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The Life Day Awakens

Despite having never ever having been rebroadcast, nor sold for the home market, a sequel is coming to Disney +, November 17, 2020. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special focuses on Rey Skywalker’s misadventures through the nine films of the Skywalker Saga, encountering Darth Vader, a young Luke Skywalker, podracers and even Baby Yoda as she and Emperor Palpatine struggle for control over a mysterious crystal that grants the ability to travel through time.

Of course, this being a LEGO movie, unlike it’s ill-fated precursor, this new Holiday Special is intentionally hilarious and comedic. While all we have to go on is the trailer, it looks to be full of the usual in-jokes, Easter eggs, snark and fourth-wall breaking that fans have come to expect.

The date is significant: it’s the 42nd anniversary of the broadcast of the original Star Wars Holiday Special on CBS Television Network – and since that time, Star Wars fans have made the holiday their own. Now, every year, we celebrate Life Day as a blend of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Star Wars – three things we love.

What else could they throw in to make it even more fun? LEGO?

Apparently, wish granted.

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous feast on Life Day. Rey sets off on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi Temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films. But will she make it back in time for the Life Day feast and learn the true meaning of holiday spirit?

The show draws heavily from the tropes in the first live action special, but the producers this time around understand how to be entertaining – a skill the writers and producers of the original show apparently lacked in abundance.

This new LEGO production features many – but not all – original Star Wars alumni. For example, Anthony Daniels plays C3PO, Ben Preder revisits his voice role as General Hux from Star Wars Rebels, Billie Dee Williams voices Lando Calrissian, and Kelly Marie Tran voices Rose Tico. Rey, however, isn’t Daisy Ridley, the role instead going to Helen Sadler. Matt Sloan portrays Darth Vader, and Tome Kane does the voices of both Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda.

The production itself was handled by Atomic Cartoons of Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The First Life Day

On November 17, 1978, 18 months after the big-screen debut of the original Star Wars (later subtitled “Episode IV: A New Hope“) the next story from a galaxy far far away aired on much smaller screens around the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Pre-empting episodes of The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman at 8pm on CBS stations, The Star Wars Holiday Special was an eagerly anticipated, star-studded production that reunited most of the film’s original cast save for R2-D2’s Kenny Baker. In this current era of Star Wars novels and comics, three full trilogies, Life Day celebrations at the Galaxy’s Edge locations in the Disney theme parks, and even Baby Yoda, it is easy to forget that this was the first expansion of the universe featuring the plucky Rebel Alliance and the oppressive Galactic Empire.

A Great Disturbance in the Force

It’s also easy to forget that The Star Wars Holiday Special became instantly infamous after its one and only airing and it was never officially released on VHS or other media. Two years later, it was all but forgotten and was further buried beneath the continuing tale that took viewers from the ice fields of Hoth to the Cloud City of Bespin in Empire Strikes Back. But a decade later, the two-hour show had developed a cult following with people selling bootleg copies recorded that night. And, in the 42 years since it aired, it has “topped” almost every list of “worst shows” created. It wasn’t just the critics, fans – including the hard-core Star Wars fandom, the actors and even George Lucas himself have loved to loathe it.

Because Lucasfilm was moving its offices at the time, George Lucas had virtually nothing to do with the creation of the show. Carrie Fisher, who implied that she was high on drugs when she sang the Life Day Song at the end of the show – something that was an open secret to anyone over a certain age upon viewing that scene, also joking that she made George Lucas give her a copy of the tape sho that she would “have something for parties… when I want everyone to leave.” For his part, Anthony Daniels (C-3P0) called the show a “turd.”

The show itself was a two hour variety show, consisting of musical numbers, and comedic skits all loosely tied together by the overarching plot of Han Solo and Chewbacca returning back to the Wookie home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day with Chewie’s family. Big names of the day, including Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carrol, Bea Arthur (Golden Girls), Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show) and Art Carney (Honeymooners) all featured.

It was not entirely bantha poodoo, however. The Holiday Special gave fans their first look at Boba Fett two years before he appeared in Empire and decades before he was digitally added to A New Hope. Fett appeared in the animated cartoon segment created by Nelvana, the animation company that would later go on to create the Droids and Ewoks animated series that appeared Saturday mornings on ABC in 1985. The voice of Boba Fett for the cartoon Don Francks, would later reprise his role in the animated series.

Will The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special Disney to rerelease the original? Perhaps. Or, perhaps it will follow the advice of Kylo Ren, “Let the past die, Kill it, if you have to.”

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Wyatt D. Odd
Wyatt D. Odd
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