The Star Wars Holiday Special is a 1978 American television special set in the Star Wars galaxy. It was one of the first official Star Wars spin-offs, and was directed by Steve Binder. The show was broadcast in its entirety only once, in the United States and Canada, November 17, 1978, on the U.S. television network CBS from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time (EST), and on the Canadian television network CTV from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time.
In the storyline that ties the special together, 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 members of the Rebel Alliance on the planet. The special introduces three members of Chewbacca’s family: his father Itchy, his wife Malla, and his son Lumpy (Later retconned to Attichitcuk, Mallatobuck, and Lumpawarrump, respectively).
During the special, 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 many 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‘ Star Wars theme, near the end). The program includes stock footage from Star Wars,and also features a cartoon produced by Toronto-based Nelvana that officially introduces the bounty hunter Boba Fett.
The special is notorious for its negative reception.Anthony Daniels, in a documentary promoting the worldwide tour of Star Wars: In Concert, notes with a laugh that the Star Wars universe includes “The horrible Holiday Special that nobody talks about”. George Lucas did not have significant involvement with the film’s production, and was unhappy with the results. David Acomba, a classmate of Lucas’ at USC film school, had been selected to direct the special, but he chose to leave the project, a decision supported by Lucas.
The Star Wars Holiday Special has never been re-telecast or officially released on home video. It has therefore become something of a cultural legend, due to the “underground” quality of its existence. It has been viewed and distributed in off-air recordings made from its original telecast by fans, which were later adapted to content-sharing websites via the Internet.
George Lucas himself has rarely commented on the special, or even acknowledged its existence. He is said to have nothing but the utmost contempt for 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 in May 2002, Maxim asked the question, “Any plans for a Special Edition of the Holiday Special?” In response, Lucas said, “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,” and states 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, Conan 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.
On the 2010 television program Times Talk, New York Times columnist David Carr asked Carrie Fisher about the Holiday Special; she said that she made George Lucas give her a copy of the Special in exchange for recording DVD commentary for the Star Wars films. She added that she shows it at parties, “mainly at the end of the night when she wants people to leave.”
Conjured by SeMeN SPeRmS on December 20, 2011