Tomorrow is Life Day, and as you’re steering your starship to Kashyyyk to celebrate with your Wookiee relatives, take a moment to reflect on the best possible way to commemorate this intergalactic holiday: By watching the Star Wars Holiday Special.
This week, Mental Floss published a comprehensive oral history of the 1978 special. Well, let’s put it another way: They have some comments from the people involved who actually admit to working on it. A few of the stars are no longer with us of course (RIP Bea Arthur). But some flat-out deny they ever appeared in this piece of televised art, and others say they use it to repel houseguests who stick around too long.
Here are just a few details from the oral history that I didn’t know before and I’m not sure I’m happy to know now:
- George Lucas came up with the concept, which he thought would be a good way to sell toys. “His idea was basically for a Wookiee Rosh Hashanah. A furry Earth Day.”
- Lucas told screenwriters that Han was married to a Wookiee, “but that we couldn’t mention that because it would be controversial.”
- Lucasfilm and Kenner produced prototype action figures of Chewbacca’s family (including his child, named Lumpy) but they were never released.
- Bea Arthur, who sings a song in the cantina scene, didn’t know anything about Star Wars or the characters. “She was pretty much [her television character] Maude.”
- Jefferson Starship appears in the special, but the team was also working on another project with Lucasfilm and the Bee Gees. Nothing ever came of it.
- When the high-budget television special aired, it lost the ratings war to The Love Boat, “with a marked drop-off following the conclusion of the cartoon at the halfway point.”
If you haven’t seen the special before, it’s definitely worth one of those pajama-clad, gift wrap-strewn Christmas afternoon viewings. Disney’s been quashing uploads on YouTube but we found one version in its entirety.
Enjoy. And thank the maker that the Star Wars franchise has been wrested away from George Lucas once and for all.
Follow the author at @awalkerinLA