Everyone knows merchandising came into play with the development of “Return of the Jedi.” Sure, the official reason for the Ewoks had to do with George Lucas wanting an “Avatar”-like battle between a primitive race and the technologically advanced Empire, but many believe the fact the little creatures look exactly like Teddy bears is completely motivated by the ease of turning them into plush toys for the kids. Now via an LA Times interview with original “Star Wars” producer Gary Kurtz, who quit the franchise over plot disagreements in the early stages of “Jedi,” it’s also revealed that toy line concerns kept the end of the trilogy as uplifting as possible. Which is why Han Solo didn’t die following his rescue from Jabba’s palace, as initially outlined, and why the movie ends with a celebration with the Ewoks on Endor instead of “a more emotionally nuanced” conclusion with Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns.”
“The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire,” he told LAT‘s Hero Complex blog. “It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films … The emphasis on the toys, it’s like the cart driving the horse.”
Well, I can’t deny I loved the Ewoks as a kid. And as an adult. I’m even honestly looking into getting a Brussels Griffon because they look like Ewoks. Or is it because they look like Teddy bears? Same difference, I guess. Still, whether we were given an outer space kind of Thanksgiving party or yet another Western homage in the “Star Wars” series, we would have bought the toys either way. Plus, a truly bleak and honest ending to “Jedi” would have involved “Dances with Wolves”-like end titles telling us that, “thirteen years later, their homes destroyed, their [boar-wolves] gone, the last band of free [Ewoks] submitted to white authority…”
Check out what they’re saying at the film blog water cooler in response to Kurtz’s statements after the jump.
After seeing what he did with the “Star Wars” prequels and the last “Indiana Jones,” I’m shocked to hear someone describe George Lucas as obsessed with toys and overly self-referential. Shocked, I tell you. That teddy bear luau was retarded. It would’ve been way better if it ended with a teddy bear dance party at McDonald’s, a lá “Mac & Me”
Of particular note is Kurtz’s description of the original talked-about ending of “Return of the Jedi”–a rejected finale George Lucas didn’t think had enough cute animal characters in it […] True, that does sound more emotionally nuanced, Kurtz, but what of Yub Nub? What of Yub Nub???
Other than the fact that under no circumstances could anyone ever compare the acting stylings of Mark Hamill to Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name,” this sounds positively awesome. So naturally it didn’t happen. But hey, those Ewoks were pretty cute. Don’t act like you didn’t have an Ewok doll when you were growing up. Just me?
Would we really have found that ending as compelling? Sure, we can complain about ewoks singing and Coruscanti workers tearing down statues to some upbeat Enya, but I’m willing to put up with that for some Han/Leia make outs and the Vader cremation scene. The reason why “Empire Strikes” was so dark was because it was the second act. “RotJ” had to actually end the story for us.
Not every film should have a sad ending. Imagine if “Field Of Dreams” ended with Kevin Costner sitting in an empty baseball field for a week, realising that nobody was actually going to turn up, and killing himself. Or if Tim Robbins got stuck in the sewage pipe during his escape from Shawshank and ended up suffocating in human effluent. Or if “Sleepless in Seattle” ended with Meg Ryan being graphically mauled to death by an escaped tiger.
Luckily, Lucas later turned his little teddy bear luau into a multi-galaxy rave and invited Hayden Christensen, so all’s well that ends well.