In 1978, we had no idea when we’d see a new Star Wars. We didn’t have them every single year, like we’re all celebrating right now. No, we had our comics and toys, but no other new media. So it was with great excitement that my three-year-old brother and my six-year-old self gathered in front of the TV on November 17, 1978 to get a whole new adventure.
It’s Life Day — the Christmas of the Star Wars universe. Chewbacca just wants to get home, but the Empire is on his tail.
Meanwhile, on his home planet of Kashyyk, Chewie’s family hopes for him to be there. His wife, Mallatobuck, scans for starships and calls Luke Skywalker and R2D2. Yes, everyone from Star Wars is in this, even noted crank Harrison Ford.
She also gets in touch with Saun Dann (Art Carney from The Honeymooners? Yes. Don’t freak out just yet.) and tells him to look for Chewbacca and Han. Meanwhile, Chef Gormaanda (Harvey Korman from The Carol Burnett Show) teaches her how to cook via a hologram.
Saun brings Life Day gifts for everyone, including virtual reality porn featuring Diahann Carroll as an alien for Attichitcuk, Chewbecca’s dad. This sequence will bend your mind and make you humble. Keep the Force strong and your fast forward button handy, as the song in this scene, “This Minute Now” invites the wookiee to have a fantasy and experience the alien woman.
Let me reiterate what just happened: kids tuned in for Star Wars and got to see Chewbacca’s dad polish Vader’s helmet. He was shooting womprats in Beggar’s Canyon. Releasing the Special Edition. Dare I say, jumping to de-light speed. Communicating with Red Leader One. You know what I’m saying. And I think you do.
Han and Chewie land on the planet, but the Imperial army is looking for them. They get distracted by food and Jefferson Starship singing a song called “Light the Sky on Fire” — again, yes, I am not shitting you — while Chewbacca’s son Lumpawarrump goes to watch a cartoon.
Ths cartoon — produced by Canada’s Nelvana — is the best part of the show. This is the first appearance of Boba Fett, who acts as if he is a hero. It’s short and sweet, with stylized artwork and plenty of action. It’s the best part of the show, which isn’t much of a feat. It’s said that the animation was based on the artwork of Jean “Mœbius” Geraud at the request of George Lucas. Mœbius was part of the crew that Alejandro Jodorowsky had assembled to create his version of Dune, along with Dan O’Bannon, who helped create the effects for Star Wars. Interestingly, many believe that Lucas stole Jabba the Hutt’s design from Jodorowksy’s idea of what Baron Harkonnen should look like.
Harvey Korman shows up again, then the Empire shuts down the planet Tatooine. We return to one of the best parts of Star Wars, the Mos Eisley Cantina, where we meet the owner, Ackmena (Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls. Yep. Bea Arthur.) and Harvey Korman shows up again! And Richard Pryor is there, too!
Then, in defiance of the Empire’s curfew, Ackmena sings “Good Night, but not Goodbye” with Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, the cantina band. If you can make it through this part of the special, you must have a high midichlorian count. Of note, Greedo is in the bar showing no ill effects of being shot at first, as well as one of the rats from The Food of the Gods.
Chewbacca’s son runs from the Imperial troopers but is saved by his father and Han. Then, everyone goes to the festival at the Tree of Life. Everyone appears and a song about Life Day, which somehow has the same theme as the Star Wars theme, is sung by Princess Leia (Fisher demanded that she be allowed to sing in this special). We sit through b-roll of the original film and then see the wookiees eat dinner.
This has never been broadcast again or sold, as George Lucas sees it as a major source of embarrassment. Then again, he created the prequels, too.
If you’re wondering why the wookiees speak only in their native language and it’s never translated, thank Lucas. He fought for this against the wishes of writer Bruce Vilanch. Yes, that Bruce Vilanch. This means that for minutes at a time, all you hear are yells and grunts instead of English.
But this wasn’t the last Star Wars Christmas project. In 1980, Meco Monardo, who recorded the amazing combination of disco and science fiction entitled Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, created Christmas in the Stars, an album that found C-3PO and R2-D2 travel to a droid factory that makes toys for S. Claus. It’s also the first audio appearance of Jon Bon Jovi, singing on the song “R2-D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
If you truly love Star Wars and the holidays, you have so many other ways to spend your time. Don’t give in to the forbidden fruit that is the Star Wars Holiday Special. My brother and I had no idea of the horrifying monstrosity we’d face back in 1978. Imagine the feeling Grand Moff Tarkin had watching the Death Star explode, except our pain went on for two hours. Two hours is a long time when you’re three and six.
It hasn’t gotten any better with age. In fact, it’s all curdled with time, like a glass of Thala-Siren milk that’s been left out overnight.