The Star Wars Holiday Special
The Star Wars Holiday Special is a holiday special set in the Star Wars that aired on CBS in 1978 and was the first official spin off from the Star Wars film series. The special, which takes place between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, features Han Solo and Chewbacca evading Imperial forces while trying to return to Chewie's home planet for "Life Day" with his family. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and the droids also make appearances. The special was universally panned by fans and critics alike and has never been rebroadcast or released on home video.
Special Guest Stars: Beatrice Arthur (Ackmena), Art Carney (Trader Saun Dann), Diahann Carroll (Mermeia Holographic Wow), Jefferson Starship (Themselves), Harvey Korman (Krelman/Chef Gormaanda/Amorphian Instructor)
No one is certain who came up with the idea to create a televised Star Wars special. According to executive producer Gary Smith, the blame rests on 20th Century Fox, who perhaps believed a holiday special would help promote Star Wars, which had debuted to incredible acclaim the year before.
In 1978, Smith-Hemion Productions, a production company that specialized in musical specials like Elvis in Concert and the Tony Awards, began production on the Star Wars Holiday Special. Although the special carried the Star Wars name and featured all of the major actors from the first film—minus Alec Guinness aside from archive footage—Star Wars creator George Lucas had very little involvement in the production of the holiday special. In 1978, pre-production on The Empire Strikes Back was underway and required all of Lucas' attention. As a result, according to Lucas, the Star Wars Holiday Special "really didn't have much to do with us... We kind of let them do it." Although production duties were turned over to Smith-Hemion, Lucas did write the original story with Smith-Hemion Productions and attended early production meetings.
David Acomba, a friend of Lucas' from college, was initially brought in to direct the special. He worked on the cantina sequence starring Beatrice Arthur but soon left due to creative differences with the producers. He was replaced by Steve Binder, who would later become well known for producing Pee Wee's Playhouse. In addition to the live action sequences, Nelvana produced the cartoon in the middle, entitled "The Faithful Wookiee," which was notable for being the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas was somewhat involved in this production as well, offering advice on resolving weaknesses in the story.
The final product was aired as a two-hour special on November 17, 1978 before an episode of the short-lived series Flying High. Lucas distanced himself from the special almost immediately and has occasionally voiced his displeasure at the special. At a convention in Australia, Lucas reportedly told fans, "If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it."
The special has never been aired again or released on home video. A fan petition asking that it be released on video was met with resistance from Lucasfilm, who does not plan to let the special out of its vaults. Bootleg copies have often been sold online and at fan conventions. A version has also been distributed online in peer-to-peer networks.