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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ewoks - By Request

I just wanted to begin this blog entry off by saying thank you to everyone who offered up suggestions for All-Request Wednesday this week. The range of topics that I have gotten from readers like you have been remarkable, and I thank you for giving me so many choices.

In fact, the choices that you gave me for this week were so unique, creative, and fun that I had a heck of a time trying to choose the one that I was going to talk about this week. All of them were so good, I just couldn't pick one on my gut.

So, what I did was take all of the entries, put them in the baseball cap that I wear outside in the Garden Centre area, and choose one at random. And, today's winner is...

...Bailey C. of Ontario, Canada!

Remember, if you want to suggest an idea for the Pop Culture Addict's Guide to Life All-Request Wednesday, there are a couple of ways to do it. If you use Facebook on a regular basis, then you can join the official fan page for the blog, and send me your suggestions there. Or, if you have a Google+ account, you can also send me your suggestions there as well.

I have been considering opening up an account on Twitter as well, in case you would like a third option to work with...please let me know if this is what you would like to see, and I will do my best to incorporate your suggestions.

After all, Wednesdays are all about you!

So, let's see what Bailey has suggested that I talk about for this week's edition.

By now, I'm sure that most of you have watched at least one of the six “Star Wars” films. The films made George Lucas a very rich man, and made household names out of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. I've seen most of the “Star Wars” films...even though it wasn't until I was twenty before I saw the original one from 1977! I'll admit that while I'm not as obsessed over the Star Wars films as other people out there (loosely translated, I was NOT one of the ones who camped outside of a movie theater over a two night period in 1999 just to watch a screening of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”), I do like them because at the time they were something that was unlike anything else ever seen in the motion picture industry.

But, did you know that the huge success of the “Star Wars” series of movies spawned a series of secondary projects? And, that one of these secondary projects just happens to be the subject of today's entry?

So, I imagine you're asking yourself...what could the subject be about?

Well, I suppose some of you might be thinking that I'm going to be talking about the infamous Star Wars Christmas Special. As someone who has seen the special, I admit that the program made a huge impression – for all the wrong reasons. But talking about a Christmas special in the middle of June? I don't think so.

Or, maybe some of you might be thinking that I will be talking about the series of children's books that were based on the Star Wars series. I'll admit that I had one of those books on tape in which Han Solo and Chewbacca taught the reader all about shapes and colours that I totally could have done a blog entry on. We're starting to get on the right track, but no, this entry is not on books.

Well, how about toys and playsets? Lego came out with Star Wars kits, there were playsets that were based on key settings and vehicles shown in the Star Wars series, and I imagine that if you grew up in the early 1980s, you likely may have played with a Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader action figure in your youth?

But, this entry is not about toys.

Rather, this entry will be about a Saturday morning cartoon. And, naturally, this was a show that I used to watch every Saturday for the longest time.

What was interesting about today's cartoon spotlight was that it was one half of a one hour program (well, okay, in actuality, the one-hour showcase was really two 30-minute programs back-to-back).

One cartoon featured those wonderful Droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, who embarked on a series of adventures together in an animated series. And, to be completely honest, I preferred to watch the Droids over the other cartoon that was paired with it. For one, the theme song (performed by Stewart Copeland of The Police) was a lot more catchier, and unlike the other show, the Droids actually had the real voice of C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). And, I thought that the plotlines of the Droids series were much more interesting than the other show.

Of course, that's not to say that I hated the other show. I enjoyed watching that program as well...just maybe not as much as the Droids.

Though I will admit...those cuddly “Ewoks” were kind of cute.

So, suggested that I do a blog on the “Ewoks”, and “Ewoks” is the blog topic that I will do.

(Wow...that last sentence was kind of Yoda-esque. I like it!)

Okay, so as I mentioned before, Ewoks and Droids aired back to back on ABC between September 1985 and December 1986 in an hour long series entitled “The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour”. And, did you know that the cartoon series was a joint production between America's “Lucasfilm” and Canada's “Nelvana Studios”? No wonder the program aired on Global Television for what seemed like almost five years in a row every Saturday afternoon at three!

