Although only shown once and never officially released, the Holiday Special is nearly mythical within the fandom. Some love it, while others love to hate it. According to urban legend, George Lucas wanted to smash every copy with a sledgehammer. While many fans haven’t seen it, others consider it a right of passage. Here is everything you need to know about how to watch the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.
What Is the Star Wars Holiday Special?
The Star Wars Holiday Special is a holiday-themed television show that aired on November 17, 1978. CBS created the special for the 1978 holiday season to capitalize on the popularity of Star Wars. It features the type of musical and comedy segments popular in 1970s variety shows.
George Lucas created the Wookiee Life Day holiday and gave CBS a basic outline for the show. He also worked with animation studio Nelvana on the story for the cartoon segment. However, Lucas was otherwise uninvolved in the special because he was busy working on The Empire Strikes Back.
Arguably little more than cameos, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and James Earl Jones all reprise their roles from A New Hope. The special featured a radio-controlled R2-D2 and reused several shots from the original film, including Star Destroyers chasing the Millennium Falcon and scenes with Darth Vader.
Most of the show focuses on Chewie’s wife Malla, son Lumpy, and father Itchy preparing for Life Day. Art Carney stars as local trader Saun Dann, who acts as a sort of interpreter for the audience. Harvey Korman plays several roles, including a four-armed parody of Julia Child named Chef Gormaanda.
Diahann Carroll, Jefferson Starship, and Bea Arthur each perform a song. There is also a Boba Fett Cartoon and an acrobatic performance by the Wazzan Troupe Dancers and The Mum Brothers. The finale includes a gathering at the Tree of Life where Carrie Fisher sings a Life Day celebration song set to John Williams’ Star Wars theme.
Is the Holiday Special Canon?
The Star Wars Holiday Special is not canon in the new Lucasfilm timeline established in 2014. Within the legends timeline, the entire special is considered secondary or S-canon. However, several elements that first appeared in the show are once again canon.
Obviously, Boba Fett appears in The Empire Strikes Back and other movies, television shows, books, and comics. The unique rifle that Fett carries in the cartoon made its first canon appearance at Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities in Galaxy’s Edge. Bounty hunter Din Djarin also carries that same model rifle in The Mandalorian series.
Life Day was first mentioned in The Mandalorian in 2019 and has since appeared in several canon comics and books. Over the last several years, the Disney Parks have loosely embraced the holiday. Fans often gather inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on November 17th. Our group hosts an annual lightsaber meetup around Life Day.
Chewie’s family is canon, with Malla, Lumpy, and Itchy all mentioned in various books. Together, they celebrate Life Day in “The Tree of Life,” part of the 2021 short story collection Life Day Treasury. Both Ackmena and Chef Gormaanda also appear in Star Wars canon.
Did George Lucas Really Say He Wanted To Smash the Holiday Special?
There is a popular urban legend that George Lucas once said, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” Despite being frequently repeated, no story includes a source for the quote.
While Lucas is vocal about disliking the special, he is usually much more reserved in interviews. For example, he said, “We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences,” in a 2005 interview with StaticMultimedia.com.
How Do You Watch the Star Wars Holiday Special?
Unfortunately, there is no entirely legal way to watch the Star Wars Holiday Special. Television recordings have circulated throughout the fandom since the early 1980s. More recently, it has been posted to video-sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. However, it is often removed due to copyright claims.
The only part of the special that has been officially released is the Boba Fett cartoon. Titled The Faithful Wookiee, it first appeared as an easter egg on the Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray in 2011. As part of the Star Wars Vintage Collection, Disney+ released it with the new title The Story of the Faithful Wookiee on April 2, 2021.
Unscrupulous vendors continue to sell copies at comic and science fiction conventions today. Despite supposed high-definition versions, all known copies originate from fan recordings from the original TV broadcast.
In 2022, our SWGEDiscord group hosted a virtual water party on our Discord server. We are hosting our second annual Star Wars: Holiday Special Watch virtual water party on November 17, 2023. The event is free, but exclusive to server members. Join our Discord server for free at discord.gg/galaxysedge.
Is It Worth Watching the Holiday Special?
Most fans considered it painful, if not nearly impossible, to watch. Author David Hofstede called the special “the worst two hours of television ever” in the book What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. However, some consider it a cult classic. Despite the dubious writing and performances, it has a very kitschy charm.
Although some criticize the animation style, most fans consider the Boba Fett cartoon the highlight of the special. Not only does it introduce Fett, but it is also the first time we see Aurebesh-like characters on screen.
Even though they don’t speak English – or Galactic Basic – you can imagine the Wookiees having normal conversations. When Malla tells Lumpy to take out the trash, you can almost hear him say, “but Mom, do I have to?!”
Bea Arthur basically plays herself, which fits Ackmena, proprietor of the Mos Eisley cantina, perfectly. Her song, “Good Night, But Not Goodbye,” is easily the most memorable of the musical numbers.
And if for no other reason, it’s worth watching because it’s a time capsule. Not only is it one of the last big variety shows, but it showcases the sillier side of Star Wars.
Will Lucasfilm or Disney Ever Release the Special?
It seems unlikely Lucasfilm will officially release the Star Wars Holiday Special. They already missed two great opportunities, the fortieth anniversary and the Star Wars Vintage Collection on Disney+.
However, they released the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special in 2020 and offered special Life Day merchandise in both 2021 and 2022. Only time will tell.
Still, it seems more likely that Lucasfilm will create a new special. The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau has expressed interest in creating a new Life Day story.
Rooks is an SEO strategist, writer, and content editor that occasionally masquerades as a designer, photographer, and cook.
A lifelong Star Wars geek, his earliest memories are playing with Kenner action figures while watching the Original Trilogy on VHS. Aside from keeping up with the latest Star Wars movies, shows, books, and comics, he enjoys living out his own Star Wars story at Galaxy’s Edge East.
Aside from Star Wars, his fandoms include the MCU, Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica, and the Lord of the Rings. Other hobbies include traveling, craft brewing, and beat-matching.
Rooks is passionate about cooking and loves discussing and occasionally writing about food, beer, and cocktails. You can usually find him hamming out words at a local coffee shop or brewery, eating around Orlando with his wife, and doing anything to avoid folding the laundry.