How animation changed Star Wars: The Faithful Wookiee

The Star Wars Holiday Special. Image Credit:
The Star Wars Holiday Special. Image Credit: /

How has every animated series impacted the Star Wars franchise?

To understand how vital animation was to George Lucas, look to the zoetrope. This device is considered one of the earliest forms of animation that predated film. And George Lucas named his production company, American Zoetrope, after it. The first film he ever made, “Look at Life,” was animated. This medium has always been at the core of his work. From the Holiday Special to Star Wars: Visions and beyond…

This is “How Animation Changed Star Wars.”

“The Story of the Faithful Wookiee” is the first Star Wars animated project in the franchise. Smack dab in the middle of the wonderful mess that is the Star Wars Holiday Special, this little 9-minute short would change canon and lay the foundation of all Star Wars television to come. Without it, the snowball effect into Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars: Clone Wars to Dave Filoni and George Lucas’ The Clone Wars to the live-action series we have today wouldn’t have happened. By far, the most important factor that came out of the Holiday Special was…


You thought I was going to say Boba Fett, didn’t you? Yes, “The Story of the Faithful Wookiee” is the first appearance of Boba Fett. The bounty hunter’s look and rifle would inspire Jon Favreau when creating The Mandalorian. The showrunner has gone on record about his love of the Holiday Special and how he would adore making his own version. Boba Fett is an essential piece of this, though he would have been wildly popular regardless, thanks to his arrival in The Empire Strikes Back.

The Canadian animation company Nelvana is the focus of this early narrative and will come up multiple times through the creation of Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars. Considered to this day one of the best in the business, they have helped create generation-defining series, anime adaptations, and childhood favorites. Just look up their list of work. I bet there is something on there you watched or heard of in your life. Who didn’t get excited when it was The Magic School Bus day in school?

While creating the Holiday Special, the director of the TV special, David Acomba, showed George Lucas the Nelvana film A Cosmic Christmas. Lucas was so impressed with their work that he commissioned the company to do the animated short. In an interview with, animator John Celestri, who brought Boba to life, explained:

"“A Cosmic Christmas dealt with characters from outer space seeking answers. The show was complete before Star Wars had been released. It showed that Nelvana and George Lucas were on the same page intuitively. It was a traditional theme in a non-traditional manner and I think that had something to do with convincing Lucas to go with our studio.”"

The creation of the short was a fast time restraint, especially in terms of hand-drawn animation. Still, the company pulled together to create “The Story of the Faithful Wookiee.” Celestri said in the same interview:

"“It was a very fast production. We had just finished a new film called The Devil and Daniel Mouse [in 1978]. The studio was expanding at the time. I think we were in animation on Star Wars for six weeks in the spring of 1978. The entire production, with ink and paint and all the other elements, was probably only about three or four months of work. We didn’t know anything about the rest of the special. The script for the animated sequence arrived complete from Lucasfilm, and our Nelvana team began to develop it into storyboards.”"

Another person of note to come out of this process is Clive A. Smith, a co-founder of Nelvana. He helped with the storyboarding and worked one-on-one with Lucas throughout the creation of the short. They worked off images and a recording of Joe Johnston and Ben Burtt’s Boba Fett costume tests to decide the look of Boba in his first appearance. You might ask about the bold colors throughout the short, especially with Boba. Celestri explained:

"“Lucas had requested that Nelvana design the show in the style of French artist Jean Moebius Giraud. So for Boba Fett specifically, we had Moebius’s designs along with a black-and-white home movie of the prototype Boba Fett armor to work from, and that was it! We began with Moebius’s color approach, with lighter pastels. So for Boba, blue was the base color. Costumes have to read against the background. Boba was mostly set against the darker range of the spectrum. That means the character needs to be lighter. And the whole reason behind this was that at the time many families still had black-and-white televisions! We had to make sure that it read on the screen. The biggest TV screen in 1978 was 22 inches, diagonally.”"

Thanks to the hard work of these animators, Boba’s first appearance would become one of the most memorable parts of the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Nelvana laid the groundwork for all Star Wars television. They will come up again because they made the first Star Wars television shows, Droids and Ewoks. The company inspired Genndy Tartakovsky’s work when he made his Clone Wars series. It motivated Jon Favreau with The Mandalorian.

Thanks to “The Story of the Faithful Wookiee” and Nelvana, we have a galaxy far, far away on the small screen, forever changing the Star Wars franchise.

Be on the lookout for the next entry of “How Animation Changed Star Wars” here at Dork Side of the Force.