I remember Saturday morning cartoons. I watched a lot of TV as a kid and cartoons were of course a staple of my TV viewing. I watched He-Man, Thundercats, Inspector Gadget, Smurfs / Snorks if my siblings wanted to, Heithcliff, Jetsons, Spiderman and his Amazing Friends….I watched a lot of TV. I don’t recall seeing these Star Wars cartoons in their original run, so watching this series is like discovering new Star Wars for me, similar to the time I finally watched the old Star Trek cartoons…hard to believe that something I love so much has secret content I’ve never experienced, but here it is.
Since I don’t recall seeing these, I assume that some of you, even as hardcore as you are in this Universe, these early cartoons might be new to you as well. I thought I would start out with a quick introductory blog about my overall thoughts about this series in particular.
There are basically 14 episodes to this series, 13 episodes that aired on Saturday mornings and then a TV special “finale” I suppose called “The Great Heap” which ended the series. The series takes place before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope. I’ve been doing research on this series and I see this time as being described between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. I want to be clear that these episodes aired shortly after the Episode VI: Return of the Jedi left theaters. The prequel trilogy did not exist except for some vague notions in the back of George Lucas’s mind. I find it highly inaccurate or misleading to call the period between Episode III and IV, it is before Episode IV. I like this distinction because…these cartoons are NOT canon. Like so much material and Ewok movies, this series was thrown into the Great Heap of “LEGENDS” content. Doesn’t make them less interesting though, at least not less interesting to me.
are these prequel experiments?
So, I don’t want to get into it too much here, but I did watch some of these cartoons before I wrote this post, the initial post. And they do take place before “A New Hope” / “Star Wars” / “Episode 4” and there are several things in them that feel like, or seem to be out of the prequel movies (Episodes 1 – 3). Clearly when developing the movies, Lucas and others used some of the characters in these cartoons as inspiration or just flat out copied the people, places and ideas from these cartoons. To me, that makes them more interesting and in a way makes the prequels more interesting as well. I’m not a prequel hater, I don’t love them but I don’t hate them. I’m sure I’ll end up saying that a thousand more times before this blog is “done” but I don’t hate them, far from it. Seeing characters and hearing names from the prequel trilogy in these cartoons definitely makes me appreciate them more.
I will endeavor in the Droids posts to point out the instances I’ve identified where that’s happening, where there is “contamination” between non-canon cartoons and the prequel (or sequel) trilogy. I heard a rumor once that Lucas just had notebooks of ideas he would sketch out and when he needed a name, he’d just go to the book. The rumor was about the name Mace Windu. The rumor stated that Mace Windu was a name Lucas came up with around the time of Empire but held onto it for 20 years until he could hang the name on Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Episode I. I don’t know if the story is true but I like it and choose to believe it. These episodes definitely share that “DNA” of coming out of the proverbial notebook of George Lucas. They may look like cheaply produced cartoons of the 1980s but they feel like Star Wars to me.
I’m not going to go into it here, I want to write a more thorough post about the toy-line for this show in a stand alone post, but this show was in the waning days of the Lucasfilms / Kenner toy insanity and of course they made figures for this series. The figures were not popular at the time and now they are some of the most expensive figures you can buy, truly ridiculous prices. I don’t own any of these toys but if I win the lottery, I suppose I might get a few…anyway, you can’t really talk about Star Wars without mentioning toys, more on that later.
So what’s the plan? I’m going to watch the episodes in order and post an article summarizing each one. SPOILER ALERT. It is an old cartoon, just go watch it. I will look for themes, people, places, phrases common to Star Wars lore or other media. When possible I will connect the activities to the larger universe and discuss any interesting trivia or plot points I like. This cartoon has mini-arcs in it, so I may even summarize how the arcs go together.
Overall, I just hope to better understand Star Wars by a granular examination of these early, largely forgotten pieces of art. I hope you enjoy the analysis and will watch and remember these properties with me.