For more than 40 years, Star Wars fans have been baffled by the existence of The Star Wars Holiday Special, a variety show that was passively endorsed by George Lucas, though it was developed by a team of writers without his direct input. The special aired once in 1978 and Lucas was so embarrassed by it that it was never aired again, nor was it ever released in any official capacity. The new documentary A Disturbance in the Force from directors Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak aims to dive deep into how the perplexing experience came to be a reality, with io9 having unveiled the first trailer for the film, which can be seen above.
While the special might have never been released, bootleg copies of the original broadcast were circulated for years among VHS traders, with the internet making access to the special much easier, allowing its confounding notoriety to spread even further. The filmmakers made sure to point out that their documentary wouldn't merely be a feature-length lambasting of the special.
“Most attention on the Holiday Special just focuses on how bad it is and doesn’t go deeper,” Coon shared with the outlet. “Our film is not going to be 90 minutes of dumping on it because no one wants to watch that. We’re gone really deep in the research and like an onion, there are a lot more layers as to how the Special happened than you would expect.”
When Star Wars hit theaters in 1977, it quickly took the entire world by storm, with everyone wanting to get into the Star Wars business. With a sequel years away, CBS aired the Star Wars Holiday Special, which managed to enlist the talents of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. The new documentary will feature interviews with a number of figures from the special, including the late Peter Mayhew, who reprised his role of Chewbacca for the special.
“We were also able to find a never before released audio interview with Peter Mayhew talking about the Special along with over 15 hours of audio interviews recorded over 20 years ago with over a dozen people who worked on the Holiday Special,” Coon expressed. “The recordings include others who passed away that we thought we’d never be able to give a voice in the film.”
Despite being a beacon of embarrassment among contemporary fans, the goal of the new documentary is also to add context to the experience, as variety specials were a much more common trend in the '70s than they are today.
“We put it in proper context — against the backdrop of the TV-variety genre to see it from the eyes that produced it,” Kozak pointed out. “If you saw the Special when it aired in 1978, you probably liked it. If you saw it for the first time — or saw it again 25 years later on after the launch of YouTube — it was quite jarring.”
You can head to A Disturbance in the Force's official website for more details.