Ewoks (1985) & Environmentalism in Star Wars
This past week, I spent three days in a row watching the entirety of both the Ewoks and Droids cartoons during almost all of my free time. Pretty sure it did something irreversible to my brain, but I had a great time. Ewoks especially very much felt like a classic cartoon, almost completely divorced from the rest of Star Wars most of the time. It honestly really reminded me of when I would watch the Smurfs cartoon from the 80s as a kid. It just had the same vibe- you have your cute little village of nature creatures in a big, natural land where there's also all other kinds of nature creatures that they're friends (or enemies) with. And also magic. Ewoks is just... weirder. But in a great way! I did not expect to like it as much or get as invested in it as I did.
A pretty consistent theme throughout the series is, of course, nature and its importance. Many of the episodes involve the Ewoks having to save the forest in some way shape or form- whether it be from a mean creature that built a dam to hog the river water for himself, stopping a forest fire, or stopping some evil dark spirit entities from creating a portal that will transport all of the Ewoks to a barren planet and allow these spirits to take over Endor.
Yeah. It gets maybe a little bit weird.
While it's maybe not as radically environmentalist on the level of films like Okja (2017) or Michael Moore documentaries, it has the same kid-friendly "we should take care of nature" messages that you can find in films like WALL-E (2008) or The Lorax (2012). Or even like the Smurfs example that I mentioned earlier. But it really got me thinking about how environmentalism is present in the rest of Star Wars.
While it maybe isn't what we would consider one of Star Wars' core themes, I think you can definitely find it, especially in the animated series. In The Clone Wars, I often think of how many times the Jedi look to try and save creatures, even creatures like the Zillo Beast with such destructive power. There's also Resistance, where there are episodes like "Bibo" that have a lead character return a creature to its mother, despite losing what he thought to be a valuable companion because of this.
But I think this message is strongest in Star Wars Rebels. You could find it many places, even in episodes like "Ghosts of Geonosis," but I think this message is most strongly embodied by Ezra Bridger and Lothal (especially in season 4). Ezra has a pretty persistent connection to animals throughout the entire series, starting all of the way back in season 1. This bond only gets stronger, and Ezra has a deep care for creatures, including ones that others may not take so kindly to (compare his reaction to the purrgils with Hera's). In season 4 of Rebels, Ezra is fighting to restore Lothal. This fight is primarily, of course, for the people of Lothal and so that the city can thrive as it did before the Empire, but the natural world of Lothal greatly benefits- and even helps Ezra along the way.
Ezra and the rebels receive a lot of help from the Loth-wolves, and in turn we know that the nature of Lothal is able to thrive after the Empire leaves and is no longer stripping it for resources. And of course, Ezra later calls upon the purrgils to put that final nail in the coffin of the Empire's defeat. Valuing nature and following the guidance that it can offer is what allows Ezra and the rebels to achieve victory. Without it, it's hard to say what might have happened.