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16 Cringeworthy Facts You Forgot About The Notorious Star Wars Holiday Special

Updated February 11, 2021 41.0k views17 items

The infamous Holiday Special is sort of a cinematic Bigfoot. It's so notorious, everyone reading this knows which Holiday Special we’re talking about. Many speak of it, but few have actually seen it, and facts about The Star Wars Holiday Special are sparse and murky. The Special was a much-hyped television event that aired exactly once in 1978, and has since been passed around via bootlegged tapes and, eventually, Internet piracy. The singular live airing adds to the event’s mystique, but it was hidden for reasons more closely related to shame.

The "story" follows Chewbacca’s Wookiee family as they await Chewie’s return for Life Day, which is basically Space Christmas. The Special is a sort of variety show, with multiple bizarre, oddly placed vignettes interspersed throughout the main drama. The story of what happened to The Star Wars Holiday Special is almost as outrageous as the TV event itself. Though it has been largely buried, nerds have famously long and detailed memories, so the infamous TV special lives as a curio for an entirely new generation of Star Wars fans.

  • Photo: Disney-ABC Domestic Television

    The Wookiee Suits Caused Trouble Behind The Scenes

    The Holiday Special introduced Chewbacca’s family, who the Wookiee then proceeds to never visit or mention for the rest of the trilogy. Chewie’s wife Malla, his son Lumpy, and his father Itchy all live in the same treehouse on Kashyyyk, but they look a little less put together than the rebel in the family.

    Their Wookiee suits were made a lot more cheaply than Chewbacca’s, which made them functional death traps. The actors could only be inside the suits for 20 minutes at a time before overheating, after which they needed rest, fluids, and, in some cases, oxygen.

  • Photo: Disney-ABC Domestic Television

    It Featured The First Appearance Of Boba Fett

    For such a strange installment of the Star Wars franchise, the Holiday Special did introduce at least one important element to the mythos. The broadcast marked the official debut of Boba Fett, who would go on to be one of the most popular characters in the original trilogy.

    Boba had appeared in various promotional images, and George Lucas thought the Holiday Special was the perfect place for the Fett-man to make his onscreen debut before The Empire Strikes Back. Boba Fett appears in a colorful and trippy animated sequence based on the artwork of French artist Mœbius.

    Boba rides an alien dinosaur and has more cool dialogue than in the rest of the films combined. Oddly enough, he’s referred to as “Darth Vader’s right-hand man.” Most agree this is the best part of the entire Holiday Special

  • Photo: Disney-ABC Domestic Television

    It Was Considered Canon

    At first, the Holiday Special was advertised as an official part of the franchise’s canon. It featured the first appearance of Chewbacca’s home planet, Kashyyyk, and of his family. Those remained popular elements of the Expanded Universe (now Legends) of novels, comics, and video games.

    The Holiday Special’s canon status ended with the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney, which brought about a reshuffling most of the Expanded Universe, removing much of it from official canon. Certain elements from the Special, like Chewbacca's son Lumpy, have shown up in new material, placing it tentatively back into canon.

  • Photo: Disney-ABC Domestic Television

    Bea Arthur Was In It, Making Her The Third Woman With A Speaking Role In Star Wars

    The strangest celebrity to make a cameo in The Star Wars Holiday Special is probably Bea Arthur, of Golden Girls fame. Arthur plays a rough-and-tumble role as a cantina bartender. She pours drinks into a hole on top of a man’s head and even gets in on the musical action with a barely competent number. Her ditty is kind of (sort of) set to the tune of the famous cantina song.

    Unfortunately for Arthur, her role required no identity-masking makeup, and she was prominently featured in the opening credits, ensuring that millions of viewers associated her with this cinematic disaster. Despite the embarrassment, Arthur’s appearance was mildly progressive, as she became the third (human) woman with a speaking role in the Star Wars franchise.