Adventure, which we recently dug out of the old Lucasfilm production and marketing files. Here are nine:
1. One of the early working titles for The Ewok Adventure was “The Ewok Holiday Special” — no big surprise this was changed after fan and critical response to 1978’s Star Wars Holiday Special was less than, uh, cheerful.
2. The Ewok Adventure was shot entirely in Marin County, home of Skywalker Ranch. Much of the action was shot five miles from Skywalker in a public parkland called Roy’s Redwoods — a space which contains 300-year-old sequoias, the oldest in the area.
3. Four-year-old Aubree Miller, who played Cindel Towani, was a local actress from nearby Sebastopol, California. The Ewok Adventure was her first movie role.
4. If the narrator of The Ewok Adventure sounds familiar, you probably remember him from another holiday special, albeit one much more famous – 1964’s Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, narrated by Burl Ives (who played Sam the Snowman in the special).
5. Eyelids for sleeping Ewoks had to be created by ILM for The Ewok Adventure, since the original masks used in Return of the Jedi did not have any. A recent Blu-ray release for Return of the Jedi would digitally add them, however, allowing the dry-eyed heroes to blink for the first time.
6. The Ewok actors all wore baby-blue pajamas under their costumes.
7. The crashed Towani starcruiser incorporated wings from one of the full-sized snowspeeders used in The Empire Strikes Back.
8. The various food items seen throughout the show were gathered from Marin vegetable markets and San Francisco’s Chinatown — “cactus, odd little squashes, tomatillos, nuts, gnarled roots, leafy greens and every imaginable type of dried fish and fungus,” according to the special’s production notes.
9. Joe Johnston, who famously was the chief concept designer on the original Star Wars trilogy, was also production designer on The Ewok Adventure. He not only created the overall look of the Ewoks with George Lucas, he also penned a children’s book on the woodland furballs: The Adventures of Teebo.
Pete Vilmur is currently a writer for Lucasfilm Publicity and worked previously for Lucas Digital Media, where he created content for Lucasfilm’s websites, blogs, and social networks. Pete co-authored two books with Steve Sansweet — The Star Wars Poster Book and The Star Wars Vault — and a third with Ryder Windham, The Complete Vader.