The DVD Ewok Adventures contains the two Star Wars made-for-TV Ewok movies: Caravan of Courage (1984) and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985). Both films follow the adventures of Wicket, the Ewok who encounters Leia in Return of the Jedi, and his new human friends. While the movies are entertaining enough as children's entertainment, the lack of special features on the DVD release is disappointing.
'Caravan of Courage'
Caravan of Courage premiered with the title The Ewok Adventure on November 25, 1984. The story concerns a family, the Towanis, who have crash landed on the Forest Moon of Endor. The children, Cindel (Aubree Miller) and Mace (Eric Walker), are separated from their parents, Jeremitt (Guy Boyd) and Catarine (Fionnula Flanagan). Thankfully, the Ewok Wicket W. Warrick (Warwick Davis, reprising his role from Return of the Jedi) is there to save the day. He and his tribe help the children fight the monster Gorax and rescue their parents.
The film begins with a scene of Ewoks speaking to each other, unsubtitled, and for a moment I feared we would be treated to a rehash of the unsubtitled Wookiee scenes in the Star Wars Holiday Special. What we get instead of subtitles, as it turns out, is soothing, nature documentary-style narration from Burl Ives. This narration, the simplicity of the plot, and the charming cuteness of the Ewoks help make the film enjoyable despite frequently painful line delivery by the two child actors.
'Ewoks: The Battle for Endor'
Caravan of Courage's sequel, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, premiered on November 25, 1985 and has a much different tone. The story begins with Cindel's family killed by marauders and Cindel captured. She and Wicket manage to escape and encounter Teek, a fast-moving, monkey-like creature native to the Forest Moon. Teek takes them to Noa Briqualon (Wilford Brimley), a grizzled old explorer, who reluctantly takes them in. But when the evil witch Charal (Siân Phillips) captures Cindel, Noa and Wicket must attempt to save her.
While the second Ewok movie has a darker tone than the first, it feels even more like a children's fantasy film. Caravan of Courage featured magical objects, such as the lantern Logray uses to locate Cindel's parents, but The Battle for Endor increases the amount of magic and mysticism with the character of Charal, a witch who is able to cast spells and magically alter her appearance. Again, it's an entertaining children's film, but it feels even less like Star Wars than Caravan of Courage.
The main downside of Ewok Adventures is that the DVD contains no special features. Commentaries, deleted scenes, and making-of documentaries have become standard on most DVDs nowadays, and Star Wars DVDs in particular. The films are really only worth watching for adults who are interested in the early Expanded Universe and how the Ewok movies fit in the Star Wars universe as a whole, so even a simple commentary track explaining these aspects of the films would have made the DVD a must-buy. The documentary that Eric Walker and Warwick Davis shot during the making of Caravan of Courage, which has never been released, would also have been great to include.
The Ewok Adventure movies run into the same problem as the Ewoks cartoon series they spawned: they don't really feel like Star Wars. The Star Wars universe certainly has its fantasy elements, from the Force itself to the existence of ghosts, but the magical creatures and spells on the Forest Moon seem more like Lucas' fantasy film Willow than Star Wars. Despite the fact that official sources identify Charal as a Dark Jedi exiled from the Force Witch tribes of Dathomir, she still feels and acts like a fantasy villainness, not like any Dark Jedi or Sith from the feature films or EU.
The Ewok films are enjoyable enough, especially for children. They also include some of the last stop-motion animation done by ILM, which may interest film buffs. But they are, without a doubt, children's fantasy films first and Star Wars second.