|The Star Wars Holiday Special|
|Approx. run time||97 minutes|
|Written by||George Lucas (story, uncredited)
|Directed by||Steve Binder
David Acomba (uncredited)
|Produced by||Joe Layton
|Music by||Ian Fraser (score)
Ken Welch (songs)
Mitzie Welch (songs)
John Williams (themes)
|Release date||November 17, 1978|
The Star Wars Holiday Special is a 1978 American two-hour television special (including commercials) set in the Star Wars galaxy and was the first official Star Wars spinoff produced. Directed by Steve Binder, it was broadcast in its entirety in the United States only once, on Friday, November 17, 1978 on CBS-TV from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST). In the story, Chewbacca and Han Solo visit Kashyyyk, Chewbacca's home world, to celebrate Life Day. Along the way, they are pursued by agents of the Galactic Empire, who are searching for rebels on the planet. The special introduces three members of Chewbacca's family: his father Attichitcuk, his wife Mallatobuck, and his son Lumpawarrump.
The main storyline of the film, which occurs two years after the Battle of Yavin (2 ABY), takes place on Kashyyyk. During the film, scenes also take place in outer space and in spacecraft including the Millennium Falcon and an Imperial Star Destroyer. The variety-show segments and cartoon introduce a few other locales, such as a cantina on the desert planet of Tatooine and a gooey, reddish ocean planet known as Panna.
The program also features brief appearances by other Star Wars characters, including Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa (who sings the film's "theme song", set to the music of John Williams's Star Wars theme, near the end). The program also features a cartoon produced by Toronto-based Nelvana that officially introduces the bounty hunter Boba Fett.
The film is notorious for its negative reception. Anthony Daniels in a documentary promoting the worldwide tour of Star Wars: In Concert notes with a laugh the Star Wars Universe includes "The horrible Holiday Special that nobody talks about". George Lucas had limited involvement with the film's production, and he was unhappy with the results. David Acomba, a classmate of Lucas's at USC film school, had been selected to direct the special, but he chose to leave the project, a decision supported by Lucas. The special has never been re-aired or officially released on video.
It is Life Day (a holiday analogous to Christmas on Earth). Chewbacca is on his way home to see his family and to celebrate the holiday, accompanied by his friend, Han Solo. Not long after departing Tatooine in the Millennium Falcon, the duo find themselves chased by two Star Destroyers, which Han derisively refers to as an "Imperial garbage scow." After a short argument whether they should abort the mission a decision is made to move forward. Han then sends the Falcon into hyperspace.
Meanwhile, on Kashyyyk, Chewie's family is anxiously awaiting and preparing for Chewbacca's return. For the most part, they are going on with their everyday lives. However, Chewie's family is a bit nervous, because Chewbacca has not arrived yet. Malla takes down a framed picture of Chewbacca; her father-in-law Itchy notices her worries and reassures Malla that Chewie is safe, and she replaces the picture. Itchy then gets out a movie (in the form of a futuristic capsule), and gives it to his grandson, Lumpy, to play on their movie device. After the movie is over, the family begins to do various chores.
Malla and Itchy begin to worry again. Malla switches on a viewscreen-computer, and runs a search for any starships in the area, hoping that the Falcon will be found in the scan, but the computer returns the result of "no starships in the area." She is deeply disappointed, and switches off the viewscreen. She opens a hidden communication device from within their cabinets — it is a device that allows them to communicate (via the HoloNet) with Chewbacca and the rebellion. Since this type of device is not allowed by the Empire, they must keep it a secret. Malla contacts Luke Skywalker, who, along with his faithful droid R2-D2, is working on his X-wing starfighter. Luke says he doesn't know what has happened. But knowing Han and Chewie, he suggests that they probably stopped off somewhere and would arrive soon. Luke begins to have a few problems of his own when the part he is working on begins to emit a large amount of steam. Seeing that he is busy, Malla shuts off the communication viewscreen.
