|The Star Wars Holiday Special|
- "Well, I know that George Lucas doesn't like it at all—when I was working on The Illustrated Star Wars Universe, he told me that he would be happy if every copy could be tracked down and burned..."
- ―Kevin J. Anderson
The Star Wars Holiday Special is a 1978 TV movie set in the Star Wars galaxy. The main storyline of the film transpires on the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk. Chewbacca and Han Solo visit the planet to celebrate the Wookiee holiday Life Day with his family, which includes his wife Malla, his son Lumpy and his father Itchy. As Chewbacca and Han are known Rebel agents, they are pursued by the Galactic Empire, who in the process invade Chewbacca's household. The plot is strung together by a series of musical numbers, celebrity appearances, and other variety-show acts, including songs and comedy routines by such 1970s celebrities as Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur.
Star Wars creator George Lucas's involvement in the special's production was limited, and he was unhappy with the final product. As a result, it has never been re-aired in the US or been officially released on home video, but has been widely bootlegged by fans. The Holiday Special is important for being the first film-length Star Wars story to appear following the release of the original Star Wars, for featuring cameos by all of that film's major cast, and for introducing the character Boba Fett.
Onboard the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca and Han Solo are on their way to Kashyyyk to be with Chewbacca's family for Life Day, a Wookiee holiday. After departing Tatooine, the pair find themselves being chased by two Star Destroyers. Han wants to turn back, but Chewbacca convinces him to move forward, and they jump to hyperspace.
On Kashyyyk, Chewbacca's family are anxiously awaiting and preparing for his return. Itchy is carving an X-wing toy for Lumpy, Malla is working in the kitchen, and Lumpy is playing with an already-complete X-wing toy. On the table, Malla has prepared a bowl of Wookiee-ookiees. Lumpy tries to sneak one before dinner, but Malla catches him and asks him to take out the day's garbage. Lumpy sets the trash down outside, and climbs up on the railing to walk along it.
Back inside the house, Malla and Itchy are worried, as Chewbacca has not arrived yet. Malla takes down a picture of Chewbacca and Itchy notices her worries. He reassures her that Chewbacca is safe, and she then returns the picture. Lumpy comes back into the house, and Itchy reaches into a cabinet and gets down an activity capsule. He shows it to Lumpy. Malla, however, sees this and objects. Itchy convinces her otherwise, and inserts the capsule into a round table-machine. After Itchy switches on the device, Lumpy sits down and begins to view a computer-generated group of circus performers performing an act. At the conclusion of the performance, Lumpy applauds the acts, and switches the machine off. Malla then asks Lumpy to help wash the dishes.
Malla and Itchy begin to worry again. Malla uses a computer to run a search for any starships in the area. However, the computer returns no results. She switches on a hidden viewscreen and contacts Luke Skywalker, who is working on his X-wing starfighter with help from the droid R2-D2. Luke does not know what has happened and suggests that Han and Chewbacca probably stopped off somewhere, and would be there soon. He begins to have a few problems of his own when the part he is working on begins to emit 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 in the middle of a deal with an Imperial Guard when Malla contacts him, so he must handle it first. Saun Dann suggests a few items, for which the guard expresses no interest. While the guard is distracted looking at items, Saun Dann speaks with Malla through a carefully-worded message that Han and Chewbacca are on their way, and should be arriving soon. However, he too does not know of their current whereabouts. He shuts off the viewscreen, and suggests a multi-functional groomer. The guard takes the item, giving Saun Dann nothing in return. Saun Dann has no choice but to let him take it, and he sarcastically says that he considers it a gift to the guard.
Meanwhile onboard a Star Destroyer, an Imperial officer informs Darth Vader that a blockade has been set up around Kashyyyk, and a search had begun for the Rebels. Vader tells him to continue the search, even if it takes searching every household in the system.
