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Lucas Testifies in Calgary Court That 'Jedi' Ewoks Were His Idea

January 19, 1990|MONICA ZUROWSKI | Zurowski is a reporter for the Calgary (Alberta) Herald.

CALGARY, Canada — The short furry creatures called Ewoks in the 1983 film "Return of the Jedi" evolved from a script written by producer George Lucas in 1974 and were designed--partially--with Lucas' family dog in mind, Lucas told a Canadian court Thursday during his testimony as a defendant in a $129-million copyright-infringement case.

Lucas, who has been accused of stealing the name and concept for the Ewoks from a Calgary writer, said he created the Ewoks in his original 1974 draft of "The Star Wars," and came up with the name by reversing the syllables of the character he called Wookie and rhyming it with the Northern California Indian tribe known as the Miwok (pronounced: mee-walk).

Calgary writer-producer Dean Preston testified earlier in the week that he invented the Ewoks in a script called "Space Pets" that he wrote in 1977 and mailed to Lucas in 1978. Lucas denied having read or received the script from Preston.

Lucas' appearance in Calgary became its own spectacle Thursday as reporters from all over Canada competed for the 24 seats set aside for the media inside the small federal courtroom in Alberta where Justice Andrew MacKay is hearing the case. MacKay ordered the door to the courtroom left open to allow the overflow media to hear Lucas' testimony from the hallway.

The producer said he wrote what he then called "The Star Wars" with the intention of it being one movie, but "realized I had more story and material than I needed for one film." He broke the story up into three parts, which became "Star Wars" (1977), "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and the Ewok-featured "Return of the Jedi" (1983).

Lucas said he had originally intended to have a race of primitive creatures emerge as heroes after fighting and beating the technologically superior Empire forces and that he planned that race to be 8-foot-tall Wookies. But before he began filming, the Wookie had evolved into a sophisticated character able to fly spacecraft and understand technology, so he went back to the drawing board--literally--and came up with the tiny Ewoks.

Three artists, inspired by the looks of both the Wookie and Lucas' Alaskan malamute, came up with the final concept for the Ewoks, Lucas said. The three artists are scheduled to testify later in the trial.

Lucas' Northern California-based company, Lucasfilm Ltd., and 20th Century Fox Canada Ltd. were also named as defendants in Preston's suit. The trial is expected to end next week.

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