Next, Malla contacts Saun Dann, a local human trader on the planet. He is dealing with a customer when she contacts him, and Malla is able to view the proceedings. An Imperial Navy trooper is looking around Dann's shop, but is uninterested in any of Dann's suggestions. While the guard is still looking at things, Dann notices Malla on the viewscreen, and lets her know through a carefully-worded message that Han and Chewie are on their way, and should be arriving soon. However, he doesn't know of their current whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Darth Vader's star destroyer is orbiting Tatooine. Vader has been alerted to the escape of the Falcon from the grasp of the Empire. He was not ready to let them escape for the second time, as he has been on the search for the rebels who had destroyed the Death Star not long ago, and was obsessed with locating the ones responsible. An Imperial officer informs Vader that a blockade has been set up around Kashyyyk, and a search started on the planet. Vader is pleased, and instructs him to continue the search.
Back on the Falcon, Chewie and Han have just come out of hyperspace not far from Kashyyyk. They are completely surprised by the blockade, and immediately begin to do battle with four TIE fighters blocking their way. Meanwhile, back on Kashyyyk, an Imperial officer broadcasts that a blockade has been set up around the planet, and the Empire has declared martial law. Immediately after the announcement, Chewie's family get a knock at the door. Frightened, Itchy goes to open it and to their relief, it is Saun Dann at the door. Saun Dann brings everyone Life Day gifts; a music box for Malla, a box with an unknown present in it for Lumpy, and an Interactive Virtual Reality Fantasy Chip for Itchy.
Malla then contacts Princess Leia via viewscreen to alert them of Han and Chewie's tardiness. Princess Leia Organa and C-3PO are at a Rebel base, hard at work on something. Leia can offer no help, but does ask if Malla is alone, and is relieved that Saun Dann is there to protect everyone. With little help from Leia, Malla switches off the communication device.
Back on the Falcon, Han and Chewie are approaching Kashyyyk. They are glad to finally almost be there. Han notices the increased Imperial presence, so they decide to land on a safe section of the north side of the planet. However, this is far from the Wookiee household and will be a long walk. Chewbacca protests, but they finally decide to land the ship. As they enter the atmosphere, Lumpy hears the roaring of the ship. Everyone in the Wookiee house gets excited, and all run to the door. Believing Han and Chewie might be at it, Malla opens the door, and find two stormtroopers and two Imperial officers behind it.
The Imperials force their way into the house. The head officer checks the house for residents and finds that the male Wookiee, Chewbacca, is missing. He orders a search. The officers rudely look through the house, nearly discovering the hidden communication device. To try to distract the attention of the Imperials, Saun Dann suggests that he and Malla prepare some food for everyone in the kitchen. While they are doing this, Dann turns on Malla's music video box for one of the officers, who then seems to be more interested in the music than his duties. When the music finishes, the head officer orders the search to continue. Saun Dann sees he cannot help further and leaves. The head officer tells Malla to keep Lumpy busy while they search his room, so Lumpy (and the viewing audience) watches a cartoon on a viewscreen of one of his father's many adventures.
The cartoon deals with Luke, Han, and Leia's first encounter with Boba Fett. During a search for a talisman, the Millennium Falcon crashes on a water planet known as Panna. Luke and the gang go after them, dispatching from a rebel base in a Y-Wing. Upon landing, they run into Fett, who wants to help them. They all board the Falcon, where Han has been infected by a mysterious sleeping virus caused by the talisman. Luke immediately contracts the virus as well. Fett and Chewie go into Panna City to get the cure for the condition. Once they get into the Imperial-occupied city, Fett instructs Chewie to stay behind while he gets the cure. Once away from Chewie, Fett contacts Darth Vader and informs him of the situation. He reveals that he and Vader are in a plan to reveal the location of the Rebels so that Vader can stop them, as he tried and failed to do previously. Back on the Falcon, as C-3PO is caring for Han and Luke, he and R2-D2 intercept the message between Vader and Fett. After evading the Imperials, Fett and Chewie return to the Falcon with the cure. After everyone recovers from the virus, they all learn of Fett's true allegiances. Fett ignites his jet pack and blasts away, promising that he will meet them all again. Everyone then blasts away from the planet, and back to the rebel base on board the Falcon. Lumpy shuts off the monitor and applauds it.
