Think the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi are cute?
I don’t. They were going to burn Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca alive and eat them. That scene is seared into my memory. All the subsequent scenes of them falling over and hitting themselves in the head with slingshots I saw through that prism. Yeah, you may be acting all adorable now, but you were going to set fire to Luke Skywalker, strip the flesh from his charred bones and eat him.
If our furry friends are indeed rather partial to a bit of human for their supper, there’s no hint of it on show in Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. Here, the moon of Endor becomes the ENCHANTED moon of Endor and the cute factor is turned up to 11.
Caravan of Courage is a TV movie that premiered November 25, 1984, pulling in a wopping 65 million audience. It was also released theatrically in Europe. The story comes courtesy of George Lucas himself and was directed by John Korty, best known at the time as an animation director with Twice Upon a Time (1983) his best known work.
The plot sees the Ewoks embarking on a magical quest to reunite a family of shipwrecked humans. The parents have been kidnapped by a giant beast known as the Gorax, leaving their kids to do all the rescuing along with their new friends.
The kids in question are Mace (Towani, not Windu), who looks like a badly drawn Luke Skywalker, and his four-year-old sister Cindel. Mace is a hot headed teen who’s always whining and Cindel seems to be on a mission to out-cute the Ewoks. But whatever their shortcomings, at least there’s a bit of life in them, which is more than can be said of their parents. Watching this, I was convinced that the actors playing Jeremitt (dad) and Catarine (mom) had been sedated prior to the shoot. They seem to deliver all their lines as if they’d only just woken up, or if the film was being played at half speed. Weird.
So, the story is very kiddie-orientated, with magic walking sticks, magic stones and magic fairies. On their quest, our caravan of courage encounters a cursed pond, a giant spider (complete with visible strings) and the mighty Gorax itself. Which conveniently brings us onto the special effects.
As a TV movie made for a thrifty $3, these are not cinema-standard FX. Most of the Ewok village scenes take place at ground level and the creatures our heroes encounter are mostly of the stop-motion variety, save for the Gorax who’s an actor in costume. There are a few scenes in which we see the life-sized cast in the same shot as the Gorax and they look fantastic. Seriously, the FX guys (yes, it was ILM) did a great job there. Also, his lair looks equally impressive. But best of all is the matte painting work. I seem to remember reading that Caravan of Courage featured more matte paintings than any other TV movie yet made. Some of them are genuinely amazing and really help to expand the forest moon of Endor, giving the film a much bigger feel.
And now, a note about the music score (see what I did there); all the way through this film I kept thinking, “This really does sound familiar.” Later, the penny dropped. The music sounds suspiciously like the original Star Trek theme! Again, weird.
Overall, Caravan of Courage will keep the kiddies entertained far more than it will their parents, being as it is rather twee and bit plodding. But it does have its moments and it is quite pretty to look at. It spawned a sequel, Ewoks: the Battle for Endor (1985), which was a lot more action orientated and hence far more enjoyable. Expect a review of this once I’ve managed to persuade my girlfriend to watch it with me.
One last thing. In this film we actually get to hear an Ewok swear, not once but twice. So if you’ve ever wondered what the Ewokese is for **** is, it’s “feech”.