Back on Kashyyyk, Malla is preparing the dinner for the night's feast. She turns on a viewscreen to view a cooking program with Gormaanda, a four-armed chef. Gormaanda gives instructions on how to prepare the Bantha rump. When she begins to speed up the process, Malla can't keep up and switches the viewscreen off.
In space, the Millennium Falcon approaches Kashyyyk. Unaware of the blockade, Chewbacca and Han are attacked by four TIE/LN starfighters. After taking out a few using the cockpit's remote controls, Han resorts to going down into the quad cannons to use them manually; Chewbacca takes the main controls.
On Kashyyyk, Itchy is resting in his chair while Malla is walking around. Suddenly, an Imperial officer announces on the viewscreen that a blockade has been set up around the planet, and that the Empire has declared martial law. Immediately after the announcement, they get a knock at the door. Frightened, Itchy goes to open it. To their relief, it is Saun Dann. He has brought each of them Life Day gifts. He gives Malla and Lumpy their presents first, and they go off to open them. Saun Dann then gives Itchy his present: a memory chip, which he inserts into Itchy's mind evaporator. Itchy activates the chip, and sees a human female, whom Itchy excitedly watches perform a song.
At a Rebel base, Leia and the droid C-3PO are working on something. Malla contacts them via viewscreen to alert them that Chewbacca and Han haven't shown up. Leia asks if Malla is alone, and is relieved that Saun Dann is there to protect her. Malla switches off the viewscreen. Saun Dann says he smells "Wookiee-ookiees", and he and Malla go into the kitchen.
Back on the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca and Han are approaching Kashyyyk. Han notices the abundance of Imperials in the area, so they decide to land on the north side of the planet—a safe section area. He notes that this is far the Wookiee household however, and will be a long walk. After a protest from Chewbacca, they decide to land as planned. As they enter the atmosphere of Kashyyyk, Lumpy hears the roaring of a ship. Everyone in the house gets excited, and run to the door. Malla opens the door to two stormtroopers holding their blaster pistols at her, with two Imperial officers behind them.
Malla roars, but the Imperials force their way in. The head officer checks the house for all residents. He finds that a male Wookiee is missing. He his orders men to do a full search of the house. The officers proceed look through the house, nearly discovering the hidden communication device Malla uses to keep in contact with Luke. To try to distract the attention of the Imperials, Saun Dann suggests that he and Malla prepare some food for everyone. Saun Dann turns on Malla's gift—a music box—for one of the officers, and watches with the officer while Malla does the cooking.
A holographic band appears on the box, and sings a song. When the video finishes, the head officer orders the search to continue, and for the officer who viewed the music band to get back to work. Saun Dann leaves, as he believes he cannot help further. The head officer tells Malla to keep Lumpy busy while they search, so Lumpy sits down to watch a program on a viewscreen.
The program deals with Chewbacca, Han, Luke, Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO's first encounter with Boba Fett, a notorious bounty hunter. During a search for a talisman, the Millennium Falcon—piloted by Chewbacca and Han—crashes on a moon in the Panna system. At a Rebel base, Luke, Leia and the droids are concerned for their safety, so Luke and the droids take a Y-Wing to the Panna moon. Upon landing, they are attacked by a giant monster. The monster begins eating part of the Y-wing, which prompts Luke to eject the cockpit. Boba Fett appears on an even bigger monster and hits the first monster with a ray from his staff, causing it to flee. He introduces himself to Luke and C-3PO, then tells them that he wants to help them. As Luke is heading toward the Millennium Falcon's crash site, C-3PO tells Luke he shouldn't be so quick to trust Boba Fett, but Luke laughs this off. They all board the ship, where Han has been infected by a sleeping virus apparently caused by the talisman. Luke immediately contracts the virus as well. Boba Fett and Chewbacca go into Panna City to get the serum for Han's condition. Once they are in the city, which is occupied by Imperials, Boba instructs Chewbacca to stay behind while he gets the serum. Once away from Chewbacca, Boba contacts Darth Vader to inform 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.
