There are dozens of memorable alien species and worlds in the Star Wars films and even more in the series’ rich lore spanning video games, television shows and novelizations. Perhaps one of the most adorable and lovable, however, were first introduced in the third film of the Original Trilogy, Return of the Jedi. Yes, you guessed it, we’re talking about Ewoks.
These cute bear-like bipeds are native to the forest moon of Endor and live in huts high up in the trees. Equipped with spears and rocks, they show up near the final act of Return of the Jedi and help the heroes take down the encroaching Imperial forces during the film’s climactic battle on the planet.
What might be most interesting about the Ewoks though is what led to their inception. George Lucas has admitted to wanting a primitive species to help defeat the Empire in the final fight, and he originally leaned toward having the movie’s climax happen on the Wookie home planet of Kashyyyk. After realizing that the Wookies might be too technologically and mentally advanced to make things interesting though, he chose to flip the name around and move some syllables to create a new species called Ewoks.
Ewoks may look like bears, but Lucas actually derived the iconic appearance from one of his pet Brussels Griffon dogs. With the help of make-up artist Stuart Freeborn and some photos of Lucas’ dogs, the rest was history. And while they are cute, the filmmaker has been said to have based the Ewoks’ fighting style on Viet cong guerrillas, explaining their use of primitive weapons like catapults and spears.
In the time since Return of the Jedi, Ewoks have been featured in a multitude of other popular Star Wars adventures, including two made-for-TV films, various books, and even their own short-lived animated television series. The franchise itself, meanwhile, has been a continued success with five additional films and a growing collection of canonical shows since we last saw the furry Ewoks on-screen. Plus, as far as cute things go, The Mandalorian‘s Baby Yoda has been capturing the hearts of Star Wars fans around the world.