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Urban Legends of the Star Wars Holiday Special
By SKot Kirkwood

Without a doubt, The Star Wars Holiday Special is an urban legend in its own right. Aired only once in the US in 1978, and unavailable on any format to this very day, it's easy for anyone who never saw it with their own eyes to doubt its very existence. In fact, even people who saw it air back then sometimes begin to doubt their own memories. A variety show based around Star Wars? Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Jefferson Starship in the Star Wars universe? It can't be true!

And yet it is true. And along with the Holiday Special's confirmed existence comes other legends, hearsay, and rumors about it. Many of them get repeated ad infinitum on websites all over the internet. Much of it is inaccurate. Some of it isn't. We're here to help set things straight... and to either debunk or reinforce the Urban Legends of the Star Wars Holiday Special.

This feature was inspired by the great article about the Urban Legends of Star Wars on the official Star Wars site. You can find that original article here.

Urban Legend: It's also called "The Star Wars Christmas Special", "A Wookiee Holiday", or "A Very Wookiee Christmas".

Verdict: False.

None of these titles are correct. It was simply called "The Star Wars Holiday Special", and was not specifically associated with Christmas at all. And in fact the show aired in the USA on November 17th, actually closer to Thanksgiving than Christmas time.

Featuring a young Jon Bon Jovi!The cartoon segment on its own was originally titled "The Faithful Wookiee", though there is no real evidence of this title in the finished program. Nelvana, who produced the cartoon, did in fact produce another cartoon previously called "A Very Cosmic Christmas", which led to their being picked to do a cartoon for the Holiday Special. This may have had something to do with the show occasionally being referred to as "A Very Wookiee Christmas".

The Holiday Special also has nothing to do with the Star Wars-themed "Christmas In The Stars" LP that came out in November 1980, although they both share a similar level of cheesiness.

Urban Legend: George Lucas/Lucasfilm made the Holiday Special.

Verdict: False.

George Lucas did not actually make the Holiday Special. Though the story idea and a lot of the elements were originally his, the entire production was handed over to CBS and produced by Smith-Hemion without his further involvement in the final product. George was too busy at the time working on The Empire Strikes Back to be involved much with the Special. It's no secret that Lucas was not happy with how the Special turned out, and his name does not appear in the credits at all. This was not an accidental omission.

Urban Legend: Lucasfilm bought up all the rights to the Holiday Special from CBS to prevent it from being broadcast again.

Verdict: First part true, second part uncertain.

There are legal documents stating that Lucasfilm purchased all the rights to the Holiday Special, including the masters and related materials. In May 1989 Lucasfilm recorded a copyright transfer (effective as of Sept. 1, 1981) that gives Lucasfilm sole rights and ownership to the program. It would be logical to conclude that the masters are stored in the Lucasfilm archives now. Pictorial evidence has also shown that at least a few props from the Special survived and reside in the Lucasfilm archives as well. This has been additionally confirmed by former archivist Don Bies. So Lucasfilm has sole ownership of the Holiday Special now.

What is not known is whether the rights were purchased to prevent the Special from ever being broadcast again, or if it was merely so that Lucas could bring this property back "in-house" for safekeeping. Chances are it was a little of both.

Urban Legend: At a sci-fi convention in Australia, George Lucas once said "If I had the time and a hammer, I would smash every copy of the Holiday Special."

Verdict: At least partly False.

George Lucas did not speak at a sci-fi convention in Australia. In fact, it was reportedly Steve Sansweet who, while speaking at an Australian convention, claimed that Lucas made the above statement. But did Lucas really say that? The "time and a hammer" quote has been widely attributed to George Lucas all over the internet now. However, we challenge anyone to provide concrete evidence that he ever made that statement. It's not that we doubt he might say such a thing, it's just that this particular quote is only hearsay... and should be taken as such. For a real quote from George Lucas about the Holiday Special, see our Quotes section here.

Urban Legend: Mark Hamill carried a different lightsaber in the Holiday Special than he did in the movies.

Verdict: True.

Graflite #2773For some reason, the lightsaber that Mark Hamill used in the original Star Wars film was either not available or not used, and instead a substitute was used that was quite different from the one he had previously. The substitute was made from a modified Graflex 3-cell flashgun model #2773 (also called a Graflite), rather than the original Graflex model that Luke Skywalker's lightsaber in Star Wars had been made from. This saber was never actually shown activated during the Holiday Special, but it can be seen hanging from Luke's belt during the Life Day ceremony. It also shows up in some non-Holiday Special publicity stills from around that time, some of which were altered later to show the correct saber in Luke's hand as seen on the covers of the 2004 Star Wars Trilogy DVDs.

You can find more details about the different lightsabers used at the excellent Parts Of Star Wars website here.

Urban Legend: A standalone version of the cartoon segment exists that contains more footage than was shown during the Holiday Special.

Verdict: True.

An uncut standalone version of the Boba Fett cartoon does exist where a slightly extended intro and outro are intact and not formatted to fit Lumpy's viewscreen. Also, there is a very short segment where the commercial break takes place containing an odd animated fake commercial featuring two alien superheroes and a backwards jingle. The jingle, when played forwards, A four-armed superhero?says:

"Hot water used for laundering,
Less than a load of dirty things
Horrible habits, yeah
Don't scoff, 'cause
Wasting electricity turns people... off."

This "commercial" was probably only intended as a place-holder for the real commercial break which would be inserted later. The audio from the jingle has been found to have originated from a Canadian energy-saving PSA, aired sometime around the time the cartoon was made. Nelvana, who produced the cartoon, is based in Canada.