In the vast galaxy of the Star Wars franchise, there exists a peculiar gem that has both perplexed and amused fans for decades—the Star Wars Holiday Special. This 1978 television special, directed by Steve Binder, was the first Star Wars spin-off film and introduced the enigmatic character Boba Fett. And while Boba Fett has evolved into an essential fan-favorite character, the special was widely considered a holiday misfire that Disney would like to keep far, far away from everyone’s memories—which is why it’s not available to watch with the rest of the Star Wars content on Disney+.
Back in 1978, the Star Wars Holiday Special was shown on broadcast television, and today, it’s not available to stream anywhere.
Airing on November 17, 1978, on CBS, the Star Wars Holiday Special is set between the original film and its then-unreleased sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. The storyline revolves around Chewbacca and Han Solo’s attempt to celebrate “Life Day” on the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk. As they face pursuit by the Galactic Empire, viewers are introduced to Chewbacca’s family: his father, Itchy, his wife, Malla, and his son Lumpy.
The special features the original Star Wars main cast, memorable cameos, comedy sketches, and even an animated segment that introduces Boba Fett.
Star Wars: A New Hope was one of the most successful films ever made—it drew in more than $2.5 million in the first six days after its release (a huge number in the 70s), replaced Jaws as the highest earning features in North America at the time, and earned a whopping $220 million against an $11 million budget in its original theatrical release (it’s now earned more than $775 million). So, it stands to reason that the Star Wars Holiday Special, released a year and a half later, would also be a massive success. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The Star Wars Holiday Special included all the major original actors who reprised their roles, including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew. And it introduced three new Wookiee characters, showcasing the daily lives and customs of Chewbacca’s family and the bounty hunter Boba Fett, who would play a significant role in the franchise’s expanded universe. But the special’s blend of moments that ranged from endearing to downright bizarre has led to the film’s infamous reputation that many involved in the production would likely prefer to forget.
For years, the Star Wars Holiday Special existed in obscurity, relegated to bootleg copies and off-air recordings made by fans during its original telecast.
The Star Wars Holiday Special included musical performances, celebrity cameos, comedy sketches, and an animated segment, reflecting the popular variety show vibe during its release. Despite its unique approach, the special’s reception was far from stellar. Critics and audiences alike lambasted its disjointed narrative, tonal shifts, and a bizarre storyline that included way too much Wookie-speak with a 1970s interpretation of VR porn.
For years, the Star Wars Holiday Special existed in obscurity, relegated to bootleg copies and off-air recordings made by fans during its original telecast. Its scarcity only added to its mystique, turning it into a cultural legend within the fan community.
The faintest of praise for The Star Wars Holiday Special was given for the cartoon that introduces Boba Fett, the only segment available on Disney+ today.
However, the animated Boba Fett segment was an exception, garnering praise for its animation and storytelling. Funnily enough, this segment was officially released on Disney+ in 2021, allowing a new generation to appreciate its significance, even without the rest of the treasured special.
The Star Wars Holiday Special remains a captivating curiosity within the Star Wars universe. Despite its initial poor reception and lack of availability, its status as a cultural oddity endures. For better or for worse, the mishmash of musical performances, comedy sketches, and the first glimpse of Boba Fett has left an indelible mark on Star Wars history.