Lumpy shouts out in horror at the events in the program. It alerts the main Imperial officer, who comes over to see what is wrong. Lumpy acts like nothing is wrong, and shuts off the cartoon when the officer approaches. He then resumes the program with C-3PO caring for Han and Luke. He and R2-D2 intercept the message between Vader and Fett on their viewscreen, and C-3PO says that they have to tell Luke. After evading the Imperials, Boba and Chewbacca return to the ship with the serum. After giving Han and Luke the serum, they recover and everyone learns of Boba Fett's true allegiance. Boba ignites his jet pack, and blasts away, promising that he will meet them again. Everyone leaves the planet on board the Millennium Falcon. Lumpy shuts off the monitor and applauds.
Upstairs, the Imperials search and ransack Lumpy's room. One rips the head off of Lumpy's stuffed bantha. Lumpy comes up after they have gone back downstairs. He is saddened by what they have done to his treasured toy, and tries to put its head back on. He lays it down on his bed and covers it with a blanket. Lumpy then opens the present Saun Dann gave him and puts in the instruction video, which teaches him how to assemble the device—a mini-transmitter. A humanoid described as an "Amorphiian Being from the system Amorphiia" appears on the video. The video's announcer explains that Amorphian beings' body functions frequently stop working temporarily. Throughout the program, this Amorphian does just that. After instructing Lumpy of the basics of the product, the Amorphian shuts down completely and falls in the floor. Lumpy shuts off the video.
Downstairs, while the Imperials are still searching, a video comes on the living room viewscreen. Its narrator describes it as "Life on Tatooine" and that it is "required viewing by all Imperial personnel", so all the Imperials in the house turn their attention to the viewscreen. At first, individuals are seen walking the streets of Mos Eisley. The focus then shifts to inside a cantina, where a band is playing and the patrons are drinking and conversing. The bartender—Ackmena—is in the process of serving drinks, when a humanoid walks in named Krelman. He seems very interested and attracted to her. Krelman offers her flowers and they begin to talk, but are interrupted by an Imperial announcement on the viewscreen—as part of their search for the Rebels, Tatooine is being put under a curfew by the Empire. The Imperial agent orders everyone to return homes immediately. Ackmena is shocked, and asks her customers to leave. When they all refuse, she suggests one more round of drinks for everyone, which she pays for herself. She then proceeds to usher them out by singing a song and dancing. Everyone eventually leaves except for Krelman, who again offers the flowers to Ackmena. The video then ends.
After the video finishes, Lumpy's plan goes into effect. The Imperials repeatedly get a call to "return to base". They decide to leave, but the head officer instructs one of the stormtroopers to stay behind. After the other Imperials leave, the stormtrooper still hears the radio call to "return to base". He immediately sees that something is wrong because there are no more comlinks around. He determines that the sound is coming from Lumpy's room upstairs. He runs upstairs to finds Lumpy speaking into a the mini-transporter he had constructed earlier. The stormtrooper startles Lumpy, who jumps up. The stormtrooper grabs the box and smashes it on the ground. Lumpy runs down the stairs and out onto the deck, followed closely by the stormtrooper.
Lumpy and the stormtrooper arrive outside at the same time, just as Chewbacca and Han approach the door. Chewbacca growls and runs around the stormtrooper to protect Lumpy. The stormtrooper points his gun at both of them. Secretly, Han is backing against the wall, ready to attack. The stormtrooper does not see him, and Han sneaks up and hits him. The two get ready to fight, but Han suddenly trips the stormtrooper, who breaks the railing and lets out the Wilhelm scream as he falls to his death in the trees below. Relieved, Han picks up Lumpy and hands him to his father.
