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Return of the Ewok - is the original 16mm really lost?

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This question always puzzled me. Altough Warvick states that the original 16mm film of his mockumentary "Return of the Ewok" is lost, the easter egg from original Special Edition DVD trilogy release cleary shows short clip with Bobba Fett and Wicket from "Return of the Ewok" in excellent quality suggesting that the source is in fact preserved.

Does anyone knows is the original film really lost? What was the source for that DVD easter egg edition clip (or it was some kind of alternative source of some other material-documentary where that short clip from Return of the Ewok was simply part of it)?

Does anyone have some additional information on this?

 

 

 

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If I recall correctly, the clip in the easter egg was an alternate take from the one included in Return of the Ewok. It's entirely possible that when ROTE was edited, the original negative was conformed to the edit, which would remove the used take from the original reel with the take used in the doc. After that, the negative master and the 16mm print version could have been lost.

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My feeling was always that it was just "unavailable" to him. Because the 2004 clip showed that the negative was fine. If, Reverend Beastly, it is true that it is just an alternate take then that is unfortunate. Personally, I don't believe that. It looks the same as the bootleg, and it's two or three shots edited together in a full cut, not just a single set up.

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Oh, my mistake then. I haven't watched the easter egg section in a few years.

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 (Edited)

zombie84 said:

My feeling was always that it was just "unavailable" to him. Because the 2004 clip showed that the negative was fine. If, Reverend Beastly, it is true that it is just an alternate take then that is unfortunate. Personally, I don't believe that. It looks the same as the bootleg, and it's two or three shots edited together in a full cut, not just a single set up.

 

Yes that it is the reason why it is so confusing. But again from the other hand when the HYPERSPACE released short 5-min version of "Return of the Ewok" for the subscribed members they used Warvick's VHS tape as s source. If they have perserved master this approach is ever more confusing. I hope that this will be somehow resolved. On the Wikipedia entry there is same unersolved question mark about this.

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I don't think they would do a negative scan for a 5 minute clip for the website, especially since the resolution of the clip itself was small. It was probably just easier to use the VHS tape they had on-hand since it costs virtually nothing, while retrieving and scanning the neg could get you into the tens of thousands of dollars. Was that clip even available before 2004? Maybe they found the negative while scouring for material for the 2004 DVD.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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 (Edited)

Here are some of the rumours with some additional-extended details (more then it is available on the wikipedia page) - I would really like to see this issue resolved in the future. Such a shame if the original negative really exist and it is still unreleased :(

Source: http://encyclopedia.wizards.pro/index.php/Return_of_the_Ewok

Evidence of the original print

The original 16mm print was said to be lost according to Davis, the only copy in existence (though bootlegs now exist) is the one Davis holds in his possession, the supposedly one and only VHS tape copy of the movie. A copy of the print, or even the original print, may actually reside in the Lucasfilm archives. Evidence of this was shown on the 2004 DVD release of The Star Wars Original Trilogy. The segment of Wicket being chased by Boba Fett was located as a segment in an Easter Egg of bloopers from the trilogy. It appeared in a widescreen format in good quality, suggesting that it was filmed this way and has been preserved. Another piece of evidence that would lead one to believe that it resides there is that a small segment was used in the 2004 DVD in the first place. It being such a small and insignificant, and hard to find part of the DVD, it is highly unlikely that Lucasfilm could have used Warwick Davis's copy, or even got a copy of it from him on such short notice. And even then, the clip was so short, it would seem to be a rather small, quick idea that the producers of the DVD came up with in the DVD set's post-production.

It is also possible that the original print lies in the archives due to the fact that the archives have been reported to contain nearly every single piece of star wars artifacts ever created. And it is likely the Lucasfilm crew kept it, in order to use on future projects, as they have been known to with other media. A final possible, though not necessarily true piece of evidence leading one to believe the original print exists is the 2005 starwars.com release of four minutes of footage from the film. Once again, it is unlikely the footage could have been easily and quickly obtained from Davis when the clip was released.

