After more than 40 years, the nine-episode Skywalker Saga officially concluded last December, truly marking the end of a cinematic era. While fans felt they had experienced similar situations when the original trilogy concluded in 1983 and when the prequel trilogy concluded in 2005, creator George Lucas had often hinted at his nine-episode vision and that the possibility was always open for that, making the current future of the galaxy far, far away feel much more in flux than ever before. Regardless of how you felt about Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker, loving its reveals or hating its missed opportunities, the best way to excite and delight fans could be by bringing them The Star Wars Holiday Special, largely considered the low point in the entire history of Lucasfilm.
Capitalizing on the success of 1977's Star Wars (which had yet to earn its "A New Hope" subtitle), George Lucas allowed CBS to develop an all-new variety show to air in the holiday season, which saw the returns of a majority of the film's cast. Despite their involvement, the event functioned as a standard variety special with musical guests and comedic sketches, though overlaid with a Star Wars theme. Ranging from Bea Arthur singing in the Mos Eisley Cantina to long stretches of time where only Chewbacca's family were communicating through their Shyriiwook language (without English subtitles, mind you), and culminating in a musical number featuring the film's cast honoring "Life Day," the event is both more bizarre and duller than you can imagine.
Lucas was so disappointed in the final product that the special only aired once and has never been made available in any official, high-quality formats.
A recent episode of Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian confirmed the previously speculated notion that the studio, in fact, possessed the special in what appears to be its original condition, which came as a surprise to many fans who had assumed all copies of the event had been destroyed. In the episode of the series entitled "Connections," Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau revealed the ways in which the series featured Easter eggs to the special, followed by the exciting moment in which clips from the special were shown to the viewer.
One reason why the special should be released is due to how the fandom feels more divided than ever. Star Wars fans have always passionately debated with one another about all elements of the series, but the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi resulted in a breaking point for fans. While some fans appreciated writer/director Rian Johnson's ambition to take the franchise in exciting new directions, others were disappointed that they were denied narrative beats that they have been looking forward to for years. Add to those disagreements the toxic nature of social media and audiences grew passionately divided and argumentative, a divide which continued with The Rise of Skywalker, as fans became separated into two opposing camps and leaving no room for nuance in between them.
By releasing the Holiday Special, fans will be able to come together to embrace what is definitely the most disappointing piece of content the studio has been officially involved in.
Thanks to the debut of the competitive series Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge on YouTube, fans have been given the unique experience of witnessing a show that borrows elements of the official canon, yet also incorporates real-world elements by way of contestants. In the years since Disney purchased Lucasfilm, it has aimed to unify the canon with all of its movies, TV shows, and video games, but with Jedi Temple Challenge operating in between the fictional canon and the real world, the timing of releasing the Holiday Special now would merely be continuing the trend set by that series, ridding itself of canonical and confusing pressures it would have faced in the midst of the Skywalker Saga. The studio largely distanced its fictional universe from any connections to our own reality, with the breaching of that seal allowing the Holiday Special to continue to bridge those gaps.
Speaking of timing, while some would argue it would be more appropriate to release the Holiday Special closer to the actual holiday season, were that the case, fans would surely be more likely to demand its release and result in more attention being drawn to it. Additionally, the ways in which Disney has been making a film's supplementary materials available to stream on Disney+, including feature-length documentaries about films, the studio could quietly release the special now as a bonus feature for the original film and allow audiences to discover it for themselves as opposed to draw as much attention to it as possible through marketing campaigns.
Various Lucasfilm execs have noted that the reason the special has been buried is largely out of embarrassment, though the studio has buried content for a number of reasons. For example, Star Wars Detours was an animated series from the creators of Robot Chicken that parodied iconic characters and situations from the franchise, which was announced at Star Wars Celebration back in 2012. When Disney purchased the studio later that year, that project was shelved indefinitely, as the company didn't want some new generations' first exposure to the saga being a comedic lampoon of the beloved and earnest galaxy.
Currently, Lucasfilm has three secured release dates for unannounced films, starting in December of 2022, with no hints having emerged about what that film could be. Between the lack of confirmation about the project, in addition to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we're at least two years away from a new film landing in theaters, which will likely aim to cater to new audiences. The closer we get to that release, the less likely we are to see the Holiday Special released, with a passive unveiling of it sure to delight fans while the studio wouldn't have to promote it like other highly anticipated projects.
With times being so tough around the world for a number of reasons, Disney and Lucasfilm have a unique window of time to capture a unique opportunity to give fans one of the most bizarre and oddly charming experiences that has ever unfolded within in the franchise and unite fans by allowing us to revel in its absurdity. And, if they continue to pretend it never existed, as least we can find it on YouTube.