The Ewoks are among the most divisive Star Wars aliens, showing up in Return of the Jedi in a way that delighted kids while infuriating many adults. The best family movies can’t always appeal to everyone equally, we suppose.
However, the Ewoks weren’t always due to show up in the Star Wars movie that concluded George Lucas’s original trilogy. And that’s because of one of the best Star Wars characters: everyone’s favourite Wookiee, Chewbacca.
In an early version of 1977 Star Wars opener A New Hope, Lucas had conceived a battle between the Galactic Empire and a primitive society of Wookiees on their forest planet. With a bigger budget for Return of the Jedi, he returned to the idea.
In the 1983 documentary From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga, Lucas said: “When I came to the third film and I could actually do the battle, I couldn’t use Wookiees because I’d established Chewbacca as being a relatively sophisticated creature. He’s not the primitive that he was in the first screenplay.”
Chewbacca had become too big a character by the time of Return to the Jedi for Lucas to portray the Wookiees in the intended way. As a result, Lucas had to populate the forest moon of Endor with a different species entirely.
He said: “Instead of making them incredibly tall the way Wookiees are, I’d make them incredibly short… and give them short fur instead of long fur.”
So that’s how the Ewoks came to be and, depending on your viewpoint on the little critters, you’ll either be thanking Chewbacca’s popularity for giving us something special, or wishing the walking carpet was a little less charming.
For more on the best movies from the galaxy far far away, check out the best Star Wars villains, the best Star Wars droids, the Star Wars movies ranked, and the best Star Wars scenes. We’ve also got everything you need to know about the new Star Wars movies, and explained why George Lucas was right about Star Wars.