(I still can't believe I remember the timeslot the show aired in all these years later. That's freaky!)

Thirty-five episodes were produced, and the stars of Ewoks were obviously the cute looking Ewok characters that were introduced in the movie “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”. In fact, if you want to get specific, the cartoon series acts as a bit of a prequel to the events that took place in “Return of the Jedi”. The series takes place on Endor, a moon that unlike the moon in our sky, is filled with lush, green forests.

The main character of “Ewoks” is a young Ewok named Wicket W. Warrick (Jim Henshaw/Denny Delk), who wants nothing more than to be a great warrior. His desire to be a hero outweighs everything else in his life, and his headstrong attitude towards life makes him a natural born leader.

Unfortunately, his quest to become a leader often leads him straight into the arms of trouble, as he often finds himself fighting against the Duloks, and Morag, the Tulgah Witch (Jackie Burroughs). He is the son of Deej and Shodu, and he is the brother of Weechee, Willy, and Winda.

(And, yes...all the members of the Warrick family are prominently featured in the cartoon series.)

Let's see...who else do we have? Oh, yes, we have Princess Kneesaa a Jari Kintaka (Cree Summer/Jeanne Reynolds), the daughter of Chirpa, the Chief of the Ewok tribe.

(TRIVIA: For years, I always wondered why Princess Kneesaa's voice sounded so familiar. Then again, Cree Summer also voiced Penny from Inspector Gadget and Elmyra Fudd from Tiny Toon Adventures, so I suppose that would explain a lot there.)

Anyway, Princess Kneesaa may appear to be one of the kindest, most gentlest Ewoks in the entire Ewok community, and she may appear to be the one Ewok who seems to have everything together. But Kneesaa's early childhood (which in the Ewok world was known as experiencing the joys of being a 'wokling') was filled with tragedy.

It was very rare for a cartoon to showcase death, especially during the period known as the 1980s, but Princess Kneesaa's mother met a rather grisly end. She was trying to protect Kneesaa and Kneesaa's older sister, Asha from a deadly Hanadak, but she ended up losing her life in the attack. Worse, Kneesaa thought that Asha had met a similar fate when she went missing during the Hanadak attack.

So, imagine everyone's surprise when Asha turned up alive! Here, I'll post that episode below. This episode originally aired on November 30, 1985.

TRIVIA: I guess this is as good a time to explain why Princess Kneesaa always wore that pink hood with the blue gem attached to it. That gemstone was the last present that Kneesaa received from Asha shortly before her disappearance.

Other characters of the show included Teebo (Jim Cranna), Wicket's best friend, who wanted nothing more than to listen to tales involving sorcery and magic, even becoming the apprentice of Master Logray. Teebo's younger sister, Malani (Alyson Court) also appears in the series. We also have the flute playing Latara, who is Kneesaa's best friend, and who just wants to play music all day and all of the night. Rounding out the cast is Kneesaa's cousin, Paploo, who may appear to be older than the other Ewoks...but not necessarily the wisest.

Now, you might be wondering why in some cases, there are two different voice actors credited for the same role. Well, although the series did last two seasons, there was a major change in the style of the series in between seasons. The writing in the first season was a lot more sophisticated, as compared to the second season, which to me appeared to be slightly dumbed down. As a result of the changes, some of the voice cast was also replaced. I didn't particularly like the second season of the Ewoks...I much prefered the first. But, that was just me, I guess.

At any rate, the show did spawn some merchandising opportunities. A line of action figures based on the cartoon series was launched in 1985, which also included play sets and vehicle/spaceship models. There was even a comic book adaptation that ran for fourteen issues produced by Marvel Comics between 1985 and 1987.

And, as I close this chapter on the Ewoks for All-Request Wednesday...why not post another episode for you to watch? After all, I feel that while I could talk for ages about the Ewoks...a video link from YouTube is worth a million words.

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