By this time, the Imperials have trashed everything in Lumpy's room. Once the Imperials are done there, they move to another part of the house, Lumpy surveys the damage and is very saddened over what they have done to his stuff, and after a moment of sadness, creates a plan for revenge using the gadget Saun Dann gave him earlier for his Life Day present. His plan is to create a communication device that will fool the Imperials into returning to their base by emulating the voice of one of their superiors.
While the Imperials are still searching downstairs, the living room viewscreen activates, advertising a video that is "required viewing by all Imperial personnel." All the Imperials in the house turn their immediate attention to the viewscreen. A reality-TV type program entitled Life on Tatooine is interrupted by a broadcast announcing that Tatooine is now being put under curfew by the Empire, due to "subversive forces." Everyone must return to their homes immediately. Lumpy uses this opportunity to put his plan into motion. The Imperials get a repeated call to "return to base." They leave, but the head officer instructs one of the stormtroopers to stay behind. After the other Imperials leave, the stormtrooper still hears the repeating signal. He immediately sees that something is wrong because there are no more radios around. He determines that the sound is coming from upstairs, where he finds Lumpy speaking into the box he had constructed earlier. His voice is being translated and amplified to be more human and deeper. The stormtrooper walks into the room and grabs the box, startling Lumpy. The trooper throws the box to the ground, shattering it. Lumpy is frightened, runs down the stairs and out onto the deck, followed closely by the stormtrooper.
As they both run onto the deck, they discover Han and Chewbacca walking up to the door. Chewie runs around the stormtrooper to protect Lumpy as the trooper points his gun at both of them. Han backs against the wall, sneaks up behind the stormtrooper and attacks the trooper, making the trooper break the railing and fall off of the deck to his death in the deep forests below. Relieved, Han picks up Lumpy and hands him to his father.
As all three go inside, they find Malla and Itchy are waiting. Han tells them he has taken care of the threat, and everyone is glad to be safe and back together. Chewie and Han hug everyone. They want Han to stay, but he says he has to get back to the Falcon before someone finds it where he has hidden it. After bidding everyone a heartfelt goodbye, he leaves wishing everyone a happy Life Day. After he leaves, another knock at the door announces the return of Saun Dann, arriving with bags in his hands. Suddenly, the Imperial officer appears on the viewscreen, giving a general alert for a missing stormtrooper (which is the stormtrooper that Han has just killed).
Realizing the trouble they could be in, Saun Dann quickly claims that the trooper stayed behind after his squad had left as instructed, but then the trooper stole a lot of food from the house and left without a trace. The excuse works, and the officer says he will send out a search party to find the missing trooper. Everyone is relieved as the viewscreen deactivates. Saun Dann wishes the entire family a happy Life Day as he leaves. The family prepares to go the festival at the Tree of Life, gathering crystals together and joining them above their heads.
Magically, along with many other Wookiees, the family is next seen in space, travelling toward a bright star. They walk into it, arriving at the great Tree of Life, where many Wookiees dressed in red robes are gathered. As Chewbacca takes the stage, C-3PO and R2-D2 suddenly appear, along with Luke, Leia, and finally Han. He had had a surprise for everyone, as he brought the whole gang back for the celebration. Everyone is glad to be together. Leia gives a short speech on the meaning of Life Day and sings a song in celebration- to the tune of the Star Wars theme. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Chewbacca remembers the adventures he had in A New Hope, such as his first meeting with Luke and Leia, their escape from the Death Star, playing dejarik with R2-D2, and the award ceremony after he and Han had helped Luke destroy the Death Star. The Wookiees began to file out of the ceremony as his memories end.
That night, the Wookiee family (Chewbacca, Mallatobuck, Lumpawarrump, and Attichitcuk) all sit at the family table, feasting to celebrate the day and being back together again.