They go inside, where Malla and Itchy are waiting. Han explains that he has taken care of the threat. Chewbacca and Han hug everyone. Malla asks Han to stay, but he says he has to get back to the Millennium Falcon before someone finds it. After saying his goodbyes, Han wishes everyone a happy Life Day and leaves. The family then hears yet another knock at the door. With his bowcaster ready to fire, Chewbacca opens the door to find Saun Dann with a bag in his hand. The same Imperial officer as before appears on a viewscreen, searching for the missing stormtrooper B4711. Saun Dann replies to the request, claiming that B4711 was left by the other officers; after they had left, B4711 had stolen a lot of food from his house and left without a trace. The story works, and the officer says he will send out a search party to find the missing stormtrooper. The officer disappears from the viewscreen, to everyone's relief. Before he goes, Saun Dann wishes the entire family a happy Life Day. The family then prepares to go the festival at the Tree of Life. They each take a crystal and gather them together above their heads.
The entire family—along with many other Wookiees—are next in space dressed in red robes, and are traveling toward a bright star. They arrive at the Tree of Life, where a group of Wookiees have gathered at the tree's base. Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 stand before the other Wookiees, and Luke, Leia and Han soon join them. To begin the ceremony, 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 several of the group's adventures: when he first met Luke and Leia, when they all escaped the Death Star, when he played dejarik with R2-D2, and attending the award ceremony on Yavin 4 after he and Han had helped Luke destroy the Death Star. As he finishes reminiscing, the Wookiees begin to file out of the ceremony.
That night, Chewbacca, Malla, Lumpy and Itchy sit at the family table, where they pray and prepare to eat a Life Day meal.
- "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."
- ―George Lucas
There are two official accounts as to who had the idea for The Star Wars Holiday Special. Co-executive producer Gary Smith believed 20th Century Fox had the idea (which is supported by statements by former Lucasfilm VIPs Charles Lippincott and Sidney Ganis), while co-writer Leonard Ripps thought the idea came directly from Lucasfilm. Either way, 20th Century Fox hired Smith-Hemion Productions to produce the special, as they were known for making high quality television specials. After the project was given the green light, Ripps and Pat Proft spent a day discussing Star Wars with George Lucas, and Lucas provided them with a basic story to work from. After the meeting with Lucas, Ripps and Proft created an outline and first draft based on his notes. The script was then given to producers Ken and Mitzie Welch, who made major changes, including adding many of the variety aspects of the special. Early in pre-production, the special was considered as the start of a possible TV series. Because of this, the art department created more elaborate designs than would normally be made for a TV special. The sets were constructed on Stage 2 of Burbank Studios. Department head Brian Bartholomew believed the Wookiee household set to be good enough for an Emmy award, but never asked Lucas to enter it in the running.
Lucas chose former USC classmate David Acomba to direct. However, due to creative differences between Acomba and Ken and Mitzie Welch, Acomba left the project after directing only three sequences (including the cantina and Jefferson Starship scenes). He was replaced by Steve Binder, who had worked previously with executive producers Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion. The film was shot mostly on video tape over the course of a month on a budget of over $1 million.
Ben Burtt created the Wookiee family sounds, of which a full hour were required. For the Malla and Itchy sounds, Burtt recorded at the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, Washington, where he spent days trying to get the animals to vocalize. Malla's "voice" was based on recordings of black bears and Itchy's on grizzly bears. One of these sounds—a recording of a lion eating a cow's head—was later used for the 1979 film Alien. For the sounds of Lumpy, Burtt recorded a baby bear named Tarik at the San Jose Zoo. Chewbacca's howl when Han Solo was frozen in Carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back was reused from one of Chewbacca's vocalizations from the Holiday Special.
TelevisionEditPrior to its airing, CBS aired commercials advertising both the special and the television show Flying High. It aired in the United States on on November 17, 1978 and was seen by an estimated 13 million viewers, second to the ABC TV series The Love Boat and miniseries Pearl. Some viewers who recorded the show when it premiered began to copy the show and sell illegal bootleg VHS and DVD copies at conventions. It soon became a cult classic and a legend among Star Wars fans despite (or perhaps because of) its criticisms. The Internet and file sharing technologies have made the special more widely available to curious fans to see for themselves.
