There's an origin story about the Ewoks, from a movie standpoint, which I've heard any number of times over the years. Supposedly George Lucas wanted to put Wookiees into "Return of the Jedi." Lots and lots of Wookiees. It was supposed to be the Wookiees against the Empire. But, short of hiring the entire National Basketball Association, and shaking down every faux-fur maker on the planet to make the costumes, there was just no way it was going to happen.
So somewhere along the way, the intended Wookiees became the Ewoks. If you look at the two words, they do share a lot of the same letters, and even have some similarities. And apparently it was a whole lot easier to find a large group of little people to portray them, AND outfit them, than a large group of really tall people.
Reportedly, this is also why we finally got the Wookiee war in Revenge of the Sith. By that time, it was possible to computer-create-and-animate a whole population of Wookiees. No need to find, hire, and outfit a large group of actors.
It makes sense -- to a point. I have to believe that if the original intention was to have a major Wookiee attack in the third movie of the Classic Trilogy, then the decision to go the other way height-wise had to come pretty early in pre-production, because there's a lot of elements in the Ewoks' time in the movie that would not work with Wookiees. For starters, the somewhat comedic appearance of the armed group of them when they first encounter Han, Luke, and company. Let's face it, Han's reaction would likely be pretty much ours. It's a little hard to take a group of (slightly) overgrown teddy bears seriously even if they are brandishing spears. If that had been Wookiees -- well, if it had been Wookiees, Chewbacca probably would've explained the situation in about ten seconds -- and I doubt they would've been bowing down to C-3PO, either.
Similarly, Leia's first encounter with young Wicket probably would've been drastically different, since she certainly knew who and what Wookiees were.
On the other hand, if it had been Wookiees, we might've been spared those two dreadful Ewok movies (which admittedly were better than the Star Wars Holiday Special -- but not by much), and that animated series which basically amounted to "Star Wars meets the Care Bears". No wonder Ewoks had the worst rep in the galaxy until Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans came along.
However they came about, the Ewoks seem to elicit a fair range of opinion from Star Wars fans. Some people like them. Some people tolerate them. Some people despise them. But, Hasbro still makes action figures of them every so often, and a new two-pack of them came out recently, so I thought I would review it.
Making Ewoks is nothing new for the Star Wars action figure line. At the time of Return of the Jedi, Kenner turned out no less than eight different Ewoks over the course of the run of the toy line, and that's not counting the ones that were directly associated with the animated series. However, today's Ewoks are as far advanced from their ancestors as -- well, as just about any other Star Wars figure. Put a modern Stormtrooper figure next to his 1977 ancestor. Heck, put a modern Stormtrooper next to his 1995 ancestor, as far as that goes. The Ewoks are similarly advanced, at least if these two are any indication.
A little background on the Ewoks. They are inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor. They really do look like teddy bears, admittedly moderately fierce ones. They tend to be around 3-4 feet in height as adults. They have a primitive, tribal culture and limited technology. They know how to make and use fire -- although how they accomplished this without immolating themselves given all that body fur is anybody's guess -- and generally use spears, primitive knives, and bows and arrows for weaponry.
One must believe that they are carnivorous, or perhaps omnivorous. The trap that Luke, Han, Chewie, and the droids fell into used meat as bait. And clearly they were trying to capture something, one assumes for food. For that matter, it looked like Luke and Han were going to be roasted by these little furballs. And yet, they were gracious enough to guests. By the time Luke and Han were nearly served up as a main course, the Ewoks had already accepted Leia as a guest in their tribe, apparently on the word of young Wicket.
Most Ewoks wore a hood over their heads, made from the hides of assorted indigenous animals. One of their most impressive skills would have to be construction. They had built an extremely impressive treehouse community for themselves high in the branches of the massive trees of the local forest, and had built furniture for their homes, as well. They also, amazingly enough, had a limited flight capability, in that they had designed hang gliders for themselves. This actually makes a degree of sense, since living so high in the trees, if they needed to get to ground level quickly but strategically, this wouldn't be a bad way to do it. Although, much as with learning how to make fire, one sort of has to pity the first attempts.
Clearly the Ewoks were capable of not just being hunters, but warriors. When fighting the Empire, they had worked out several impressive strategies using local materials. Some worked better than others, but that any of them worked against the might of the Empire is pretty impressive. However, this does sort of raise the question of -- before the Empire's arrival, with whom did they battle? Other tribes of Ewoks scattered across the planet? Some other life forms?
The Ewoks were also clearly intelligent, if technologically unsophisticated. One Ewok was able to figure out how to drive a Speeder Bike in pretty short order, even if he wasn't that good at it.
