‘We had an outline and George changed everything in it,’ Kurtz said. ‘Instead 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’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.’
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.
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.
The more I read things like this, the more I dislike George Lucas, and the goddamn Ewoks, and Star Wars as a whole. (Via Daring Fireball.)