‘Star Wars’ Reboots the Infamous ‘Holiday Special’

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Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in 'The Star Wars Holiday Special'

Credit: Lucasfilm

The Star Wars Holiday Special was once so embarrassing that George Lucas tried to erase all existence of it. Times have changed, and now Disney is bringing it back.

star wars holiday special
Credit: Lucasfilm

For decades, the mere existence of the Star Wars Holiday Special was something of a fan myth or possible urban legend. It was broadcast only once in 1978 on CBS, basically as a stopgap between the original 1977 film and The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

It has never had a full authorized release, unlike the many different re-releases and edited special editions of the original trilogy. For a long time, the only way that fans could get a glimpse of the infamous “Life Day” was in grainy home recordings uploaded to file-sharing sites, which were usually scrubbed from existence as soon as Lucasfilm discovered it.

Chewie's son, Lumpy in the 'Star Wars Holiday Special' (1978)
Credit: Lucasfilm

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However, Lucasfilm is now a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, as is Marvel Entertainment, the parent company of Marvel Comics. George Lucas may still be angry at the fact that the holiday special exists, but it is no longer up to him.

Much of the background of the Star Wars Holiday Special is debated and contradictory, but what is known is that, at some point, the idea of a variety show special themed around the franchise was a good idea. In fairness, it was the 1970s.

Reportedly, George Lucas was minimally involved but came up with the idea of a project centered around the family of Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), the co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon. If it’s any indication of the chaos behind the scenes, writer Bruce Vilanch thought that centering a television special around main characters who spoke only in grunts and howls might not be the best idea, but it went on anyway.

Harvey Korman in the Star Wars Holiday Special
Credit: Lucasfilm

The Star Wars Holiday Special follows Chewbacca and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as they try to get to the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk for Life Day, a galaxy-wide non-denominational celebration that is definitely not Christmas.

Along the way, Chewie and Han Solo run afoul of Imperial forces, there is a cantina scene starring Bea Arthur, a cooking show with Harvey Korman, a bizarre virtual reality sequence with singer Diahann Carroll, and more death than you might think. There are also some cartoons.

Diahann Carroll in the Star Wars Holiday Special
Diahann Carroll in the Star Wars Holiday Special
Credit: Lucasfilm

Finally, Han Solo and Chewbacca make it to Life Day, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2-D2 show up, and Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) sings a song. There’s a reason why George Lucas was embarrassed.

Despite that, some elements of the special are critical to the franchise. It established the now-canon name of the Wookie homeworld and, more importantly, introduced a character who would unexpectedly become a breakout of the series: Boba Fett.

Star Wars Holiday Special
Credit: Lucasfilm

Fans embraced the campiness of the Star Wars Holiday Special long ago, and November 17, the date of the original airing, has become the official celebration of Life Day in the real world.

Accordingly, Marvel Comics is honoring Life Day with special covers featuring various characters celebrating the galactic holiday throughout the month of November, further cementing the canonicity of the notorious television special.

Star Wars Life Day cover
Credit: Marvel Comics
Star Wars Life Day cover
Credit: Marvel Comics
Star Wars Life Day Bounty Hunters Cover from Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics
Star Wars Life Day cover
Credit: Marvel Comics

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Combined with the Disney+ Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (2020), it really seems like Disney is invested in making Life Day a thing. Get ready for November 17, everyone!

Do you celebrate Life Day? Should the special have been left in the dust of history? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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