There is an isolated version of the Boba Fett cartoon that contains a few extra seconds of material that was either edited or not included in the Holiday Special. At least two scenes were deleted for the final cut: a small unused portion of the cartoon, originally part of the special as an in-cartoon commercial and a scene taking place immediately following the Imperial invasion of the Wookiee home. An Imperial stormtrooper stops at the table to sample one of Malla's Wookiee-ookiees. A scene was planned but never shot in which Luke Skywalker sings a song; Hamill vetoed the idea.
The special was screened at the Library of Congress in the 1990s. The full special from a WBBM-TV broadcast of the special is available for viewing at the Museum of Classic Chicago Television at www.fuzzymemories.tv.
A press kit was released prior to the special to promote its airing. Jefferson Starship, who recorded "Light the Sky on Fire", proclaimed on their Light the Sky on Fire album that it was "as seen and heard on the CBS-Star Wars Holiday Special". Kenner originally planned to release action figures based on the special, but they didn't go past the prototype stage. A mail-away Boba Fett action figure released that year contained a paper insert that referred to the upcoming special as "A Wookie Holiday". In 2002, Hasbro released the first official figure from the special, which was based on the cantina alien Zutton. In 1979, Lucasfilm released a children's book called Star Wars: The Wookiee Storybook, which featured the characters from the special.
As part of its 30th anniversary collection, Hasbro released a Boba Fett action figure that uses the character's likeness as he appears in the animated segment. Several other products were produced based on the Boba Fett character as portrayed in the Holiday Special. In 1996, Lucasfilm released animation cells from the Holiday Special Boba Fett cartoon segment. These were combined with new artwork to create slightly different images from what is seen in the special. StarWarsShop released a Holiday Special Boba Fett maquete from Gentle Giant as a Celebration exclusive in 2007. Funko released a Holiday Special Boba Fett Bobblehead in a special Limited Edition as part of their Star Wars Bobblehead series. Another Bobblehead Holiday Special Boba Fett was released in November 2007. On December 2007, StarWarsShop released an ACME Holiday Special Boba Fett character key.
The Celebration IV and Celebration Europe stores offered a 4" x 25" luggage tag with an image from the cantina scene from the Holiday Special on it for $5. The 2007 book The Star Wars Vault includes the complete audio track of Princess Leia's Life Day song "A Day to Celebrate", along with approximately two pages from the script. On December 10, 2007, RiffTrax released an audio commentary for the special, recorded by former MST3K stars Mike Nelson, Bill Corbet, and Kevin Murphy.
At the 1987 Star Wars 10th anniversary convention, George Lucas told Starlog magazine that he expected the Holiday Special to be released on VHS at some point. However, Lucasfilm has yet to give the full Holiday Special a home video release on any format, and former Lucasfilm director of fan relations Steve Sansweet claimed there will not be one. In 2004, Star Wars DVD producer Van Ling held a Q&A session with the Washington Post, in which he was asked about the possibility of a DVD release of the special. He replied "I seriously doubt it, given that it has never even been shown again after its initial broadcast, let alone released on home video... but as I always say, never say never." 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 special was left out of the final cut.
An image of Bea Arthur as Ackmena was present amongst other behind the scenes images on the 1993 laserdisc "definitive" box set of the original trilogy. This set also included a tour of the Lucasfilm Archives, hosted by Don Bies, in which the Lumpy mask was shown to be residing in the archives. Several seconds of the Boba Fett animated segment appeared in the 2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones web documentary "Bucket Head". The full animated segment was included on the 2011 Blu ray release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga; It is located on the Empire Strikes Back section of the Episodes IV-VI bonus material disc.
- "That's one of those things that happened, and I just have to live with it."