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Celebration III Evidence

Warwick Davis said at C3 that he loaned the VHS tape of his to Lucasfilm, who made a digital copy of it, and that it was the best copy that is known at this point as well as being the source for the Hyperspace clip. Based on the quality of this copy seen at starwars.com, they did a minimal amount of cleanup on that copy. The editors also altered the soundtrack--where there used to be Supertramp's "Take The Long Way Home" as temporary soundtrack, they've dropped in other incidental music (to avoid copyright clearance issues). Also, they seem to have tweaked the soundtrack in other places, and in at least one instance a line is missing (Wicket saying "Crikey, it's Lord Vader!" right near the end).

[edit]

2004 DVD Clip

There have been several fan-based rumors as to how Lucasfilm obtained or created the clip from Return of the Ewok that was found on the 2004 DVD release of the Star Wars classic trilogy. Good question. One theory is that either Lucasfilm took Warwick's VHS copy of the footage and digitally cleaned and restored it, and used that. (Though this is not likely, as the quality appears way too good, even for Lucasfilm's expertise). The other theory among fans is that there was a reel of film in their archives with that particular scene on it (much more likely). There's also the little piece that appeared in the VH1 special (Wicket saying goodbye to the heroes), which I figure is likely the same story. Another explanation is that Return of the Ewok was shot at the same time as Jedi obviously, so footage intended for it appears on the "making of Return of the Jedi" film reels, and even on the actual film reels for the film, in the case of the Boba Fett clip. It would be simple enough to construct a very nice looking 35mm film print of the film, if Lucas ever wanted to, and assuming most or all of the footage has survived.

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I can offer some input here. Mainly with regard to the 2004 clip:

-It's not a cleaned up VHS copy. That is absurd.

-It sure doesn't look like a 35mm or 16mm print duplicate of a 16mm negative of a 20-year-old fan-film. Were that the case, contrast would be jacked way up, there would be lots of grain, as well as ample amounts of dirt and scratches, and you wouldn't have as much detail as the clip shows.

So, what does it look like? A scan of the negative. I'm telling you, that's what it is, nothing else makes sense.

When Davis says the negative is "lost"...

-does that mean he lost it himself, or Lucasfilm does? Who owns it? My impression was that Lucasfilm does. If they don't, they probably made a duplicate negative for their archives. But I believe they always had the only existing print copy(ies), and that they gave Davis a VHS for him to watch, which he has held on to and toured around since then.

-When Lucasfilm told him "it's lost", what does this mean? It means they just couldn't find it.  This was shot in 1982, they made a VHS copy for Davis to keep and then filed the negatives in the archives. Who knows where they went, little dinky miscellaneous footage like this might not have even been properly catalogued, since it's not actual dailies. "Lost" doesn't mean "gone," it just means Lucasfilm isn't going to hire a film librarian to spend three months searching the unordered/mislabelled footage in the archives to the tune of a few thousand dollars just so Warwick Davis can show a 10 minute clip at conventions.

...until...

Lucasfilm hires a film librarian to comb through the archives for the 2004 DVD, looking at raw dailies, outtakes, perhaps even unprinted takes, and all the behind-the-scenes footage (some looks like it is from the raw 16mm footage) they could find. The probably opened up a lot of cans and found stuff they weren't expecting to find. And they had the luxury of doing so because this was a multi-milion dollar project for a DVD release that sold $100 million in its first day of release. And low and behold--a scan of the Return of the Ewok negative, or some sort of print master, appears.

Now, why didn't Hyperspace use this and have to ask Davis? 1) Maybe departments at Lucasfilm don't talk to each other. This is a huge issue in major multi-division mega-coporations, and one of the reasons Lucasfilm wanted to move to the Presidio complex. 2) Maybe the web people didn't know about the 2004 footage. 3) Maybe they knew, and when they realized it would cost $20,000 to scan the negative for a website freebie that isn't even the full film and is small resolution--they asked Davis for his VHS instead.

But based on the sheer fact that the 2004 clip exists, I would say Lucasfilm had the negative the whole time ("it's lost"--in other words, we just can't find it by looking up the catalog), and found it when making the 2004 DVD.

Does Davis even know about that footage? If so, what does he think?

