Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure
|Also known as||The Ewok Adventure|
|Screenplay by||Bob Carrau|
|Story by||George Lucas|
|Directed by||John Korty|
|Narrated by||Burl Ives|
|Theme music composer||Peter Bernstein|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer||George Lucas|
|Production locations||Marin County, California|
|Running time||97 minutes|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Television|
|Followed by||Ewoks: The Battle for Endor|
The Ewok Adventure is a 1984 American television film based in the Star Wars universe. It takes place on the moon of Endor, and features the Ewoks, who help two young human siblings as they try to locate their parents.
The film was given a limited international theatrical run, for which it was retitled Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. It was followed by a sequel, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, in 1985.
On the forest moon of Endor, the Towani family starcruiser lies wrecked. The Towani family (Catarine, Jeremitt, Mace and Cindel) are stranded. When Catarine and Jeremitt vanish (having been captured by the Gorax), the children are found by the Ewok Deej. After Mace tries to kill them, the Ewoks subdue him and take both children to the Ewoks' home. There, Cindel and Wicket become friends. Shortly thereafter, the Ewoks kill a boar wolf only to find a life-monitor from one of the Towani parents with the creature.
They seek out the Ewok Logray who informs them that the parents have been taken by the monstrous Gorax, which resides in a deserted, dangerous area. A caravan of Ewoks is formed to help the children find their parents. They meet up with a wistie named Izrina and a boisterous Ewok named Chukha-Trok before finally reaching the lair of the Gorax. They engage the Gorax in battle, freeing Jeremitt and Catarine, but Chukha-Trok is killed. The Gorax is thought destroyed when it is knocked into a chasm, but it takes a final blow from Mace (using Chukha-Trok's axe) to kill the creature, which tries to climb back up after them. Thus reunited, the Towanis decide to stay with the Ewoks until they can repair the starcruiser, and Izrina leaves to go back to her family.
George Lucas had allowed the Star Wars universe to be produced for television in 1978 with the Star Wars Holiday Special, which proved to be an embarrassment. Lucas assumed greater control over a planned half-hour television project about Ewoks. He hired Thomas G. Smith to produce the film, after Smith had stepped down as the manager of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) following his work on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Lucas also hired Bob Carrau, the nanny of his children, to co-write the story with him.
When shopping the film around, Smith discovered that none of the TV networks at the time were interested in airing a half-hour special, but ABC showed interest in a two-hour movie of the week; the project was expanded to fill the request. The producers initially conceived of the project as a cross between "Hansel and Gretel" and Tarzan of the Apes.John Korty, who had directed the Lucas-produced Twice Upon a Time, was selected as director.
Working from a story written by George Lucas and a screenplay by Bob Carrau, director John Korty transformed the scenic northern California redwood forests into the forest moon of Endor. Joe Johnston, an art director at ILM for years and one of the key concept artists of the classic Star Wars trilogy, acted as production designer and second-unit director. Prior to the movie's release, Johnston also wrote and illustrated a book about Ewoks, The Adventures of Teebo: A Tale of Magic and Suspense.
Both Ewok films were some of the last intensive stop-motion animation work ILM produced, as by the early 1980s, the technique was being replaced by go motion, an advanced form of animation with motorized puppets that move while the camera shutter is open. However, go motion was too expensive for the budgets of the Ewok films, so stop motion was used to realize creatures such as the Gorax.
The Ewok movies proved an opportunity for ILM to use a technique innovated for 2001: A Space Odyssey called latent image matte painting.[failed verification] In this technique, during live-action photography, a section of the camera lens is blocked off and remains unexposed. The film is rewound, the blocked areas reversed, and a painting crafted to occupy the space is photographed.
The musical score for Caravan of Courage was composed by Peter Bernstein. Selections from the score were released on LP by Varèse Sarabande in 1986. The release was known simply as Ewoks and also contained cues from Bernstein's score to the sequel Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.
During the production of Caravan of Courage, the children in the cast had to balance their school work with acting in the film. During their time on the set, Lucasfilm decided that it might be an educational and rewarding experience for the older children, Eric Walker (Mace) and Warwick Davis (Wicket), to be given their own camera to use between takes. Calling themselves W&W Productions, Eric and Warwick shot a documentary of the making of the film, which was released to Eric's YouTube channel in 2014.
When the film was released on DVD in 2004 it contained nothing but the film itself. Eric Walker and Warwick Davis stated in interviews that they would be happy to record a cast commentary for another future DVD release, if Lucasfilm someday allowed a more detailed release of the films.
The Ewok Adventure was first shown on American television November 25, 1984. In its overseas theatrical release, it was rechristened Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. The film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1990 through MGM under the original title.
The film was released on DVD as a double feature collection with its sequel, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, on November 23, 2004. The release was a dual layer single sided disc, with one film on each layer. For this release, the film bore the theatrical release title, Caravan of Courage.
The streaming service Disney+ has announced no plans to host the Ewok films, prompting Eric Walker to start a petition for Disney to add them. According to Walker, he will personally deliver the petition to Lucasfilm stating, "if we can get 500,000 signatures I will show up as Mace Towani in costume."
In his review for The New York Times, John J. O'Connor noted the film's story as being almost "aggressively simple" and that "Mr. Lucas and crew do not come up with anything terribly astonishing." With Marin County serving as the backdrop, looking "like some never-never land east of the Sun and west of the Moon," O'Connor recognized most of the interactions as following well-established cinematic tropes, the notable ones being between Cindel "looking like one of those little blond angels used to top off Christmas trees" and Wicket, a performance by the-then 14-year-old Warwick Davis, whom O'Connor called "the cleverest of the lot."
Pointing to the main characters and plot elements, one pair of writers concluded that both Caravan of Courage and its sequel Battle for Endor are fairy tales despite occurring in a science fiction setting. They point to magical phenomena in both films, which is a fantasy element. They argue that in a science fiction story, the hero wants to disrupt or challenge the hierarchy of a supposed "utopian" society; whereas in both Ewok films, society is not challenged or disputed. Additionally, they argue, that while the Star Wars saga also has fairy tale tropes, it adhered more towards science fiction. Another author agreed that the films are fairy tales, wherein "Science explains all magic."
The Ewok Adventure was one of four films to be juried-awarded Emmys for Outstanding Special Visual Effects at the 37th Primetime Emmy Awards. The film was additionally nominated for Outstanding Children's Program but lost in this category to an episode of American Playhouse.