- ―George Lucas to Maxim magazine, May 2002
The special has received mostly negative reviews. 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 of 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". Bravo's 2005 television program "Greatest Things about the Holidays" ranked the special #5 out of 100. TV Land ranked it at number 59 on their top 100 Unexpected Television Moments. TVGN ranked the special at number 11 on their "25 Most Hilarious Holiday TV Moments", mentioning that it was "unintentionally hilarious". Star Wars Insider 83 ranks the Holiday Special as one of the 5 strangest moments in the Star Wars expanded universe. It was also rated number 3 in 'The Five Goofiest Moments Of The Star Wars Mythos', in the UKs Star Wars Magazine #62. In 2010, CNN.com ranked the special as "the granddaddy of them all" amongst its list of "Geeks' most beloved holiday classics".
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. Harrison Ford made an appearance on February 8, 2006 episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. During his interview, O'Brien brought up the special, and began asking various questions about it, such as whether Ford remembered making it. Ford made no response and looked away, to which 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. In response Ford pretended to strangle O'Brien before allowing him to play the clip. Following the clip (which featured a scene showing Ford as Han Solo telling Chewbacca and his wife that they are "like family" to him), an embarrassed Ford only muttered "thank you".
Throughout the week of November 17, 2008, StarWars.com celebrated the Holiday Special's 30th anniversary by posting a number of Holiday Special-related articles and offered trading cards based on the special to StarWarsShop customers. Features include interviews, photo galleries, and an animation animatic. The LA Times and NBC respectively ran articles on the special's anniversary. The Paley Center held a poll from November 10 through December 3, for which the top five holiday specials would be screened at the center between December 10 and 24. The Star Wars Holiday Special placed in the top position, with 59% of the vote. On December 20, 2007, ABC's Nightline covered the special on television and on its website.
Prior to the establishment of the Lucasfilm Story Group, the special was classified as S-canon. The Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith art department used the Holiday Special to aid in designing the look of the planet Kashyyyk for the film. For Star Wars: Clone Wars, C-3PO was animated in a style that pays homage to the animation style of Nelvana's animated segment from the special. In a commercial for the 2007 Robot Chicken: Star Wars, an animated George Lucas (voiced by Lucas himself) is driven to a therapist's chair over his hatred of the special. Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III features a skit similar to the Holiday Special where Han Solo and Chewbacca visit his family on Kashyyyk. For "The Mandalore Plot", a 2010 episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Death Watch members' helmets were based on Boba Fett's helmet design from the Holiday Special and the Droids animated series.
Part of Boba Fett's dialogue during the animated segment was sampled by UNKLE on their 1998 debut album Psyence Fiction. "Weird Al" Yankovic's 2006 music video for his song "White and Nerdy" (a parody of "Ridin'" by Chamilionaire) features Al (dressed like a nerd) paying for and receiving a paper bag from a "gangster", which gives the viewer a perspective that he is buying drugs. Al opens the paper bag to reveal a videotape of the special.
Among the more widely circulating recordings of the Holiday Special is one made of the broadcast on WCBS-TV (channel 2) in New York City. At several commercial breaks in the show, a "teaser" for the station's 11 p.m. newscast was aired in which news anchor Rolland Smith simply says "Fighting the frizzies, at 11" (other circulating versions of the Holiday Special were originally taped from other CBS affiliates, including WMAR-TV in Baltimore, and lack the frizzies reference, and still others have had all the commercials edited out). On one particular episode of the animated television series South Park, entitled "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics", during every commercial break an announcer (dressed-up to look exactly like Rolland Smith) would come on as part of the program and say "fighting the frizzies at 11", or a variation of the phrase. South Park similarly spoofed the same broadcast in the episode "Freak Strike" wherein the freak union puts out a commercial promoting the use of real freaks in talkshows. This commercial is almost identical to one shown during the special by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, complete with song.
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Notes and referencesEdit
- Star Wars Holiday Special fan site
- The Star Wars Holiday Special at the Star Wars Technical Commentaries
- "The Han Solo Comedy Hour!" - Vanity Fair