Generally, The Star Wars Holiday Special has received a large amount of criticism, both from Star Wars fans and the general public. David Hofstede, author of What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, ranked the holiday special at number one, calling it "the worst two hours of television ever." Shepard Smith, a news anchor for the Fox News Channel, referred to it as a "'70s train wreck, combining the worst of Star Wars with the utter worst of variety television." Actor Phillip Bloch explained on a TV Land special entitled The 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments, that the special "just wasn't working. It was just so surreal." On the same program, Ralph Garman, a voice actor for the show Family Guy, explained that "The Star Wars Holiday Special is one of the most infamous television programs in history. And it's so bad that it actually comes around to good again, but passes it right up."
The only aspect of the special which has been generally well-received is the animated segment which introduces the bounty hunter Boba Fett, who would later become a popular character when he appeared in the Star Wars theatrical films.
George Lucas himself has rarely commented on or even acknowledged its existence, except to friends and co-workers. He is thought to hold a low opinion of it. For instance, Tom Burman, one of the costume designers for the holiday special, has said that Lucas once told him that he was very disappointed with the final product.
At one Australian fan convention he reportedly said "If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it." In an online chat with fans, he reportedly said: "The holiday special does not represent my vision for Star Wars." In an interview with Maxim magazine in May 2002, Maxim asked the question, "Any plans for a Special Edition of the Holiday Special?" Lucas responded with "Right. That's one of those things that happened, and I just have to live with it."
Later, in a May 2005 interview with StaticMultimedia.com, Lucas was asked if the film had soured him on working in television: He replied: "The special from 1978 really didn't have much to do with us, you know. I can't remember what network it was on, but it was a thing that they did. We kind of let them do it. It was done by... I can't even remember who the group was, but they were variety TV guys. We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences."
The official Star Wars site states that the holiday special "delivered mixed results," but explains that the highlight of the special was the Boba Fett animated segment. The official site also says, when referring to the fan interest in seeing the Wookiees on screen, "the 1978 Holiday Special didn't cut it." When asked at a fan convention, "So, you don't like it (the holiday special) either?", Lucasfilm head of content and fan relations, Steve Sansweet replied "No. I mean, I like the ten minute introduction of Boba Fett, but that's about it." The official site also refers to the Boba Fett animated segment as "a cult classic.".
On February 8, 2006, Harrison Ford made an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and during the interview, O'Brien brought up the special, and began asking various questions regarding it, such as inquiring whether he remembered making it. Ford said nothing, but looked away and shook his head nervously, then saying he had no memory of it whatsoever and it, therefore, "doesn't exist." The audience responded with laughter and applause. O'Brien then asked Ford what he would think if he played a clip of the special on the show, Ford jokingly grabbed him, then said that "[he'd] never seen it, maybe it'll be nice." Humorously acting anxious and distracted, Ford suffered through the clip (which featured a scene showing Ford as Han Solo telling Chewbacca and his wife that they are "like family" to him), and then muttered a gruff, sarcastic "thank you" to O'Brien, before continuing with the interview to promote his then newest film, Firewall.
The program was seen in Canada on CTV on the same evening as the CBS broadcast. Toronto CTV station CFTO-TV aired the program at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than seen on the nearest American outlet, WIVB-TV in Buffalo, NY.
The Star Wars Holiday Special is important for being the first film-length Star Wars story after the original theatrical film, and for showing an expanded look at parts of that universe. The main focus of the holiday special is the Blockade of Kashyyyk. But for the most part, the plot serves as little more than a means to string together a series of musical numbers, celebrity cameos, and other variety-show acts. These include songs and comedy routines by such 1970s talents as Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur. Easily the most notable segment is an animated cartoon featuring the pre-Empire Strikes Back debut of Boba Fett.
The special features four songs. The first, "This Minute Now," sung by Diahann Carroll, is best remembered for the bizarre monologue which precedes it in which Carroll — who is supposed to be an image created by a virtual-reality machine — tells Chewbacca's father, Itchy, that she is his "fantasy" and suggestively invites him to "experience" her. The second musical number is the song "Light the Sky on Fire", performed by Jefferson Starship, which is presented as a 3-D music video watched by one of the Imperial guards; during production the song was given the working title "Cigar-Shaped Object (Vanished Without A Trace)". Later, Bea Arthur, who plays a bartender in the Mos Eisley cantina, sings "Good Night, But Not Goodbye" to the same set of aliens that were seen in the Cantina in A New Hope, including, as the back-up musicians, the Cantina's resident group, Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes. Finally, at the end of the special, Carrie Fisher sings a song in celebration of Life Day to the tune of the Star Wars main title.
Harvey Korman provides comedy in three of the special's skits, including the Cantina skit with Bea Arthur where he plays a barfly who drinks through a hole in the top of his head. He also performs two solo routines: one as Chef Gormanda, a four-armed parody of Julia Child (the four arms allow her to work much faster than Malla can keep up with), and one as a malfunctioning Amorphian android in an instruction video watched by Lumpy. Art Carney has a more integral role in the story, playing a trader named Saun Dann on Kashyyyk who is a member of the Rebellion and helps Chewie's family. His segments are also largely played for laughs, and at one point includes a scene alluding to his character Ed Norton from The Honeymooners, where an Imperial officer demands that he "get on with it" while Carney dallies with a prop.
The high point of the special is generally considered to be the animated segment produced by Nelvana known as "The Faithful Wookiee". While the artistic style takes great liberties — R2-D2's body is rubbery, C-3PO actually blinks (with vertical eyelids) and Han's face is nearly unrecognizable — the animation is above average for television animation of the period and the music and sound effects are straight out of the film, along with the vocal talents of the main cast from the film. Not only does the cartoon introduce Boba Fett, but his jet pack and rope gun as well, which are not used again in the movies until Return of the Jedi four and a half years later.
Hasbro has released a Boba Fett action figure, using the likeness from the animated cartoon, and titled "Boba Fett (Animated Debut)".
Also Funko is releasing a Star Wars Holiday Special Boba Fett Bobblehead in a special Limited Edition as part of their new Star Wars Bobblehead series. His coloring in the Star Wars Holiday Special was unique, and far from the way he eventually appeared on the big screen in The Empire Strikes Back.
The Holiday Special also includes a circus-style acrobatics routine that includes uneven bars and juggling. All the acts were loosely linked together with material which involves the Wookiees' preparation for Life Day, Han and Chewie's attempt to evade the Imperials and make it to Chewie's family, and the Imperial garrison's search for rebels.
The Star Wars Holiday Special was mostly forgotten after its only airing in 1978, until sometime in the early-to-mid-1990s when individuals came forward and offered original videotape recordings of the TV airing. These have since been duplicated and reduplicated so that most copies of the special available today are based on second to sixth generation VHS dubs. Some of these fan-made copies include the original commercials that aired during the show. One first generation VHS recording available on many BitTorrent websites was recorded from Des Moines, Iowa's KCCI, which is of the highest currently known quality.
It soon became a cult classic among Star Wars fans despite (or perhaps because of) its criticisms. While originally shared or sold as a bootleg video at conventions or outlets such as eBay, file-sharing technologies have made the special more widely available to fans curious to see for themselves. Online video sites such as YouTube have also been known to host clips of the special, but to this day, the special has not officially been made available. (A so-called "Platinum Edition" DVD mentioned in a review by Lawrence Person on Locus Online is an April Fools Hoax.)
Animation cels sold in the mid-1990s came from the special's animated Boba Fett segment. Segments of that cartoon appear in the 2002 Attack of the Clones web documentary "Bucket Head", and Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch introduces the segment as coming from the Holiday Special. In 2004, the official Star Wars site confirmed that documentary filmmaker Kevin Burns was allowed access to the original print for use in his Empire of Dreams documentary. However, the segment using footage from the holiday special was ultimately left out of the final cut of Empire of Dreams.
The Star Wars Holiday Special is technically in the Star Wars canon, which means that the events depicted are part of the greater continuity that includes the other films, novels, comic books, video games, etc. Generally, it falls in the C-Canon in the overall Star Wars continuity.
According to Leland Chee, the keeper of The Holocron, an internal Star Wars continuity database at Lucasfilm (which contains at least 28 individual entries relating to elements of the holiday special), most elements from the holiday special are definitely considered canon. However, there are specific rules as to what is what. First off, any element from the holiday special that is referenced in another work is considered C-Canon (such as Life Day, Chewbacca's family, etc.). Any element from the holiday special that is not referenced in other works is considered S-Canon, which means that it is canon, and that it "happened," but its canonicity is not set in stone. The only element from the holiday special where the canonicity is disputed is its claim that Chief Bast survived the destruction of the first Death Star from A New Hope.
