Star Wars’ infamous Holiday Special, explained

Star Wars’ infamous Holiday Special, explained

Everything in Star Wars has a story. Every character, every weapon, every planet,
every ship. It has one of the most involved taxonomies
of any movie universe ever: There are visual dictionaries, museums, a wiki site — all
dedicated to the origins of the characters. There are rules for what belongs in this universe. It has a certain sound, a certain look, a
certain feel. And it’s easy to feel like this galaxy has
always had this distinct, clear identity. But if you go back —
“I have a bad feeling about this” — all the way back, to one of the very first
Star Wars spin-offs? That really wasn’t the case. “Come on Mala, let’s see a little smile.” There, that’s better. This is the Star Wars Holiday Special, a TV
variety show that aired on CBS on November 17, 1978. It tells the story of Chewbacca’s journey
home to his family to celebrate a holiday called Life Day. The entire cast of the first Star Wars film,
which debuted in 1977, made an appearance. There is a lot going on here. Chewbacca’s dad watches virtual reality
softcore porn starring singer Diahann Carroll. “Oh, oh … We are excited, aren’t we?” The Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur plays
a cantina bartender. The American rock band Jefferson Starship
performs in a hologram music video. And The Carol Burnett Show’s Harvey Korman
plays a crossdressing cooking show host. It’s bad. Incomprehensibly bad. Can we cut tape? Cut tape now, this is not allowed. You promised. Nobody is allowed to mention this. No, you can’t, it’s not funny — it’s so bad— And I mean this kindly if
George sees i: it’s so bad it’s not funny Do you remember making this Christmas
Special? I think it was 1978. No you don’t remember it? So it doesn’t exist in your… No it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist. What if I were to tell you that I had a little piece of tape right now? But to a large extent, the Star Wars universe has been shaped and explored through spin-offs
just like this — through novels, comics, and games outside of the movies. And the Holiday Special is a fascinating glimpse
into that universe before it became codified, when we were all still figuring out what Star
Wars was. When Star Wars first came out, a lot of people expected
it to flop. At the time, Hollywood was dominated by gritty
dramas with morally ambiguous heroes. Even the most successful science fiction films
were slow to turn a profit. Then came Star Wars: a good vs. evil space
opera fantasy film inspired by Flash Gordon serials and Japanese samurai epics. It was a hard sell. Even getting theaters to screen it was a challenge
— Fox Studios had to force theaters that wanted the highly-anticipated movie The Other
Side of Midnight to screen Star Wars as well. Then, things went a little differently than
expected. The movie had an 18-month run in theaters,
ultimately grossing over $460 million. It became one of the highest-grossing films
in history. During the 1977 holiday season, the Star Wars
craze caught everyone by surprise — so much that toy companies had to sell action figure
IOUs. So for about 9 dollars, you buy a cardboard
envelope, the recipient mails a certificate to the manufacturer, who will send the dolls
later.” As production on the second film, progressed through 1978, director George Lucas wanted to keep Star Wars on everybody’s
minds through the next holiday season. So he approved CBS to produce the Holiday
Special with a dream team of variety show creators and a budget of about $1 million. But making a song-and-dance version of a visually
stunning space opera was a tricky combination from the start. “It is inexplicable to put those two genres
together.” That’s Lenny Ripps. He was brought in as a co-writer to work on
the wookiee scenes. “I suspect that there are a lot of Star Wars fans who hate me. But you but you see, at the time, I didn’t
feel the pressure. Because it was not where it is now.” And that led to lines like this: There simply wasn’t a precedent for what
the expanded world of Star Wars should look like. “I think it was early on enough that you
could play with it. And you can’t play with it now. You were still able to have fun with Star
Wars, to look at it as something that’s not so culturally important, that not
to adhere to every rule makes you a heretic.” After the special aired — with Lucas’
name nowhere to be seen in the credits — it was never released again. Lucas allegedly said that he’d smash every
copy with a sledgehammer if he could. “He has disavowed and disowned Star Wars
holiday special. I mean actively. ACTIVELY. “It was very very important to him to you
have control of the universe and he lost control of the universe here.” This bizarre TV special was a rocky first
foray into what the world of Star Wars looked like outside of the movies. But it certainly wasn’t the last. There have since been hundreds of Star Wars
books, video games, comic books, and TV episodes. Some of them were critical and commercial
successes, like Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn novels, or the Shadows of the Empire multimedia project. And their vision fell in line with the universe
Lucas had created. Others — like comics with Jaxxon, a green
anthropomorphized rabbit, or straight-to-TV movies featuring Charal, a shape-shifting
witch — didn’t exactly feel like they belonged in Star Wars. All of this material became known as the Expanded
Universe. It contributed to building out this massive
fictional world in its own way. But it was messy. There was a lot of material of varying quality,
and contradicting plot points — like clashing backstories about Boba Fett’s real name. So in the early 2000s, Lucasfilm developed
a continuity database called the Holocron. It divided the canon into a hierarchy, with
the movies at the top, and things like the Holiday Special on a lower priority level. Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm
in 2012 changed all that. The production company put together a team
responsible for giving the cinematic universe a simpler, more cohesive continuity. Only the original films and prequels, plus
the Clone Wars movie and TV show were considered official storylines. Everything else in the Expanded Universe was
branded as “Legends” — and deemed non-canon to the franchise. For many fans, that felt like losing a richly
detailed world. Today, the vast majority of the Star Wars
wiki articles are about things that aren’t considered part of the official Star Wars
world anymore. But even though these stories aren’t recognized
like they used to be, the impact of the ideas behind them can be seen today. The current trilogy is telling new stories,
but many themes — like Han and Leia’s son turning to the Dark Side, Luke’s Jedi
academy, and a new version of the Empire – all have their roots in the Expanded Universe. More than 40 years after the first release, Star Wars hasn’t stopped evolving. And the massive, messy body of work that lives outside the movies continues to shape the way we perceive that world. I’m so loyal to George, and I owe him so much, he at one time said, would you consider playing an Obi-Wan type character handing Excalibur down to the
next generation? And I said when would that be? And at the time he said around, aw around 2011.

