On September 7, 1985, ABC premiered Star Wars Droids: The Adventures Of R2-D2 And C-3P0, a Canadian-produced animated series showing us what the Star Wars droids get up to in their spare time (they mostly wonder around desert-like planets, as it turns out).
On September 15, 2015, I first learned of the existence of Star Wars Droids: The Adventures Of R2-D2 And C-3P0. I am not quite old enough to have actually watched the show during its 13-episode run in 1985, but I am somewhat surprised that up until this moment I had never even heard of it. I knew about the Rambo, Starship Troopers and Dumb & Dumber cartoon shows, but not a Star Wars one featuring the voice of Anthony Daniels as C-3P0? Clearly, I need to finally finish reading my copy of Chris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe because my knowledge of Star Wars history has some blind spots.
Before I get around to that, though, I’ll just check out IGN’s new retrospective to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Droids. Here’s what I learned:
-The theme song was written by Adam Copeland of The Police, but he never even saw the show. The producers showed him the line of Droids toys and told him to write a theme song based on those.
-Like many old (and some current) cartoons, it was primarily produced to prop up Star Wars toy sales, and though that didn’t ultimately work some of the Droid-specific toys now sell for several thousand dollars.
-Luke, Leia, Han and the other major Star Wars characters were not featured on the show, but secondary characters like Boba Fett put in an appearance or two.
-George Lucas was apparently not all that involved with any of it
-It was a prequel to the original trilogy, but that complicated things for the hardcore fans once the prequel trilogy came out and ended Revenge of the Sith with R2-D2 and C-3P0 being owned by Captain Antilles thus explaining how they were on the Rebel Alliance ship at the start of A New Hope. However, if you considered Droids canon you had work really hard to explain why they appeared to be owned by three different people across the course of the series, none of whom were Captain Antilles. None of that matters anymore because Droids has officially been removed from canon.
-The quality of animation was on par with many Saturday morning cartoons of the ‘80s, which is to say not great. Every alien planet was basically Tattoonie with a different name thus saving on budget for background animation. Yet the show had a budget of $250,000 per episode, one of the high water marks in animated TV at the time
-The iconic John Williams orchestral scores from the films were replaced with synth-driven incidental music on the show.
-Paul Dini, now known as the one of the key producers on Batman: The Animated Series, was heavily involved with Droids, but was discouraged when all ABC wanted out of it was “safe children’s programming.”
–Droids might have influenced both the prequel trilogy as well as The Force Awakens (or it could all just be a coincidence):
Droids actually introduced a lot of ideas and concepts that would later show up in George Lucas’s Star Wars Prequels; things like Artoo and a little kid piloting a stolen starfighter, a 1950s diner run by a four-armed alien, a mysterious region known as the “Cloak of the Sith” (a term never used in the Original Trilogy as you’ll recall), a wheel bike à la Grievous’s vehicle, a speeder bike race that took place on — you guessed it — a desert planet called Boonta. The list goes on.
In the second arc, there was even a space pirate called — get this — Kybo Ren, whose name sounds almost exactly like Kylo Ren, one of the main bad guys in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not only that, but Kybo commanded a small fleet of stolen TIE fighters painted with red accents, just like the First Order Special Forces TIEs in Episode VII
-The full series has only ever been released on VHS. Eight episodes were edited into a couple of two-hour movies and released on DVD in 2004, but those are now hard to find. LucasFilm has previously indicated a full release might be on the way, but ever since the Disney buyout that no longer seems to be a priority. The best bet to watch episodes at this point is YouTube.
What? This is the first you’re hearing of an Ewoks animated series?
Actually, same here. Here’s the theme song: