John Korty, the director of the television movie Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, has passed away at 85. While he is known for his documentaries and work on educational television for children, his Star Wars television film helped pave the way for the future for the franchise on television.
Korty’s early credits include directing both the sci-fi television movie The People starring William Shatner and a television film adaptation of the book Go Ask Alice (which also reunited him with Shatner), alongside serving as a second unit director on the political comedy The Candidate. His most acclaimed works were CBS’s adaptation of the novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and the theatrical documentary Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?, released in 1974 and 1979 respectively. While many of his film efforts on the big and small screens were more adult-oriented, Korty’s career also led him to Sesame Street as he worked on animated segments, and he eventually went over to a competing show Vegetable Soup. Eventually, his friendship with George Lucas netted him the director’s chair in a feature-length television film set before the events of Return of the Jedi.
Originally released as The Ewok Adventure, the film that would later be known as Caravan of Courage revolved around the young girl Cindel Towani and her family, who crash-landed on the planet Endor and had to team up with the Ewoks to survive. The film was followed by the sequel Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, which chronicled Cindel’s continued adventures with the Ewok people and her eventual escape from Endor after a deadly encounter with a rogue Nightsister. One of the key things the film introduced are the Blurrg species, which have appeared across multiple canonical Star Wars television series, including The Clone Wars, Rebels, The Mandalorian, and The Bad Batch. Its sequel also (thanks to retroactive continuity) introduced the concept of the Nightsisters, which would formally be introduced in the novel The Courtship of Princess Leia before making their way to canonical works like The Clone Wars and Jedi: Fallen Order. While they remain obscure, the two movies would have a considerable influence on the Legends and Canon Star Wars continuities.
John Korty won two Emmys, an Oscar, a Director’s Guild of America Award, and a Humanitas Prize for his efforts. He was one of many friends of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola during his long career, working alongside Lucasfilm alumni like Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Warwick Davis, and many others along the way. Korty is survived by his wife Jane Sylvia, his sons Jonathan, David and Gabriel Korty, his brother Doug Korty, and his sister Nancy Korty. He will be missed.