Disney Needs To Release The Original Unaltered Star Wars Trilogy For One Huge Reason

Disney needs to release the original Star Wars trilogy to preserve the franchise's impact.

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

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An interviewer recently asked Jon Favreau if there was any chance Disney might release an unaltered version of the original Star Wars trilogy. Favreau essentially said that only a few old farts even care anymore. What he fails to realize is it’s not just about fan demand — it’s also about preserving history — which is exactly why Disney needs to release the original, unaltered Star Wars trilogy.

Before Star Wars was a franchise, it was a single landmark film that changed the course of cinema forever. That’s not just hyperbole, either. A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are all, for one reason or another, valuable artifacts that deserve to be preserved for future filmmakers.

The problem is that someone took those artifacts and covered them in a thick layer of CGI sludge.

For the 20th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, Lucasfilm rereleased the film and its sequels to theaters with added computer-generated effects and sequences. These “Special Editions” were a fun novelty in 1997 and a way for fans born after 1977 to finally see the movies on a big screen. But then George Lucas did the unthinkable.

Since 1997 the only version of the original Star Wars trilogy for sale has been these so-called “Special Editions.” This subverted version of the trilogy has become so ubiquitous that it isn’t even labeled differently anymore. For a whole generation of Star Wars fans, Greedo shot first.

To paraphrase 1984, “Han has always stepped on CGI Jabba’s tail.”

George Lucas claims that these were the versions of the films he envisioned when they were made. He just lacked the technology. Unfortunately, this is the same guy who said Darth Vader meant “Dark Father” despite the fact that he decided to make Vader Luke’s father after A New Hope came out.

Lucas himself proved that the excuse was bull when he changed the films again for the DVD release. And then again for the Blu-ray release. George tinkered with the Star Wars trilogy again for the 4k versions he handed over to Disney.

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The truth is George Lucas has always been more interested in the technical side of filmmaking. All of the college short films on his IMDb are just exercises in technique and special effects with almost no human characters. When the technology to tinker with the original Star Wars trilogy came along, he couldn’t help himself.

That would be fine if he presented his new vision side by side with the original theatrical cuts of the films instead of replacing them. He even changed the negative for A New Hope directly, meaning that in the strictest sense, the movie doesn’t exist. Not in it’s its original form, anyway.

This is a crime. When the National Film Registry declared that the Star Wars trilogy had “significant artistic or cultural value,” George Lucas was supposed to give them archival prints of the films. He gave the Library of Congress prints of the 1997 Special Editions instead.

Why does George Lucas hate the unaltered original Star Wars trilogy so much? Many theories have been thrown around, from Lucas’ ego to the Special Editions being legally distinct enough that it screws his ex-wife Marcia out of residuals. Ultimately the reason why doesn’t matter.

What matters is that eventually, the original VHS copies and Laserdiscs hoarded by collectors will break down and disintegrate. When that happens, only the tricked-out versions of the movies will exist. Children will only know a Return of the Jedi with blinking Ewoks and partying Gungans.

The Ewok banger “Yub Nub” will be lost forever.

Disney has a chance to save movie history, and instead, they’re leaving it to hobbyists. Unfortunately, not everyone is tech-savvy enough to find and download Project ’77 or Harmy’s Despecialized Edition. It would be nice to scroll through Disney+ and have a choice whether to watch The Max Rebo Band perform “Lapti Nek” or “Jedi Rocks” instead of being stuck with the latter.

If anyone at Disney cares one bit about cinema history, they need to release an unaltered version of the original Star Wars trilogy before it’s too late. Our kids shouldn’t have to grow up in a Maclunkey world.