‘Star Wars’ ‘toons: A good idea?
You won’t find a bigger Star Wars fan than me. Well, that’s not exactly true. Those dudes who camp out in Greedo masks and speak strictly in Rodian may have me beat. But I geek out pretty hot and heavy. Loyal readers have read past musings about me watching the trilogy with my son and throwing a Star Wars-themed birthday party for him. I have an attic full of toys from the films that my wife keeps begging me to throw away, lest some friends somehow stumble upon them and realize that their neighborhood has been infected with the nerd virus. So, you get the point.
But my excitement over the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie is matched by an equal sense of trepidation. (And confusion. After all, wasn’t there already a Clone Wars animated TV series? And why did Sylvester Stallone put out two different films named Rambo? And why did that band Weezer put out two self-titled albums? I’m just sayin’ — is it that difficult to come up with a new title these days?)
My trepidation is not based on the quality of the recent trilogy. I actually didn’t think the last three movies were as awful as most people did. Yes, Jar Jar was an embarrassment, as was the acting of Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman. But The Phantom Menace featured the most badass lightsaber duel ever, Attack of the Clones was decent anytime Anakin and Padmé weren’t on the screen, and I consider Revenge of the Sith to be a totally engrossing film (except for the fact that I can’t for the life of me figure out the timeframe and if Padmé’s entire pregnancy term was a week, or what).
No, my trepidation is based solely on the quality of previous animated Star Wars incarnations. The Clone Wars TV series (put together by Samurai Jack’s Genndy Tartakovsky) was solid, but the installments were only three minutes long. And what did we have before that? Well, the mother lode occurred back in 1985, when we were treated — make that subjected — to two cartoons: Droids and Ewoks. Droids followed the comical (and I use that term loosely) adventures of C-3P0 and R2-D2 hobnobbing around the galaxy. One particularly awful installment that has refused to leave my memory bank involved helping some brainwashed prince escape from a life of slavery. I must have been brainwashed as well because I watched it — THREE TIMES!
But Droids was a freakin’ masterpiece compared to Ewoks. Make no mistake about it, the Ewoks sucked when they were live-action in Return of the Jedi. Even as a little boy, I wasn’t going to let myself get manipulated by that scene with the baby Ewok crying over his dead mommy. I think that may have actually been the only time I rooted for the Empire to win. As if watching them ruin Jedi wasn’t bad enough, there were two even worse Ewok made-for-TV movies that starred people like Wilford Brimley and Burl Ives. But as sucky as the real Ewoks were — yes, Warwick Davis, I’m talking to you — the cartoon ones were truly the bottom of the barrel. As far as I can remember — and trust me, I’ve tried to forget — Ewoks centered around a bad guy named Morag trying for some reason that maybe made some amount of sense to kill all the Ewoks. (Think Gargamel and the Smurfs and you’re on the right path.) Oh, and also, the animated Ewoks could talk! I’m not exactly sure how that happened, but Lord, I wish it hadn’t.
Ewoks and Droids weren’t the first forays into animation for George Lucas. Oh no, that would be a segment of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. I say infamous because this might just be the worst Christmas special of all time. Although it’s not Christmas they’re celebrating, but something called ”Life Day” on Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk. (I know this because Princess Leia sings a horrible song all about it, and it’s the single most embarrassing moment of Carrie Fisher’s career.) But about halfway through this two-hour debacle, we are treated to an animated clip of Luke trying to save Han and Chewie from some sort of mishap. The cartoon is actually pretty decent. Maybe I’m just saying this because it features the first ever appearance of Boba Fett, and I’m a hardcore Fett fan. Or maybe it’s just because it seems a lot better than it actually is when measured against the other contents of the special, which includes Bea Arthur singing in a cantina, a hologram performance by Jefferson Starship, and about a half-hour spoken entirely in Wookiee, courtesy of Chewbacca’s son Lumpy. Whatever. Although drawn in the same style as Droids, it’s much more tolerable, you have all the original voices, and Boba Fett is smacking people around something fierce. What’s not to like?
So, as you can see, the quality of previous Star Wars animated offerings has been mixed. How will the new one stack up? Well, it appears to be Ewok-free. That’s a start. Now let’s just hope they can steer clear of the Gungans.
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