“The Tree of Light” (ABC/Global: October 12, 1985) is typical Nelvana tripe from the mid-1980s. Wicket (Jim Henshaw), Latara (Taborah Johnson), and Princess Kneesaa (Cree Summer) are excluded from an important mission on Endor’s forest moon – the Tree of Light is dying. The chosen Ewok team needs to sprinkle fairy dust – sorry, Light Dust – on the Tree of Light, before it dies. The Duloks – tall, ghetto, swamp versions of Ewoks – want the Tree of Light to die, so they can become more of a presence on the forest moon.
The Dulok shaman, Umwak (Don Francks), is the standard bumbling henchman to King Gorneesh (Dan Hennessey). Umwak is assisted by his nephew (Hadley Kay), though the Duloks – being Nelvana villains – aren’t too bright as a whole.
For instance, Umwak designs a pair of “special glasses,” which are supposed to navigate a cave maze for him. In practice, they don’t do anything. The Ewoks, “led” by Weechee (Greg Swanson) and Paploo (Paul Chato), are hardly smarter than the Duloks. The whole episode’s an excuse to prove Wicket, Latara, and Kneesaa’s worth, as the three abide an Idiot Plot.
Honestly, this episode can be reworked as a Care Bears Family (ABC/Global, 1986-88) episode. Henshaw, Hennessey and Francks voiced characters in Care Bears Family. Some of the music cues – the bumbling-henchman synth cues, in particular – have a Care Bears Family sound to them. Both shows feature living teddy bears, fighting against enemies who want to eradicate said teddy bears. I know Care Bears Family came a year after Ewoks, but the two shows are eerily similar.
Hell, Henshaw’s Wicket is similar to Tenderheart Bear, while Hennessey uses almost the exact same voice for Gorneesh and Brave Heart Lion. Hennessey’s a decent voiceover actor, but Nelvana never let the man stretch in the mid-1980s.
As an aside, it’s funny how Henshaw voiced eager do-gooders in the 1980s. He soon ditched voiceover work, and became a writer/director. These days, Henshaw’s the resident grump of Canadian television.
Nelvana’s animation on Ewoks is serviceable – not great, but better than 1980s Saturday morning cartoon standards. Nelvana basically did Ewoks to keep the lights on. The best part of an Ewoks episode should not be Taj Mahal’s theme song, but that’s what happens with “The Tree of Light.”
Having not seen Ewoks in two decades, I don’t remember the show being this bad. I’m hardly nostalgic for Star Wars, as I’ve never cared for Star Wars in any of its incarnations. “The Tree of Light” just reminds me too much of Care Bears Family.
“The Tree of Light” is from the first season of Ewoks, the season considered superior by Ewoks fans. If every episode is like “The Tree of Light” – stories where Wicket and friends fix what the other Ewoks fuck up – I have to ask: what is Ewoks superior to? Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network, 2008- ) has its faults – Clone Wars has never met a film it didn’t steal from – yet it’s a better Star Wars series than Ewoks. Star Wars fans accepted whatever they were offered, in the bad old days.
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