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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 (Edited)

zombie84 said:

 

 

Now, why didn't Hyperspace use this and have to ask Davis? 1) Maybe departments at Lucasfilm don't talk to each other. This is a huge issue in major multi-division mega-coporations, and one of the reasons Lucasfilm wanted to move to the Presidio complex.

 

Does Davis even know about that footage? If so, what does he think?

Excellent and outstanding post. Those were the exact thoughts that I was having today after looking more and more on this issue. The discrepancy between 2004. clip and hyperspace release could be maybe explained due to compartmentalization between Lucasfilm (now huge) divisions like you suggested. Probably during  one of the conferences Davis meet someone from public relations in Lucasfilm. During the projection of mockumentary Davis gives the story "how the original print has been lost". Person from Lucasfilm figures out that this is great exclusive and decides to borrow and digitalize VHS copy from Davis for Hyperspece subscribers (not even thinking that the negative could be still in the Lucasfilm archives in the first place).

2004. clip should be brought to Davis attention. I am not aware that anyone has done it so far. Davis was just a guest on the last episode of Force-cast - altough they talked a lot about Return of the Ewok I was dissapointed that 2004. clip was not mentioned to him. I am very curious to hear his comment on this. I hope that someone will brought this forward in the near future.

 

 

 

 

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Behind the scenes at OT.com, Jay was offered an interview with Warwick (promotion for his recent autobiography). This would have been the ideal opportunity to ask him about this, but sadly Jay never heard back from Warwick's PR.

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That would have been kind of cool to get his reaction. He certainly has never referenced it from what I have seen, and he keeps saying the film is lost, so it's not like he started saying "actually, Lucasfilm found at least part of it for the DVD but they are holding on to it." Or maybe he does know--he would still be able to say that his VHS is the only available copy of the film, since the negative is inaccessible.

I think the problem is that if he went to Lucasfilm and said, "hey, do you think you could make me a high-def copy of that negative you have there?" they would simply say, "no, it's ours." It's a valuable property and probably will be saved for a Blu Ray extra to help sell the set, and I can't see why they would give it away to Davis to make money off doing convention circuits, except maybe as a promotional piece for the set when the time comes.

I would say Steve Sansweet might be another guy to ask, but he's full of shit anyway so I'm not even sure if he would give us a reliable answer.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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 (Edited)

Ok I have done some more checking.

It seems it is second take after all so the story now gets ever more complicated.

Here is the easter egg take:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MR-ne3lCfSU

Here is the Hyperspace take (go at 03:08 minute of the clip):

http://www.starwars.com/video/view/000076.html

Now this brings more questions. Does it mean that someone transfered rought cut to VHS for Davis. But then again if there are more takes involved it could again mean that source reels are preserved - maybe they can't locate the rough cut.

Anyway good points that Zombie was mentioned about Lucasfilm archives can be also seen in video named:

Anatomy of a Dewback - episode two

Video gives a story how the artists started to locate old elements for the SE from Lucasfilm archives. Of course it is known that Lucas keeps everything - even the elements for special effects.

Inside the video there are shoots of the archive with reels in boxes and how they started to check everything during the preparation for SE. After watching this I am having impression that the archive is not very well cataloged (at least prior to 1997).

This video can be found in the DVD-ROM section of the DELETED MAGIC - REVISED VERSION (mov format).

 

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Hmm, you are right about it being assembled from alternate footage. It's not the version Davis originally cut.

I guess that means that they found all the raw dailies though. Now, did they find the actual assembly negative? Maybe they did, but thought the alternate footage was better (this isn't a presentation of ROTE, just some silly footage for a blooper reel). Maybe they didn't, and that's why they had to use alternate footage. It's too hard to tell from a 5-second choice. But at the very least it confirms that the raw footage is at Lucasfilm and is catalogued. And I'm guessing the actual negative is there too--where else would it have gone? It was only printed once as far as I know (for Davis' VHS--probably it was also shown at the crew wrap party or something), so it's no doubt in the archives somewhere.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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I should probably chime in at this point...