79 thoughts on “Star Wars’ infamous Holiday Special, explained

  1. Is it just me or are wookies just big ewoks? They're both bipedal dogs who live in tree house villages. The only difference is one is tall and the other short. Star Wars Holiday special really is so bad it's good. I just think Christmas and Star Wars go together. My fondest memories on Christmas was opening Star Wars action figures.

  2. I'm sorry.. But this is a masterpiece compared to The Last Jedi…but at least George Lucas Was Humble enough to admit it..

  3. They should do an official DVD/BLU Ray release and donate all proceeds to charity like Wounded Warrior Project or St Jude. That would make the misfire worthwhile!

  4. I recently was just filling my dad in on what the Star Wars Holiday Special is/was – he apparently knew nothing about it, or didn't even know it existed. I summed it up the best I could, and he got into the discussion or debate on whether if he even cares about the Star Wars films or stories anymore – basically he see's any "side stories" like what the Rogue One and Solo films, as "fan-work/fiction". He said that, other than the numbered films, 1-9, he just does not care. He said he stopped caring after Episode One, or Episode Two. Anyway though, I just thought it was interesting, and also felt fun to find out someone so close to me as my dad, of all people in the world, had no knowledge of what Holiday Special was, haha.

  5. Thing is the comic style section with boba Fett was actually kind of interesting and not totally horrid. At least by comparison.

  6. You know everybody talks about this holiday special today. but the thing I remember more than that is that weird video with Wicket after return of the Jedi

  7. I've never seen the Star Wars holiday special, but there's no way in hell it's more cringe worthy than The Last Jedi. People who say they enjoyed and liked the last jedi are either in very deep denial and can't come to terms that there's a star wars movie that's a pile of garbage or there a joker trying to be a funny comedian.

