The film is set after the Ewoks animated series and before the events of Return of the Jedi. Nearly six months have passed since the events of the first film; the Towani family's star cruiser is almost completely fixed and Jeremitt is putting the final touches on the craft.
While the Towani family (Jeremitt, Catrine, Mace, and Cindel) are preparing to leave the forest moon of Endor, the Ewok village is attacked by a group of Marauders (originally crash landed from Sanyassa) led by Terak and his witch-like sorceress Charal. Many Ewoks are killed. Cindel escapes, but is forced to leave Jeremitt, Catrine, and Mace to their doom, both parents having already been hit by enemy fire; her mother and brother killed when a Marauder blaster-cannon destroys a hut in which they had taken refuge from the battle.
While running away from the carnage, Cindel and Wicket meet Teek, a small, fast native of Endor. Teek takes them to the home of Noa Briqualon, a human man who is angered by their uninvited presence, and throws them out. Eventually he proves himself to be a kindhearted man, letting Teek steal food for them, and inviting the two in when they attempt to build a fire for warmth.
At the Marauders' castle, Charal is ordered by Terak to find Cindel, assuming she knows how to use "the power" in the energy-cell stolen from Jeremitt's star cruiser. Meanwhile, Noa, Cindel, and Wicket are becoming friends. It is revealed that Noa is rebuilding his own broken star cruiser, only missing the energy-cell.
Cindel is awakened one morning by a song her mother used to sing to her. She follows the voice to find a beautiful woman singing. The woman transforms into Charal, who takes her to Terak. He orders her to activate "the power." When she cannot, she and Charal are both imprisoned with the Ewoks. Outside, Noa, Wicket, and Teek sneak into the castle, making their way to the cellblock, where they free Cindel and the other Ewoks. They escape with the energy-cell.
Terak, Charal, and the Marauders pursue them back to the ship, where Wicket leads the Ewoks in defense of the cruiser, and Noa installs the energy-cell in his ship. The Ewoks put up a valiant effort, and are nearly beaten by the time Noa powers up the ship and uses its formidable laser cannons to fend off the Marauders. When Cindel goes to save Wicket, she is captured by Terak, even as the other Marauders retreat. Terak and Noa face off, with Wicket finally coming to the rescue, killing Terak and simultaneously leaving Charal trapped in bird form for eternity.
Shortly thereafter, goodbyes are said, as Noa and Cindel leave the forest moon of Endor aboard Noa's starship.
The film, shot in the middle of 1985 in Marin County, California, was directed by Jim and Ken Wheat, executive produced by Lucas, and written by the Wheat brothers, based on a story written by Lucas. Co-director Ken Wheat explained the production and inspiration of the film in an interview with EON Magazine:
Lucas guided the creation of the story over the course of two four-hour sessions we had with him. He'd just watched Heidi with his daughter the weekend before these took place, and the story idea he pushed was having the little girl from the first Ewok TV movie become an orphan who ends up living with a grumpy old hermit in the woods.
We'd been thinking about the adventure films we'd liked as kids, like Swiss Family Robinson and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, so we suggested having space marauders, which was fine with George -- as long as they were 7 feet tall, of course! The rest of the brainstorming was done along those lines. Joe Johnston (the production designer and second unit director) and Phil Tippett (the creature supervisor) were involved in the second day's story session, and they contributed an assortment of bits and pieces.
Lucas’ involvement primarily was in the design and editing stages, according to Wheat.
Both Ewok films were some of the last intensive stop motion animation work Industrial Light & Magic produced, as in the early 80s, the technique was being replaced by go motion animation, a more advanced form with motorized articulated puppets that moved while the camera shutter was open, capturing motion blur in the otherwise static puppet, eliminating the harsh staccato movement often associated with stop motion. However, the budgets of the Ewok films were such that go motion was simply too expensive for the projects, so stop motion was used to realize creatures such as the condor dragon, the blurrgs, and the boar-wolves.
The Ewok movies proved an opportunity for Industrial Light & Magic to hone a new technique in photographing matte paintings, called latent image matte painting. In this technique, during live action photography, a section of the camera's lens blocked off, remaining unexposed, and a painting would be crafted to occupy that space. The film would then be rewound, the blocked areas reversed, and the painting photographed. Since the painting now existed on the original film, there would be no generational quality loss.
The musical score for Ewoks: The Battle for Endor was composed by Peter Bernstein. Selections from the score were released on LP by Varèse Sarabande in 1986. The release was known simply as Ewoks, and also contained cues from Bernstein's previous score to The Ewok Adventure.In a home video release, the following two scenes were deleted: when being chased by Terak's men, Wicket races for Noa's house but Noa tells him the only chance they have got is the star cruiser. Then a scene that happened shortly after where the men went inside and burned down Noa's house.
When Cindel has a nightmare about bad guys coming into Noa's house, a scene was cut from the television broadcast, in which Cindel rushes to Noa's bed to wake him up, but instead finds Terak in the bed and wakes up. The television version just shows Cindel waking up after the men break in.
Cindel's lines: "Do something, Wicket! Use your sling! You hit the ring!" have been altered to "Do something, Wicket! Do something!" for the DVD release.
