The Story Of:
The Story Of The Faithful Wookiee
Out of all the things that went into The Star Wars Holiday Special, one thing stands out as the diamond in the rough, and that’s the roughly 10 minute cartoon that is contained within it. Whereas the entire live-action Holiday Special itself is short on plot and action, the cartoon was a self-contained story that told a whole new action-filled adventure using the voice talents of the original cast themselves, and it did things as animation that live television at that time could never do. It introduced whole new worlds, new creatures, new vehicles…and of course, it introduced the yet-to-be-seen but soon-to-be-famous bounty hunter character, Boba Fett. This would ensure its place as an important moment in the Star Wars galaxy, even as the Holiday Special itself faded from public view.
But how did this cartoon, the first ever animated Star Wars adventure, come about? Why did the Holiday Special have a 10 minute animation in the middle of the show?
The story begins in 1977, following the release and subsequent success of Star Wars. In December that year, Star Wars creator George Lucas happens to see a 30-minute animated special entitled, “A Cosmic Christmas”, which was done by a small Canadian animation company called Nelvana. Nelvana at that time was not well-known, but this would soon change Lucas was impressed enough with what he saw that asked Nelvana to produce an animated short for a proposed Star Wars Special that would air during the holidays in 1978.
Lucas wrote the story for the cartoon short, which began as a nine-page outline. Nelvana produced and animated it during Spring 1978, and managed to deliver it on November 16 (one day before the Special aired!). The final title for the cartoon was “The Story of the Faithful Wookiee”, and it would have nothing directly to do with any of the content in the live-action portion of the Holiday Special. It told a story about a sleeping virus, and an attempt by Luke Skywalker and the droids to rescue Han Solo from its potentially deadly effects. Along the way they would meet and supposedly befriend a mysterious stranger named Boba Fett, who was actually Darth Vader’s right-hand man. Then they would procure the serum, escape, and live to fight another day, with this new character Boba Fett (now revealed to be working for the Empire) vowing that they would meet again.
And so went the first animated Star Wars story. This would be edited into the live action part of the Holiday Special, and explained as a type of video logbook that Chewbacca’s son Lumpy watches to pass the time while the Empire cases their house. Of course, it is imperative in the story that none of the Imperials see what it is that Lumpy is watching, because it would betray the family as supporters of the Rebel cause.
The Star Wars Holiday Special aired on November 17th, 1978 one time, and one time only. It was not released on home video due to negative reception following its broadcast. The cartoon portion was considered a success in the years to follow, though, even if the Holiday Special itself was not. As time went by, most of the references to the Holiday Special would be photographs from the cartoon, or mentions of Boba Fett’s first appearance. Eventually the occasional piece of merchandise based on or related to the Holiday Special would come out, and was usually geared around the cartoon or Boba Fett. But there was still no official way to see the cartoon, and the only way to view it would be through bootleg broadcast recordings originally done on videotape.
Lucasfilm would wind up working with Nelvana again, when they commissioned them once more for the DROIDS and Ewoks cartoon series in 1985. The artwork style for DROIDS was very much in the same vein as The Story of The Faithful Wookiee (very influenced by the work of French artist Jean “Moebius” Geraud), while Ewoks was very different stylistically and much more like a standard kids’ cartoon of the time. Both series would fall into relative obscurity in the following years, receiving limited partial release on VHS and later DVD. But in April 2021, Disney (now the owner of Lucasfilm) would bring the Ewoks series back to television again on their Disney+ channel, along with “The Story of the Faithful Wookiee”! The DROIDS series would follow later in the year. And now, a whole new generation (as well as older ones) can enjoy the animated Star Wars work of Nelvana again.