For whatever reason, the Empire chose the Endor system in which to construct its second Death Star. Maybe it was just off the beaten track. Precisely why the Empire didn't do something with regard to the Ewoks before the battle shown in the movie remains a mystery. It comes down to two possibilities. They either didn't know about the Ewoks, or they didn't care. Assuming they knew about the Ewoks, then the Empire had to assume that (a) they were not a threat, (b) they were too technologically ignorant -- and probably too short -- to serve as an effective labor force in the construction of the Death Star, and (c) for whatever reason, not worth the effort to exterminate. Perhaps the colony that the Rebels encountered was the extent of their population, or perhaps the Empire just couldn't conceive of a pack of walking teddy bears being any sort of threat.
Well, you know what often happens when you assume. I almost have to believe that the Empire just didn't know about the Ewoks. They were highly adept at keeping themselves concealed, they had to see the construction of the Death Star in the sky above them, they certainly knew about the Imperial station on the surface, but the Ewoks might have figured, being forest dwellers and more concerned with the trees that comprised their homes, that anything so high in the sky was none of their business and they were better off staying away from it, and staying hidden.
And as ludicrous as some aspects of the Battle of Endor was, again I tend to believe that the Empire just didn't know about the Ewoks. There's no way a fully-armed contingent of Imperial Troopers should have fallen THAT badly to pack of pint-sized primitives, even if they are backed up by a group of better-armed Rebels. Not unless they were taken completely by surprise, which admittedly, it looked as though they were.
So now we come to Romba and Graak. There have been Ewoks in the modern Star Wars series before, but not for a while, I believe. Don't worry about the names. Except for a handful of characters -- Chief Chirpa, Logray, Wicket -- I think that LucasFilm just puts together an interesting series of letters and calls it an Ewok.
Assuming that the way the figures were packaged and the way they are shown in photographs on the card corresponds to the order of their names, then Romba is the brown one and Graak is the greyish-black one. Let's consider them individually.
Romba stands about 2-3/8" in height. His fur is a solid brown, and he has a sort of nasty expression on his face. His mouth is slightly open, and he's showing three sharp little teeth. Frankly, the facial expression almost makes him look like he's about to sneeze. He's wearing a greyish hood around his head.
One of the remarkable things about these Ewoks is their articulation. Oh, they're not "super-articulated" or anything, I think that would be impossible at this size. But given their thick, stubby bodies and thick, stubby limbs, it's amazing what Hasbro was able to incorporate into the figures. Romba is poseable at the head -- technically a ball-and-socket design that is slightly hindered by the hood -- arms, which move outward and well as back and forth, a wrist swivel, a waist swivel, legs, and feet that swivel as well as move up and down a little bit. Very impressive!
Paint detailing is excellent. Romba has black eyes with a bit of pink skin around them, a pink nose, and a pink mouth with the aforementioned teeth. Even his fingernails and toenails are painted. He's also wearing a belt around his waist with a small knife sheath. It looked to me like the knife might have actually been a separate accessory, but I just couldn't quite conceive that being possible. And yet -- it is! The tiny knife does actually come out, and it's even painted! A word to the wise -- the sheath can pop away from the figure. I recommend gluing it in. I won't say the same for the knife, since it is cool that it comes out, but I do recommend keeping a close eye on it.
Romba also comes with a nicely-detailed spear, which is pretty much as tall as he is.
Now, let's consider Graak. Slightly taller than Romba, Graak is about 2-1/2" in height. He is a very dark grey in color, with some lighter grey highlights painted over his fur that add to his appearance and are a nice detailing effect. One might assume that he is slightly older than his companion. He has a somewhat calmer facial expression. His eyes are open wider, and he's not baring his teeth. He is wearing a brown hood.
Graak has the same articulation as Romba. Ball-and-socket head, arms, wrists, waist, legs, and feet. He has the same impressive level of paint detailing around his face, hands, and feet. He has a shoulder belt, which is actually attached to his hood, that has a quiver attached to it. Graak's accessories include a very nicely detailed bow that even has a bit of paint trim on it, and three small, primitive arrows which do fit into his quiver. Good luck keeping track of these, along with Romba's knife.
I wanted to make sure that, as I suspected, these were brand-new figures, but I couldn't see any copyright dates on them. The bottoms of their feet were too small, and if they'd sculpted dates into the textured fur, they would've been hard to read. Finally, I looked under the hood (like I'm buying a used car here, it sounds like...). Sure enough, underneath the hoods in the back were the Copyright dates, and LFL and Hasbro marks. The figures are dated 2007, so I think it's safe to say that these are brand-new Ewoks.
So what's my final word on them? Even if you're not all that fond of the Ewoks, you should consider this two-pack. These are really superbly designed, beautifully sculpted, nicely painted action figures. They truly show what Hasbro is capable of with their Star Wars line when they're working at their best. Heck, I'm not all THAT fond of the Ewoks, and yet I am very pleased to have these two.
The ROMBA & GRAAK TWO-PACK from the Star Wars Collection definitely has my highest recommendation!