5 little-known facts about the Star Wars Holiday Special
For Star Wars fans, the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special is one of the most controversial and notorious moments in Star Wars history.
The variety series only aired once on CBS with George Lucas notoriously trying to hunt down every copy in existence and prevent audiences from ever seeing it again. However, Lucas’s hatred of the special and the rarity of its existence only spurred fans to collect bootleg copies.
Even the most diehard Star Wars fans or those new to the franchise likely may not know everything about the infamous special. Here, we’ve collected five little-known facts about the Star Wars Holiday Special.
1. Boba Fett appeared for the first time in the Star Wars Holiday Special
Today, Boba Fett is one of the most iconic characters in Star Wars history, which may make his origins surprising. While his canonical first appearance on screen is in Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett actually appeared first in the Star Wars Holiday Special, which was released two years earlier.
Due to the Holiday Special’s variety format of musical numbers and cartoons amidst the overall loose storyline, the cartoon focused on a mysterious bounty hunter who Chewie believed to be an ally until he discovers he’s actually working for Darth Vader.
The animated segment is one of the only parts of the Star Wars Holiday Special to survive. In 2011, the cartoon, later known as “Story of the Faithful Wookiee” was made available as an easter egg on the Complete Star Wars Saga Blu-ray box set and has since been made available to stream on Disney+. It’s also one of the only parts of the special written by George Lucas.
2. Bruce Vilanch was one of the writers
Due to creative differences with the network and obligations to work on Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas quickly backed out of production on the Star Wars Holiday Special.
As a result, the special is one of the few Star Wars projects almost entirely under the creative control of producers not related to Lucasfilm or Disney (in this case, CBS).
Alongside Rod Warren and Pat Proft, Bruce Vilanch was one of the main writers for the Holiday Special after Lucas stepped out. While Lucas’s main idea remained — a focus on Chewbacca’s family — many of the more surreal and wild elements of the special came in as a result of conflicting network ideas and writers trying to appease producers.
Vilanch may be one of the only people who gained work as a result of the notorious variety special. He had a steady career working in television on similar comedy and variety specials for years such as the Academy Awards before gaining fame as a regular guest on Hollywood Squares.
3. The special is almost universally ignored
Since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, most aspects of Star Wars have been absorbed into the canon or deemed legends, but the Star Wars Holiday Special is still almost universally brushed under the rug like it never happened by those who made it and those who appeared in it.
While certain aspects of the special have been incorporated into canon, the special itself has not been. Disney did make a new LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special in 2020 that seemed to wink at the original while not officially acknowledging it.
Additionally, Life Day, the eponymous holiday in the special, has been referenced winkingly in both the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special and even in The Mandalorian.
However, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, and George Lucas all still seem incredibly embarrassed by the mere existence of the Star Wars Holiday Special despite its cult status among fans.
4. Carrie Fisher played it at parties to get her guests to go home
While best known as Princess Leia on screen, off screen, Carrie Fisher was known for her acerbic wit and intense partying in Hollywood. Due to the messiness of the production, it was difficult to get the main Star Wars cast to agree to participate in the Holiday Special.
Fisher agreed to appear if she could sing a song, leading to her Life Day holiday song performance. Funnily enough, years later, George Lucas gave Fisher a copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special on DVD as thanks for participating on the DVD commentary track for A New Hope.
While Fisher was known for hosting legendary parties, when it was time to shut it down, she reportedly played the Holiday Special for her guests in order to get people to leave, a hilarious and iconic story that feels fitting to our forever princess.
5. The special was supposed to be a bridge between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back
Perhaps most shockingly, the Star Wars Holiday Special was originally supposed to serve as a narrative bridge between the first and second Star Wars films.
George Lucas and other members of the Lucasfilm team were afraid the Star Wars zeitgeist would fade while fans waited for Empire Strikes Back. Thus, the holiday special was originally supposed to satisfy fans during the wait for a new film while also linking the two stories.
However, creative differences between Lucas and the network, who wanted more of a variety special with Star Wars characters than a serious story, quickly forced Lucasfilm to abandon the idea of using the special as a canonical bridge between films.
Which piece of trivia surprised you the most? Tell us in the comments below!