The Star Wars Holiday Special: A Deep Dive into the Galaxy's Most Infamous Film

20 October 2023

The Star Wars Holiday Special is a cultural enigma, a film so bizarre and ill-conceived that it's become a sort of anti-classic. Most fans, like myself, have only dared to watch it once. The film is a cacophony of strange moments, from Princess Leia's cringe-worthy "Life Day" song to the oddly captivating Boba Fett cartoon. It's a film that George Lucas himself wishes could be erased from existence. But is it all bad?

Let's delve into the details.

star wars holiday special

George Lucas' Regret

The Holiday Special is often referred to as "George Lucas' Folly," a project that even the creator of Star Wars wishes he could forget. Kevin J. Anderson, a noted Star Wars novelist, once quoted Lucas saying he'd be happy if every copy of the film could be "tracked down and burned." This sentiment encapsulates the general consensus about the film: it's a disaster that should be forgotten.

The Life Day Conundrum

The central plot revolves around Chewbacca and his quest to celebrate "Life Day" with his family. Yes, Chewbacca has a family, and his son is named Lumpy. This fact alone is so bizarre that it's hard to top. Life Day serves as the Star Wars universe's equivalent of Christmas, but its execution leaves much to be desired, especially when it culminates in a song led by Princess Leia that has been universally panned.

The Ill-Fated Air Date

The special aired only once in the United States, on November 17, 1978, via CBS. The timing was unfortunate; the Jonestown Massacre occurred the very next day, adding a grim context to the already problematic film.

Jefferson Starship's Dubious Contribution

The rock band Jefferson Starship made an appearance in the special, performing their single "Light the Sky on Fire." The song was promoted as being part of the Star Wars Holiday Special, but it's widely considered to be a low point in both the band's career and the Star Wars franchise.

Watch it here:

The Introduction of Kashyyyk

One redeeming quality of the special is that it introduced the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to the Star Wars canon. This lush, forested planet would later be revisited in "Revenge of the Sith," where Yoda leads Clone Troopers in battle.

Bea Arthur's Musical Moment

Bea Arthur, who would later gain fame as one of the Golden Girls, played Ackmena, a bartender at the Mos Eisley Cantina. She even gets a musical number, which, while not particularly good, does offer an extended look at the original Cantina patrons from "A New Hope."

Ralph McQuarrie's Influence

The Wookiees' treetop homes were inspired by concept art from Ralph McQuarrie, the legendary artist behind much of the original trilogy's design. His influence is one of the few high points in a film filled with lows.

Richard Pryor's Cameo

Comedian Richard Pryor also makes an appearance as a bartender, interacting with various alien creatures in a gag sequence. While not exactly a highlight, it's a curious inclusion that adds to the film's oddball nature.

The Mind Evaporator Scene

Perhaps the most infamous moment in the special is when Chewbacca's father uses a device called The Mind Evaporator for a holographic experience that can only be described as "space phone sex." The scene features Diahann Carroll, known for her role in the television series "Julia," in a surreal and uncomfortable sequence.

Lucas' Limited Involvement

Contrary to popular belief, George Lucas had minimal involvement in the project. He provided an initial story outline, but the producers transformed it into a variety show format, taking considerable liberties that led to the film's disjointed feel.

The Wookiee Family

Chewbacca's family is given surprisingly detailed names. His father is Attichitcuk, his wife is Mallatobuck, and his son Lumpy's full name is Lumpawarrump. It was revealed in the Solo film Chewbecca's was the same, thus making the name canon.

The "Happy Life Day" Song

The song sung by Princess Leia is actually based on John Williams' original Star Wars theme, a fact that makes the scene even more jarring given the iconic status of Williams' composition.

Stan Winston's Contribution

Stan Winston, a legend in the film industry for his work in special effects, was responsible for creating the Wookiee family costumes. Despite the heat and discomfort—actors could only wear them for about 45 minutes at a time—the costumes are a technical achievement.

The Boba Fett Cartoon

The animated sequence featuring Boba Fett is often cited as the special's saving grace. Lasting nine minutes, it served as an introduction to the character who would later appear in "The Empire Strikes Back." The animation style was influenced by French artist Jean "Moebius" Giraud, adding a layer of artistic credibility to the segment.

Conclusion: A Mixed Bag of Galactic Proportions

The Star Wars Holiday Special is a film of contradictions. It's both terrible and fascinating, both cringe-worthy and oddly compelling. While it's unlikely to ever gain the status of a "classic," it remains a curious footnote in the Star Wars saga, a strange experiment that fans and critics alike can't help but discuss.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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