What is the Star Wars Holiday Special?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

The Star Wars Holiday Special is a little remembered entry in the Star Wars universe. This two hour special, which combined a story about the Wookie Chewbacca’s family with variety show elements, a cartoon, and even Princess Leia singing, aired in 1978 in America and was never shown on American television again. Creator George Lucas has frequently expressed his dislike of the special, but many cult fans adore it for its kitschy and universally panned story.

The original Star Wars was released in 1977.
The original Star Wars was released in 1977.

The original Star Wars film was released in 1977, and rocked the film world with its epic tale and unheard-of special effects. George Lucas, the mastermind behind the franchise, was awash with possibilities as to where to take his new universe. Investing time and presumably money in the Star Wars Holiday Special was a fascinating and still much-discussed choice by Lucas, who possibly thought to keep viewers interested in the series during the three year release gap between Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

In the Star Wars Holiday Special, which takes place after the first theatrical movie and before the second, Chewbacca’s mother, parents and son eagerly await his return on Life Day, a holiday similar to Christmas. At Darth Vader’s orders, Chewie and Han Solo are being hunted by Imperial storm troopers, some of whom raid Chewie’s home in hopes of catching him. Chewbacca’s son, Lumpawarrump, or Lumpy, attempts to assuage his fears by watching a cartoon that features Han, Chewie, and Luke Skywalker. The cartoon also introduces the character Boba Fett, who would become a major villain in the remainder of the theatrical series.

Chewbacca’s family manages to stave off the threatening storm troopers until Han and Chewie can arrive and save the day. The Wookie family continues to the magical Tree of Life, where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo join them along with the droids C-3PO and R2-D2, and Princess Leia. The princess sings a song about unity and everyone celebrates heartily.

The Star Wars Holiday Special was met with near total contempt for its sappy story, overly cute dialogue, and odd attempts to mix styles by adding songs and cartoons. George Lucas was apparently devastated with the result, having not spent much time personally overseeing the project. The special was never aired in America again, although it was shown once in Australia during the 1980s. No video or DVD release of the Star Wars Holiday Special has ever been released, but bootleg copies are plentiful among fans.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


I think I would enjoy this Star Wars Holiday Special. I personally think there's a time and place for cheesy feel-good movies. And that time is right around the holidays! I think I would rather watch this than some of the other movies they play over and over again around Christmastime.

However, I doubt I will ever get to watch this. I'm pretty against illegal downloads, and the only Star Wars Holiday Special download available is obviously not authorized by the parent company. I guess I'll just hope they re-release this special one day!


@JaneAir - I'm actually not surprised they haven't released this on DVD. If the Star Wars Holiday Special 1978 was such a flop when it first came out, I don't see why it would be successful as a re-release. Maybe a few hardcore fans might buy it, but I doubt sales would be very high. Everyone who wants this movie has probably already downloaded it illegally off the Internet anyway!

Also, since George Lucas was so upset with the final result, he probably just wants to forget about it. There are plenty of other ways he can make money off of the Star Wars franchise without releasing a kitschy holiday special!


I actually can't believe this is a real thing! I don't think I've ever heard of a science fiction series doing a holiday special before, let alone an extremely famous franchise. Of course, this did come out between the first and second movies, so I suppose Star Wars wasn't as big then as it was after the whole series came out.

I also can't believe that they've never released a Star Wars Holiday Special DVD. It seems like George Lucas really enjoys making money on the Star Wars franchise, so I feel like he would jump at the chance to milk some more money out of the series.


@hamje32 - Star Wars is an iconic film, and the holiday special, good or bad, will live forever in Star Wars lore. What makes it immortal is that it features actual characters from the Star Wars special.

They say good actors can lift the quality of even the worst script. Maybe that’s true here, I don’t know. But there have been a number of parodies and spinoffs from the original Star Wars franchise, all of them with their own cult followings. But none of them had Star Wars actors in them.


@SkyWhisperer - It wasn’t the low tech quality of the production that made the Star Wars holiday special 1978 release so bad. It was the humor itself.

I mean you have Princess Leia singing about unity? Was that science fiction or political correctness? I think kids can understand children’s humor, but the problem with that show is that it was incredibly patronizing.

You don’t have to be patronizing to reach out to kids, in my humble opinion. I am sure that if you love any and all things Star Wars then the show can do no wrong. But nowadays there’s too much competition for science fiction fare and kids will be choosy. At least my kids are.


@MrMoody - It’s not that bad actually. You mention that it’s like a children’s show, and I agree, but I think kids would get a real kick out of it. If you really want to find out you can just watch the Star Wars holiday special Youtube clip and get their take on it.

Of course I understand that nowadays kids are more used to high tech productions like “Spy Kids,” so maybe they wouldn’t enjoy the kiddie feel of the show.

But that’s more a reflection of the times in which the movie was made where they had simpler tools to work with.


I was a big Star Wars fan. But honestly I couldn’t stomach more than the first ten minutes of the Star Wars holiday special video. It felt like I was watching something for kids – actually I would have preferred some of the kids programming instead.

I think that you really have to be a die hard “cult” follower of the Star Wars franchise to enjoy some of the corny humor in that show. I thought it ended up taking Mark Hamill down a few notches in respectability, in my opinion.

Clearly it didn’t hurt the subsequent releases of Star Wars films. I think the producers were right to show it only once.

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