Since The Star Wars Holiday Special was broadcast, it has received an extreme amount of criticism and enmity by both fans and official sources. Despite the relative unpopularity of the elements of the special, those at Lucasfilm responsible for licensing have kept the special in continuity, due to their canon policies. In many cases, they have expanded on elements from the special in several different media, including novels, comic books, video games, children's books, and even in a Star Wars-themed cookbook.
Several of the characters in The Star Wars Holiday Special appear in other Star Wars works. Chewbacca's family are featured in various stories, including:
Chef Gormaanda later was featured in an issue of Lucasfilm's HoloNet News. She explained a new recipe, and it was explained that she had won a cooking award. The issue was HoloNet News Volume 531 #50 13:4:4, under "Life" section.
Chief Bast went on to appear in the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, in which Bast's early life was briefly elaborated on. His card hints that he escaped and survived the destruction of the first Death Star, as seen in the holiday special. The card can be viewed here.
Boba Fett returns in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and in many Expanded Universe books, comics, and video games (not to mention numerous official and unofficial fan-made films). His past is explored in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
The Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk is featured in various novels, comic books, and video games, including Revenge of the Sith, the cartoon micro-series known as Star Wars: Clone Wars, and video games such as Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Republic Commando, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. An entire city from the planet was even elaborated on in Timothy Zahn's popular 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, which was the first in his Thrawn trilogy.
Darth Vader: I want the rebels located and identified if it means searching every household in the system.
Luke Skywalker: Come on Mala, let's see a
little smile. Come on...
Luke Skywalker: There, that's better. Try to enjoy your Life Day.
Han Solo: You're like... family... to me
Han Solo: Would you look at Lumpy! He's sure
grown, huh? And I think his voice is changing
Han Solo: Come on, I'm just teasing.
Saundan: Thought you might like this... it's a... well, it's kind of hard to explain... it's a... WOW! You know what I mean? Happy Life Day... and I do mean Happy Life Day.
Holographic wow: Am found in your eyes only
eyes only - I am in your mind as you create me. Ohhh yes... I can
feel my creation...
Holographic wow: I'm getting your message - are you getting mine?"
Itchy: [orgasmic sounding] ARRGGHHHUGHH!
Holographic wow: Oh... oh... we are excited, aren't we?
Boba Fett: Follow me, friend.
C-3PO: Don't you think it might be imprudent to trust him so quickly, sir?
Luke Skywalker: He's our only chance... and besides, he seems like a friend.
Princess Leia Organa: [sung to the tune of the star wars theme] A day that takes us through the darkness/a day that leads us into light/a day that we celebrate/the LIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGHHHHHTTTT!"
[while under attack by Star destroyers]
Han Solo: Why do I always think gettin' you home for Life Day is gonna be easy?
Han Solo: That's the spirit! You'll be celebrating Life Day before you know it! Standby, here's where we say goodbye to our unpleasant friends.
Saundan: Don't worry Malla. I know just why you're calling. You're wondering when that shaggy carpet you ordered will arrive at your home.
Chef Gormaanda: It's not only a very hearty, nourishing dish, but it's very economical, too. So all those hungry mouths in your household will be going "yummy yum for their tummy tum." If you just follow along with me as I prepare this popular favorite.
Han Solo: Out of the frying pan into the fryer, huh pal? How should I know we'd come outta hyperspace into the middle of an Imperial convoy. At least against these fighters we got more of a chance. However slim...
Holographic wow: I am your fantasy. I am your experience. So experience me. I am your pleasure. Enjoy me. This is our moment together in time that we might turn this moment into an eternity.
Ackmena: Well, I'm certainly not going to get rich with customers like you. I thought I taught you to drink faster than that. Well, at least you're steady. Oh, come on now. Drink up. There's plenty more where that came from.
Boba Fett: You are alone. Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett.