|Distinctions||Primitive, curious, friendly, courageous, intelligent|
Ewoks are a fictional species of small, mammaloid bipeds that appear in the Star Wars universe. They are hunter-gatherers resembling teddy bears that inhabit the forest moon of Endor and live in various arboreal huts and other simple dwellings. They first appeared in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi and have since appeared in two made-for-television films, The Ewok Adventure (1984) and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985), as well as a short-lived animated series and several books and games.
Concept and creation
George Lucas created the Ewoks because he wanted Return of the Jedi to feature a tribe of primitive creatures that bring down the technological Empire. He had originally intended the scenes to be set on the Wookiee home planet, but as the film series evolved, the Wookiees became technologically skilled. Lucas designed a new species instead, and as Wookiees were tall, he made Ewoks short. He also based the Ewoks' defeat of the Galactic Empire on the actions of the Viet Cong guerrillas who fought against American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The Ewoks are named after the Miwok, a Native American tribe, indigenous to the Redwood forest in which the Endor scenes were filmed for Return of the Jedi, near the San Rafael location of Lucas' Skywalker Ranch.
Using the image of the Griffon Bruxellois, a dog breed which Lucas owned, the Ewok was developed by renowned make-up artist Stuart Freeborn. As presented in the films, Ewoks appear as stocky, sapient bipeds which stand about one metre tall. They have flat faces, are completely covered in fur, and have large jewel-like eyes. Both their fur and their eyes come in a variety of earth tones, primarily brown, white, grey, gold, and black. Despite their small size, Ewoks are strong; in the climactic battle scene of Return of the Jedi, they are shown physically overpowering and once even throwing Imperial Stormtroopers, though this detail is not consistent throughout the film. Ewoks live high among the trees of their home moon's forests, in villages built on platforms between the closely spaced trees.
An "Ewokese" language was created for the films by Return of the Jedi's sound designer Ben Burtt. On the commentary track for the DVD of Return of the Jedi, Burtt explains that the language is based on Kalmyk, a Mongolic language spoken by the Kalmyk people of Russia. Burtt heard the language in a documentary and liked its sound, which seems very alien to Western ears. After some research, he identified an 80-year-old Kalmyk refugee. Burtt recorded her telling folk stories in her native language, and then used the recordings as a basis for sounds that became the Ewok language and were performed by voice actors who imitated the old woman's voice in different styles. For the scene in which C-3PO speaks Ewokese, actor Anthony Daniels worked with Burtt and invented words, based on the Kalmyk recordings.
Return of the Jedi
The Ewoks are involved in a large portion of the final installment in Lucasfilm's Star Wars trilogy. When the Empire begins operations on the moon of Endor, prior to the events depicted in the film, it ignores the primitive Ewoks. Princess Leia, part of a Rebel strike team, then befriends the Ewok Wicket W. Warrick, a scout from Bright Tree Village, and is taken to meet the other Ewoks. The Ewoks capture Han Solo, Chewbacca, Luke and the droids in a trap, and take them back to the village. As Ewoks are a carnivorous race that considers humanoid flesh a delicacy, they prepare fires in anticipation of eating Han, Luke and Chewbacca to absorb their power.
The Ewoks worship the protocol droid C-3PO, thinking he is a god due to his golden, metallic body and later display of power arranged by Luke Skywalker through the Force. C-3PO tells the Council of Elders the adventures of the rebel heroes Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. The Ewoks accept the Rebels into their tribe and ally themselves to their cause. They then help in the ground battle to destroy the Imperial shield generator on the forest floor, and their primitive weapons fell the Imperial Stormtroopers and the AT-ST walkers of the Empire. This assistance paves the way to victory at the Battle of Endor. Later that night, the Ewoks are shown holding a huge celebration.
Ewoks speak their native language of Ewokese, a fictional language created for the film. This language is understood by C-3PO, but not the humans in the film.
The word Ewok is not mentioned anywhere in the film, nor are any individuals referred to by name, except in the end titles, where names of the more prominent characters (Wicket, Paploo, Teebo, Logray and Chirpa) are shown, while the others are just listed as Ewoks.
Post-Return of the Jedi
After the release of Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks starred in two made-for-TV movies, both of which starred Warwick Davis reprising his role as Wicket from Return of the Jedi. The first film, The Ewok Adventure, was released in November 1984, followed by Ewoks: The Battle for Endor the next year. The Ewoks also starred in cartoon series on ABC known simply as Ewoks.
The Ewoks were a controversial addition to Return of the Jedi and the Star Wars universe in general, and are seen by some to be the weakest link of the original trilogy. According to Tami Katzoff of MTV News, "a prevailing theory among Ewok-haters is that the creatures were originally conceived as a sure way to appeal to small children and sell plush toys to their parents." Others enjoy the Ewoks, and they have proven to be very popular with children from their introduction in the 1980s to the present day.
Wicket is the most prominently featured Ewok in Return of The Jedi. During his travels, he encounters Princess Leia in the forest. He helps her to the relative safety of his village, and notices her kindness and good spirit. Wicket has good knowledge of the terrain of Endor, leading him to be essential during the Rebellion's attack on the Imperial forces. Wicket was portrayed by actor Warwick Davis.
Teebo is described by the Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary as being 'A watcher of the stars and a poet at heart.' His ability to make a sound practical judgement has caused him to have a position as a leader within the tribe. He wears a Gurreck skull headdress. Teebo was portrayed by Jack Purvis.
Chief Chirpa has been the leader of the Ewok tribe for a total of 42 seasons. He has a large amount of wisdom and good judgement, but he has become forgetful due to his old age. He allows the Ewok tribe the authority to fight against the Empire. Chief Chirpa has a medallion signifying he is the chief of the Ewoks. Chirpa was played by Jane Busby.
Logray is the Ewok tribal shaman, who relies on ancient magic in order to assist his tribe. He is suspicious of all outsiders, which is reinforced due to the arrival of Imperial troops. Logray was portrayed by Mike Edmonds who also was "tail-puppeteer" for Jabba the Hutt.
Paploo is Chief Chirpa's nephew and a scout who, along with Wicket, helps lead the Rebels to the shield generator protecting the Death Star. Although his effort to lure four Imperial scouts away from the bunker could have compromised the attack, it was relatively successful as he stole a speeder bike and forced three of the scouts to give chase, allowing the rebels to overpower the last guard and gain entrance. Paploo is seen later helping the Ewoks fight the Empire.
Nippet is a baby Ewok who gets her name in the vintage era. Nippet is the daughter of Lumat.
Lumat is the chief woodcutter of the tribe, and is the father of Nippet.
- George Lucas, commentary track on the Return of the Jedi DVD.
- George Lucas, "making of" documentary on the Return of the Jedi 2004 DVD release.
- Eric P. Nash (26 January 1997). "The Names Came From Earth". The New York Times.
- "Star Wars Make-Up Artist Stuart Freeborn Dies". Sky News. Retrieved February 8, 2013
- "Makeup master Stuart Freeborn of 'Star Wars' dead at age 98". CNN. Retrieved February 8, 2013
- Ben Burtt, DVD commentary on The Return of the Jedi.
- Bright Tree Village in the StarWars.com Databank
- ""Return of the Jedi (1983) Trivia"". Retrieved 2012-03-05.
- Alter, Ethan. "'Star Wars': How the Ewoks Came to TV 31 Years Ago". Yahoo. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
- Alter, Ethan. "'Star Wars': How 'Ewoks' and 'Droids' Arrived on Saturday Morning TV". Yahoo. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
- TAMI KATZOFF (May 23, 2013). "FANS STILL LOVE TO HATE EWOKS 30 YEARS LATER". www.mtv.com. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- "Cute but deadly: why Ewoks deserve your respect". www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- Reynolds, David. Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary. pp. 256, 257.
- "Meet the Ewoks from Endor | StarWars.com". StarWars.com. 2014-10-30. Retrieved 2018-04-13.