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 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.