The Scene: To aid in their final defeat of the Empire, the Rebel Alliance finds unlikely help on Endor in the form of the diminutive, fuzzy, primitive ewoks.
George Lucas Says (Via From Star Wars to Jedi): “In the original screenplay [the ewoks were] a society of wookiees who had this giant ground battle with the Empire at the end of the film. And also a space battle. They were trained to fly ships, and they were able to take over the Empire. Well, in the evolution of the script I realized I couldn’t do this giant battle. When I came to the third film and the battle was back in again … I couldn’t use wookiees, because I’d established Chewbacca as being a relatively sophisticated creature. … He [wasn’t] the primitive that he was in the original screenplay. So I had to develop a new kind of wookiee or a new kind of creature that was primitive … [what I decided to do was] instead of making them incredibly tall the way wookiees are, I’d make them incredibly short. And at the same time to make them look different from the wookiees I’d give them short fur instead of long fur. That’s really where the ewok evolved.”
George Lucas Also Says (Via the Return of the Jedi Commentary Track): “It was a wookiee planet. Since I had fallen in love with the wookiees so much when I made Episode IV, I decided to make [Han Solo’s] co-pilot a wookiee, which meant that he was technologically advanced. And the whole concept originally was that the people that overthrew the Empire were not technological. So I had to reinvent a half-sized wookiee.”
I Say: “Before Jar Jar and the gungans became as despised as they are, we had Wicket and the ewoks in Return of the Jedi. I don’t hate either group the way a lot of fans do. I actually enjoy the ewoks quite a bit. But I do reject the notion that a society of wookiees couldn’t have worked in Jedi. I’m fairly certain that even back then, Chewbacca’s backstory was that of a slave, freed and taken in by Han Solo. Given enough time, you can teach technology to a primitive. Chewie could have been unique among his people, and thus been that much more distinct.
Email Rob at email@example.com, or check us out on Twitter.