First of all, one name that hasn't been brought up during this discussion is that of David Tomblin, first assistant director on ROTJ and director of Return Of The Ewok (ROTE).  He is key to this whole discussion, since ROTE was his film and his baby.  He was given unprecendented access to every aspect of ROTJ to make his own little film, which the actors and crew happily cooperated with him on.  Lucas (and everyone else involved) must have really liked him.  Unfortunately, he never fully completed the film...but he did give a VHS copy of the rough cut to Warwick Davis early on.  Warwick forgot about it for a long time, but eventually brought it out for Celebration I in 1999 (and I think another event just prior)...and that was its first exposure to the world.  Needless to say, it was wildly popular among those lucky enough to be there to see it (myself included), and it became Warwick's centerpiece for many of his appearances to come.

Lucasfilm apparently did not have a copy of this film at all (the only physical copy of the cut was probably in Tomblin's hands), and they requested to borrow the VHS from Warwick to make a digital preservation copy, probably around the time of Celebration I.  That digital copy would have formed the basis for the edited Hyperspace version, and I'm certain that the unedited version resides in the LFL archives for posterity...though we will probably never see it in its entirety due to the clearance nightmares involved in releasing it to the public.

Sadly, David Tomblin died in 2005 leaving ROTE in limbo with the original film stock still missing.  I had hoped that the actual film might turn up in his estate after his death, but so far I've heard nothing to indicate that.  It was probably lost long ago, possibly destroyed, leaving Warwick's VHS tape the only known copy in existence.

A lot of these questions came up while ocpmovie/Garrett and I were researching the preservation of this film, and while Garrett was editing the complete film together from the best/only sources out there.  He made the discovery then that both the "Wicket & Fett" clip from the 2004 DVD and the "Warwick waving goodbye" from the documentary were alternate takes from what was on the original ROTE film.  Since preservation of the original version was more important to us than the better quality, we opted to not use the alternate takes; and instead, Garrett put them in the DVD menu loop...which I think worked well.

What this means is that there are at least a couple of scraps of original footage Tomblin shot that got left with Lucasfilm.  Whether there are more scraps or not is anyone's guess, but the entire film itself has not shown up.  If it did, I'm fairly sure Lucasfilm would do an article about the discovery, even if they couldn't show the film to the public.

The fan preservation of ROTE, which edited all the footage from Hyperspace together with the only other footage available (a dodgy cam recording of a VHS presentation), is the only way to view the entire film outside of managing to catch Warwick while he's presenting it.  Garrett even mixed Supertramp's "Take The Long Way Home" back into the Hyperspace footage, in the proper place.  We made a decision to use proper widescreen clips from the trilogy to replace the "scrunched" temp footage that Tomblin had left in, and Garrett added in title and credits to the film - the only two things that really deviated from the rough cut's original presentation.

It's not outside the realm of possibility to think that an original celluloid print of ROTE could still turn up somewhere.  It could be lost in the Lucasfilm archives, still lost in Tomblin's estate somewhere, or lost somewhere else entirely.  Hey, look at what happened to Metropolis...the original version showed up 80 YEARS after all copies were supposedly destroyed!  Of course, ROTE is nowhere near that level of sacred, even though we'd like to think it is. ;)

--SKot

Projects:
Return Of The Ewok and Other Short Films (with OCPmovie) [COMPLETED]
Preserving the…cringe…Star Wars Holiday Special [COMPLETED]
The Star Wars TV Commercials Project [DORMANT]
Felix the Cat 1919-1930 early film shorts preservation [ONGOING]
Lights Out! (lost TV anthology shows) [ONGOING]

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SKot said:

I should probably chime in at this point...

---snip---

--SKot

 Dear SKot.

Thank you so much for this retrospective. I just remember this good old thread and started to think that maybe someone posted something later. And bingo. If anyone will have any updates on this in the future, please don't forget this interesting thread.

Thanks once again SKot.

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Just as a point of reference, the master for the 1980 AC/DC concert film "Let There Be Rock" was said to be lost for the longest time, only existing on VHS and possibly one or more worn-down release prints.

It was released on DVD & Blu-ray this year, fully restored from the original negative. The explanation?

The guy who shot the film refused to allow a release scanned from the negative which he possessed. His rights to it just recently expired.

So you never know what the heck's going on behind the scenes...