A Disturbance in the Force goes behind the scenes on the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978.
We all know the story of Star Wars. Released in 1977, the film was a huge success and made a gazillion dollars at the box office and was the start of a juggernaut of a franchise.
Fans everywhere were desperate to get their next Star Wars fix. The VHS cassette, the precursor to DVDs kids, had only just been introduced to North America that same year. The film would not be officially released until its VHS rental release in 1982.
If you were really eager, short clips of the film with a runtime of just under eight minutes in total could be bought on officially licensed 8mm cinefilm strips.
So imagine the excitement when adverts in the papers told of a new Star Wars programme coming Friday, November 17, 1978 on CBS at 8pm. According to the advert,
“Luke Skywalker and Han Solo battle evil Imperial forces to help Chewbacca reach his imperilled family on the Wookie planet in time for Life Day, their most important day of the year!”
Was this Star Wars 2, a new full length film? Sadly no. This was Star Wars on a television budget. Whilst the story already mentioned does take place with appearances from Mark Hamill, Han Solo, Carrie Fisher and the rest of the gang, it was intercut with comedy sketches, musical dance numbers and singing from Bea Arthur.
There were no big space battles and any special effects sequences were simply reused from the original film. The bulk of the story involved Chewbacca’s family, and I’m not making this up, his wife Malla, his father Itchy and his son Lumpy.
The only redeeming feature in most Star Wars fans opinions was a ten-minute segment by the Toronto animation firm Nelvana Ltd., who would later go on to produce the Saturday morning cartoons Droids and Ewoks.
In this ten minute segment, we were introduced to the new character Boba Fett who would of course go on to play a bigger role in The Empire Strikes Back released two years later.
Hopefully by now, you’ve got an idea about how bad this whole thing was and why it is generally regarded as awful. George Lucas allegedly said that, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”
It was only broadcast once and the only official release has been the Boba Fett cartoon segment which was released as an Easter egg as part of the 2011 Star Wars Saga Blu-ray release.
Obviously the Star Wars Holiday Special has survived. Star Wars super fans taped the original broadcast. As technology moved on, these multi generation copies were digitized and spread over the internet.
The website io9 has announced that directors Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak are making a film called A Disturbance in the Force, which will tell the behind-the-scenes story of the making of the Star Wars Holiday Special.
Coon and Kozak have been on the hunt, searching for those still alive who actually worked on the holiday special and what it meant to them.
They’ve also been lucky enough to unearth over fifteen hours of never before heard audio interviews with twelve people who worked on the show giving a voice to some of those who have since passed on.
Whilst the documentary is still being worked on with more people being sought for interviews, a first trailer has been released to give us an idea of what to expect.