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Lucas sacrificed Star Wars integrity to sell more junk?

George Lucas cranked up the cuteness quotient at the end of Return of the Jedi in order to sell more Ewok merchandise, says producer Gary Kurtz in this LATimes interview.

“I could see where things were headed,‚Äù Kurtz said. ‚ÄúThe toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It‚Äôs a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It‚Äôs natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that‚Äôs not the best thing for making quality films.‚Äù

He added: ‚ÄúThe first film and ‚ÄòEmpire‚Äô were about story and character, but I could see that George‚Äôs priorities were changing. The emphasis on the toys, it‚Äôs like the cart driving the horse.”

More on Gary Kurtz’s nobler plan for the end of the trilogy after the cut. Topping this post is a further reworking of Jedi’s ending for the 1997 vandalism remastering job Lucas did to ‘enhance’ the original trilogy. On the next page you can take a look at the compromised ending as it appeared in 1983. Admittedly, the yub nub campfire chant will not be remembered as John Williams’ finest hour, but was it wise to tack on the misguided updates above that already look dated a decade later?

“We had an outline and George changed everything in it,” Kurtz said. ‚ÄúInstead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn‚Äôt want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.‚Äù

The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.

Crystal Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy bear luau.

Lucas has announced the Star Wars Sage will be released on Blu-ray in 2011 — but the original un-fucked-with trilogy will not be included as an option. Purists better hold onto those VHS tapes because if we give Lucas another 20 years who knows what further tampering he’ll have done to tart up his legacy.