In the original TV broadcast of the film, the end credits were rolled over the final scene, but in all home-video releases of the film, the end credits are rolled over a traditional black background after the final scene.
Since the release of The Battle for Endor in 1985, several elements from the film have gone on to appear in other works from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Many times, the characters, locations, or other elements are elaborated on in greater detail.Star Wars: Ewoks (1985–1987) was an ABC animated series featuring the Ewoks that ran for two seasons. A follow-up to the two films, it incorporated several elements introduced in the two Ewok films, such as the appearance of Queen Izrina of the Wisties.
Star Tours (1987) - When Disney and Lucasfilm joined forces for the Star Tours ride, Lucasfilm suggested that certain characters be included in the Safety Guide video before the ride began. However, an Ewok costume from An Ewok Adventure (opposed to another Ewok costume from Return of the Jedi) and Teek were included in the instructional short.
Tyrant's Test (1996) - According to the official continuity of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the character of Cindel Towani went on to appear in Tyrant's Test, the third book of Michael P. Kube-McDowell's Star Wars book series, The Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy. In the novel, set over ten years after The Battle for Endor, Cindel is shown to have grown to become a reporter on Coruscant. During the Yevethan crisis, Cindel received the so-called Plat Mallar tapes from Admiral Drayson, and leaked the story of the only survivor of the Yevethan attack of Polneye. The report was meant to garner sympathy among the people of the New Republic and the Senate and it worked. The Expanded Universe timeline states Cindel decided to join the New Republic and go into journalism after witnessing the Battle of Endor.
The Illustrated Star Wars Universe (1997) by Kevin J. Anderson explains the origins of Charal the witch who kidnaps Cindel in The Battle for Endor in relation to The Courtship of Princess Leia, in that it reveals that she was once one of the Nightsisters, a dark side force-using sect of witches from the planet Dathomir.
HoloNet issue #49 (2002) was an issue of the in-universe news report. In the "regional" section of this issue, the article "Moddell Starship Search Abandoned", explains that the search has been called off for the rescue of Salek Weet and Noa Briqualon, which had been funded by Salek's father, Jimke Weet. The search was said to have been called off due to the fact that Jimke had to file bankruptcy due to his expenses in the search.
Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided (2003) is a MMORPG. In the game, when exploring the forest moon of Endor, the player can run across the base of the Sanyassan Marauders, who were originally seen in The Battle for Endor.
Geonosis and the Outer Rim Worlds (2004) was a sourcebook for the Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. In it, Terak's son Zakul takes over rule of his Marauders after Terak's death. The book gives Terak's bio and stats. It explains his death, and the rise of his son, Zakul.
In 1986, Random House published a children's book adaptation of The Battle for Endor called The Ring, the Witch, and the Crystal: An Ewok Adventure. The book was written by Cathy East Dubowski, and utilized the film's story and images from the film. The title is an allusion to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor initially premiered as an ABC TV special on November 24, 1985. It was released theatrically in the UK as a limited run in the Spring of 1986. After the run had disappeared due to low box office receipts, it appeared on home video in late 1987 on MGM/UA and re-issued for retail in 1988 and 1990. The US later released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1990 through MGM Home Video.
The only theatrical trailer for the film was issued only once in a short run and only widely available on the UK release of MGM's Spaceballs rental video cassette.
The film was released on DVD with its predecessor as a double feature collection entitled Star Wars: Ewok Adventures on November 23, 2004 via 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The release was a single double-sided disc, with one film on each side. Fox had reported of bonus material for the release including behind the scenes footage shot during the making of the films that was made for an ABC Special (but never finished), but no bonus material was eventually included with the DVD upon release.Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio
Available Subtitles: English
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
At the 38th Primetime Emmy Awards, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor and the CBS documentary Dinosaur! were both juried-awarded Emmys for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The film additionally received two nominations for Outstanding Children's Program and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Special.
In his review for The New York Times John Corry faulted the production's source of inspiration, saying "The problem with 'Ewoks: The Battle for Endor' isn't that it's badly done; on the contrary, it's wonderfully well done. But when it's over it's over, and there is no residue. Mr. Lucas and his colleagues find their inspiration in their own technology, and there should be other places to look."
The TV film currently holds an average rating of 52% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Writers Douglas Brode and Leah Deyneka distinguish both the Battle of Endor and its predecessor Caravan of Courage from the original Star Wars trilogy. Pointing to the main characters, tropes and plot elements, they conclude both films are fairy tales and children's fantasies despite occurring in a science fiction setting. They also point to unexplained magical/supernatural phenomena in both films, which are never explained and are considered fantasy instead of science fiction.
They argue that in a science fiction story, the hero wants to disrupt or challenge the hierarchy of a supposed "utopian" society; whereas in both Ewok Adventure films, society is not challenged or disputed. Additionally, they argue, that while the Star Wars saga also has tropes from fairy tales, it adhered more towards science fiction tropes.
Likewise, Eric Charles points out that the television films Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984) and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985), intended for children, are "fairy tales in a science fiction setting", featuring magic and other fairy tale motifs rather than the Force and science fiction tropes.