This past week saw the release of The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, the latest Star Wars tie-in on Disney+. The title is in part a reference to a very unique entry into the Star Wars mythology, the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.
Airing only once on ABC, The Star Wars Holiday Special was a cataclysm of bad decisions, incompetent to a point that seemed almost intentional. Conceived as a variety show in the style of a Bob Hope or Dean Martin event, the special featured two hours of cringe-inducing comedy, horrible musical numbers and awkward cameo appearances by the cast of the original Star Wars, all of whom appeared to be regretting their contractual obligations.
Since Christmas (or any Earth-bound holiday) wouldn’t exist within the Star Wars universe, The Holiday Special created the Wookiee holiday “Life Day,” which Chewbacca and his family celebrate on their home planet of Kashyyyk. While in theory it might have seemed like a good idea to show how different creatures celebrate the holiday, The Star Wars Holiday Special’s creative team never thought to subtitle any of the conversations between Chewbacca and his family, making the two hours of growling completely incomprehensible.
Featuring every '70s personality from Jefferson Starship and Bea Arthur to Art Carney and Harvey Korman, The Star Wars Holiday Special was so reviled that it was never distributed with any sort of release on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, or streaming. Existing only as an object of cult fascination among hardcore fans, The Holiday Special remains legendary enough that the LEGO team made it their mission to redeem it.
Both of these holiday specials are curiosities in the Star Wars canon, but they’re not the only strange spinoff items from the galaxy far, far away. Check out some of these other weird off-shoot items from the Star Wars saga.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (1978)
The 1977 original Star Wars ran the risk of bankrupting everyone involved, so when George Lucas commissioned author Alan Dean Foster to write the official novelization, he also assigned him to write a second book that could be filmed as a low-budget sequel if the first film underperformed.
The story centered on Luke and Leia as they searched for a powerful crystal; it noticeably didn’t include Han Solo because Harrison Ford hadn’t officially signed on for any sequels (Lucas also had Foster cut out a space battle that was deemed too expensive to shoot). Obviously, Star Wars became a phenomenon and thus the series moved on, but the 1978 novelization of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye serves as an interesting “what if” into an alternate history of the series.
“Pigs in Space,” The Muppet Show (1980)
Given that The Muppet Show’s Frank Oz, the puppeteer and performer behind characters such as Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and Sam the Eagle, also appears as Yoda in the Star Wars films, there have been frequent crossover appearances between the two properties. One of the earliest was the “Pigs in Space” sketch from the original run of The Muppet Show, where Mark Hamill made an appearance as Luke Skywalker.
Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album (1980)
The second stab at a holiday-centric Star Wars release wasn’t a television special, but rather a Christmas album featuring R2-D2, C-3PO, and various other droids who discover the meaning of Christmas. The album, which includes such classics as “What Do You Get A Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb?),” was also notably the first official recording from Jon Bon Jovi.
Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984) and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)
At some point someone told George Lucas that the possibilities for merchandising around the furry Ewoks were limitless, so shortly after the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, Lucas commissioned two television films revolving around the Ewoks and their adventures on the moon of Endor. Ditching the science fiction elements for straight up fantasy stories in line with the Jim Henson specials of the time, the two Ewok movies have been largely lost to time, virtually unavailable outside of a brief VHS and DVD release.
Droids and Ewoks (1985)
Critics of the Star Wars franchise often dismiss the films as nothing but cartoons for children, but Lucasfilm literally moved forward with Saturday morning cartoons in the mid-1980s. Droids, which aired for only one season and featured the return of Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, and Ewoks, which ran for two in part thanks to the success of the Ewok TV movies, were two animated series aimed at younger fans.
Star Tours (1987-2011)
Long before George Lucas sold his empire to the Walt Disney Co., the Star Wars franchise was an integral part of the Disney Parks. The Star Tours ride, an interactive video experience that featured Paul Reubens as the droid RX-24 “Rex,” was one of Disney’s most popular attractions, but was removed and replaced with the updated attraction Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, in 2011.
Return of the Ewok (1982-?)
Sick of Ewoks yet? In 1982, Lucasfilm shot this behind-the scenes short starring Warwick Davis as Wicket the Ewok, but the project was never completed. Only bits of footage have been screened over the years at various Star Wars fan conventions beginning around 1999.
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996)
Shadows of the Empire wasn’t a Star Wars film, but it featured pretty much everything but a theatrical release. The multimedia project used a novel, comic series, video game, toy line, role-playing game, and even an official soundtrack to tell a story set in time between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, R2-D2, and C-3PO face off against the crime lord Prince Xizor as they search for Han Solo, who was frozen in carbonite at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
R2-D2: Beneath the Dome (2001)
Back in the early days of the 21st Century, when viral videos were still novelty items rather than the norm, Lucasfilm released R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, a mockumentary short that imagines the life and career of R2 and his ascension to show business. Don’t dismiss this as just a failed SNL sketch, though; the short features a good deal of talented people, including Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson and a rare cameo from Lucas himself.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 film)
Here’s something that’s a novelty: a theatrically released Star Wars movie that has been completely forgotten. Prior to the release of the television series of the same name, Lucasfilm edited the show’s first four episodes into a film that was rushed into theaters and subsequently bombed at the box office. Despite a tepid critical reaction to the film, the series drew critical acclaim, particularly for the introduction of fan favorite character Ashoka Tano, who will make her first live-action appearance in Season Two of The Mandalorian.
Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace in 3D (2012)
Back in 2012, when re-releasing older films in 3D was popular, Lucasfilm put 1999’s The Phantom Menace back into theaters with an added dimension (not to the story, unfortunately). The awkward post-conversion was so poorly appreciated that subsequent plans to re-release the entire saga in 3D were cancelled.
Star Wars Detours (???)
Shortly before the Disney acquisition, Lucasfilm began production on a satirical animated series set within the Star Wars universe, spearheaded by Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. Over 30 episodes were completed and an official trailer was even released in 2012, but all plans for the show were abruptly halted. Nearly 10 years later, and the show has still never been released in any form.
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