  8. Am I the only one who actually views the Holiday special with some affection? Sure, it's bad, but I think it's even a little bit goofy and endearing. Harvey Corman isn't terrible and Bea Arthur's cantina number is kind of fun to watch. And it gave us the Boba Fett cartoon from Nelvana, even if it looked weird as hell. And we got probably the drop-dead funniest Rifftrax out of it.

  9. Magical monks with super human abilities=legit
    Shape shifting witch=its just doesn't feel like star wars. im not hating but when i was a kid the things that i loved about start wars is that it seemed anything was a possible in that galaxy even the green rabbit never bothered me

  10. Fans, you are taking things so seriously.. infamous my god … it s only an opportunistic for child !! There are many worse things the world .. personally I love when Leia sings ., hey guys Star Wars is great but they are only movies ..

  11. When I visit my friend 2 years ago, I spotted a disk of the Holdiay Special beside the TV. The fire apartment had to come to put out the fire.

  12. Not true, Star Trek actually explains the background of every character Star Wars kinda comes up with species and Star Trek shows that every creature has a purpose

  13. I wouldn't be disappointed about Disney re-setting the cannon if they handled it well. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are pretty bad, very little re-watch value and a very sloppy attention to plot details. the series has fallen to the same tier as the matrix or transformers in my opinion.

  14. Okay but why did you get all your research about the first Star Wars movie from the documentary “Empire of Dreams”?

  15. Star Wars: Holiday Special is a movie 10 000s better and more Star Wars that "abomination" this "Man Baby" Rian Johnson ever manaded to cough up

  16. Lol! Harrison Ford's reaction when Conan O'Brien revealed he had a Tape of the SW Holiday Special…
    I think had George Lucas' other planned sequel "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" would've been better, but the animated sequence was very good.
    And if you think THIS was bad, you haven't seen Episode VIII.

  17. Carrie fisher had a copy of the star wars holiday special that she played at parties to get people to leave.

  18. Just because Harvey Korman, the actor, was in drag doesn’t mean his character was cross dressing. He played an alien who seemed like a female. As it was an alien, and no genitals were shown, it’s hard to assign a very specific gender identity.

  19. I liked it, because it had stars I was familar with that brought humor to the special. It was a holiday special for us kids back then.


  20. This is silly. That special defies explanation. Doesn't need explanation…it cannot be explained…it has emerged from the dark side.

  21. You know, it almost sounds like Lenny Ripps is blaming Star Wars fans for being too uptight with their precious franchise, rather than seeing the Holiday Special as the mess it was. It has nothing to do with this "cultural heresy", especially if it wasn't even well-liked at release.

  22. It's funny that Disney has been able to Destroy Star Wars when no other movie, or company could. Thanks for nothing Disney!

  23. 0:33 OMFG I remember my dad showing me the star wars holiday special cuz we where big Star Wars fans, but in the end we got nightmares from Chewbacca’s family.

  24. Let's treat the SW Christmas Special with some respect; it's better SW than "Last Jedi" and probably the forthcoming movie. That's not to say the XMas special was anything other than an embarassment to watch; that's just to say it's less embarassing than watching Rey best Luke and in a few months, Rey walking up to Palpatine and besting him easily.

  25. George…..if you hated this….then you need to buy back the rights from disney and fix the final trilogy like you told us you would make it when i was a kid waiting patiently after episode 6. These new films can not exist too. But bring in Rey anyway….shes good.

  26. Bea Arthur would have been an interesting casting choice though for an actual storyline role….made a good General in the rebellion….or a bartender who doesnt burst into song.

  27. I have eheard that Carrie Fisher only agreed to do this is she could sing in it. But her song was at the end. Did anyone watch this steaming pile long enough to see her sing? I didn’t.

  28. I would advise Disney and Lucasfilm to restore the SWEU to the official canon by declaring it a parallel universe like Star Trek's Kelvin Timeline.

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