Welcome to Super Saturday, an ongoing weekly column that will pay tribute to the animated classics of yesterday, and will be offered on Saturday mornings, a period that many of us remember being the only time animated kids’ programming was offered. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave any feedback or personal remembrances in the comments!
With ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ capping the “Skywalker Saga” which began in 1977, on top of Christmas arriving next week, I figured it was the perfect time to look back at the first ‘Star Wars’ animated series, ‘Droids’ and ‘Ewoks’. Produced by Nelvana, the same company that created the Boba Fett animated short from ‘The Star Wars Holiday Special’, ‘Droids’ and ‘Ewoks’ premiered on ABC television on September 7, 1985. The shows were paired under the banner ‘The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour’. Even in subsequent airings on other networks, the two shows are generally aired together.
Ironically, while many fans have a particular loathing of the Ewoks nowadays, back in the ’80s they were massively popular, and that was reflected in the success rate of the cartoons. ‘Ewoks’ lasted for two seasons while ‘Droids’ only lasted for one. Marvel Comics, who had previously published the ongoing ‘Star Wars’ comic book, released series based on ‘Droids’ and ‘Ewoks’ under its Star Comics banner, which was aimed at younger children. Once again, ‘Ewoks’ was more popular and lasted for two years and 14 issues. ‘Droids’ ended after just eight. And although neither toy line was a great seller, the ‘Ewoks’ line reportedly sold better than ‘Droids’.
Unfortunately, “success” is relative, and neither show was a huge hit.
Both ‘Droids’ and ‘Ewoks’ were prequels, set before the introduction of these characters in the films. ‘Droids’ is believed to be set four years after ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and fifteen years before ‘A New Hope’. ‘Ewoks’ was set before ‘Return of the Jedi’ as well as the two made-for-TV ‘Ewoks’ movies, which were themselves set before ‘Jedi’.
‘Droids’ was divided into three story arcs, each made up of four or five episodes– ‘The Battle Against Sise Fromm’, ‘The Pirates and the Prince’, and ‘Uncharted Space’. C-3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 would change “owners” with each arc. Other ‘Star Wars’ characters like Boba Fett and IG-88 popped up. ‘Droids’ only lasted for one 13-episode season, but received a one-hour wrap-up special, ‘The Great Heep’ which aired in prime time in the summer of 1986.
The series featured a boppy theme song by Stewart Copeland of The Police, entitled “Trouble Again.” You can check that out below:
On the cartoon, the Ewoks spoke English, although their dialogue was peppered with “Ewokese.” The focus of the series was Wicket W. Warrick. The main villain was Morag the Tulgah Witch, who had a mysterious past connection to Logray, the Ewok’s medicine man. They were also plagued by the Dulocks, another race of furry creatures from Endor.
It seems as though ‘Ewoks’ was aimed at young girls, although the second season was simplified for a preschool audience. It bore a resemblance to other cartoons of the period like ‘The Get-Along-Gang’ and ‘Monchichi’… even ‘The Smurfs’, to some extent.
‘Ewoks’ was given a second season, although the new episodes were broken up into two 15-minute stories. ‘Ewoks’ was co-developed by Paul Dini, who would later go on to create ‘Batman: The Animated Series’. In total, there were 35 episodes of ‘Ewoks’, the majority of which were written by Dini.
Even though ‘Droids’ didn’t get a second season, the first was rerun alongside new episodes of ‘Ewoks’ in 1986-87.
While they went New Wave for the ‘Droids’ theme song, the ‘Ewoks’ theme has kind of a country sound to it. You can check that out below:
Unfortunately, ‘Droids’ and ‘Ewoks’ arrived after ‘Jedi’ at a time when ‘Star Wars’ had faded from popularity. Kenner concocted toy lines for both shows, although several planned items went unproduced. Strangely, the first ‘Ewoks’ action figures weren’t Ewoks at all, but Dulocks– King Gorneesh, Lady Urgah, Dulok Scout, and Dulok Shaman. Action figures of Wicket and Logray were released later. Figures that were planned but unproduced were Chirpa, Paploo, and Weechee Warrick, Bondo (leader of the Jindas), Chituhr (Jinda animal trainer), and Morag.
‘Ewoks’ had an odd and small character selection, but since this show was seemingly aimed at girls or younger kids, the action figures weren’t as big an attraction as plush toys. As stated, the ‘Ewoks’ toys outsold those for ‘Droids’, but it’s likely that was due to larger (and more expensive) plush toys, not the action figures.
Besides Wicket, the other lead character on ‘Ewoks’ was Princess Kneesaa. While she was made into a plush toy (maybe multiple) and was featured on other licensed items, there were no plans to make an action figure of her. Ironically, she actually did get an action figure, albeit in a more “realistic” style, in 2012, as part of an Ewok multipack that was exclusively sold at Toys R Us. This may have been the only character created for these two cartoons that got an official figure in the main movie line, but I’m not certain about that.
‘Droids’ obviously included redecorated versions of R2-D2 (with pop-up lightsabre) and C-3PO (with removable limbs). Notably, C-3PO was not rendered in the shiny vac-metal gold of the movie figures, but in matte colors that mimicked the cartoon.
The line also included Thall Joben, Jord Dusat, and Kea Moll, the three human allies the Droids met in the first storyline of the show.
Kea Moll and Lady Urgah were the first female figures in the entire ‘Star Wars’ line that weren’t Princess Leia. Fans hate the Kea Moll figure though because it’s ugly as hell, while the TV character was pretty hot for a cartoon.
Also from the first story arc, villains Sise Fromm and his son Tig were included. From the second story arc, Kenner released figures of Jann Tosh, Uncle Gundy, and Kez-Iban.
The line also included Boba Fett, which, as far as I can tell, is the same exact figure that was previously released, and the A-Wing Pilot, a leftover from the movie line. Most of the characters came with accessories recycled from previous ‘Star Wars’ action figures.
The A-Wing Pilot and his ship were intended for the ‘Jedi’ line but didn’t make it into production in time, so instead, they were released as part of the ‘Droids’ assortment. In addition to the A-Wing ship, the ‘Droids’ line included two new vehicles, The ATL Interceptor and Side Gunner.
The company Glasslite produced the toys in Brazil, and they issued one figure never released in the US (or anywhere else for that matter), Sise Fromm’s henchman, Vlix. This is the rarest ‘Star Wars’ action figure ever and is valued at $6,000 mint on card!
In addition to Vlix, Kenner planned to release action figures of the ‘Droids’ characters Mon Julpa, Governor Koong, Kleb Zellock, Gaff, Mungo Baobab, Jessica Meade, and Admiral Screed, plus the White Witch vehicle. There were also plans to re-release some older ‘Star Wars’ vehicles in new packaging. Had Jessica Meade gotten made, she would have been the third human female character, and fourth female character overall, to get a toy in the line, and the first woman of color.
Because ‘Star Wars’ popularity had waned, and the cartoons weren’t massive hits, the toys overall sold poorly, making them all very rare today, so they are all among the higher-priced vintage ‘Star Wars’ toys on the secondary market.
The ‘Ewoks’ and ‘Droids’ cartoons were not vaulted like ‘The Star Wars Holiday Special’. They aired in repeats into the ’90s, including a run on the Sci-Fi Channel’s Cartoon Quest.
Episodes of both shows were released on VHS, but not all, and neither series has ever been officially released on DVD. They aren’t on Disney+ either, but Disney+ does allow subscribers to suggest programs, so we may eventually get to see them streaming at some point, if enough people request them.
‘Ewoks’ and ‘Droids’ weren’t bad cartoons, but they arrived at a bad time, when there just wasn’t much interest in ‘Star Wars’ in general. ‘Droids’ in particular is pretty sophisticated in that it was serialized, with multi-episode story arcs. That really wasn’t a thing back in the ’80s, especially not on Saturday mornings. And the few shows that did have ongoing storylines, were nowhere near as sophisticated as what we see nowadays, including on shows like ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and ‘Star Wars: Rebels’.
Do you remember watching these shows? If so, what did you think?