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December 22, 2008

Happy Life Day: The Making of the Most Reviled Christmas Special Ever -- The Star Wars Holiday Special

The article explains pretty much why it was so bad right away: Bruce Vilanch wrote it. The guy who writes that awful "playful banter" for the Oscars. And presumably decided to put Chewbacca in drag:

I'm still mining the article for quotes. In the meantime, the obligatory link to the horror that is the Star Wars Christmas Special.

But when Vilanch heard Lucas’s storyline at a development meeting at Smith and Hemion’s L.A. offices, he quickly realized that a “big challenge” lay ahead. Lucas was intent on building The Star Wars Holiday Special, as it would be called, around Wookiees—specifically, the family of Chewbacca, Han Solo’s shaggy sidekick, as they outwitted Imperial forces to come together on Life Day, the Wookiee equivalent of Christmas. Suddenly, Vilanch says, the special was in danger of looking like “one long episode of Lassie.”

“I said: ‘You’ve chosen to build a story around these characters who don’t speak. The only sound they make is like fat people having an orgasm,’” the 250-plus-pound Vilanch recalls. “In fact, I told Lucas he could just leave a tape recorder in my bedroom and I’d be happy to do all the looping and Foley work for him.”

Lucas met these comments with a “glacial” look. “This was his vision, and he could not be moved,” Vilanch says. “And of course Star Wars was so gigantic that he had been validated a hundred times over. So he had what a director needs to have, which is this insane belief in their personal vision, and he was somehow going to make it work.”

Villanch's joke is horrid (as usual), but he has a point: Lucas has no sense of what can work and what can't. In his original script for Star Wars, the heroes weren't trying to get a single non-speaking character MacGuffin to Yavin (R2D2 and his secret plans).

Instead, they were escorting the ten person Royal Family of Aquilla (or something) there.

Now imagine that. Instead of just getting one little droid through the Death Star, they'd've had to hustle ten people through. Imagine every time they go around a corner they have to signal ten people to move. Imagine all the wasted film-time, and how stupid it would look, ten people shuffling along in a conga line. It would wind up looking like all the PLF terrorists hiding in the room while the Romans search for them in Life of Brian.

Now also consider that each of those people must be given at least three or four lines to establish them as "characters," and you're talking about another fifteen to twenty minutes of screentime wasted on "characterizing" people who are really mere plot objects.

See? Dumb ideas. He just has no sense when it comes to this stuff.

More weird:

Perhaps the most bizarre sequence of the special is one involving Chewbacca’s dad, Itchy, and a virtual-reality device called a “Mind Evaporator.” Through it, Itchy, who has one of those textbook TV grandpa underbites, views what Mitzie Welch says was intended to be “soft-core porno that would pass the censors.” In 1978, that meant Diahann Carroll as a holographic “Wow” in a Bob Mackie gown and a frosted headdress, singing one of the Welches’ songs. The prurient part comes at the beginning when Carroll tells Itchy, “Oh, oh … We are excited, aren’t we?” which elicits the first—and last—orgasmic shudder ever to be seen in a Star Wars vehicle.

As a bit of trivia, Boba Fett was introduced in a cartoon segment of this special, not in Empire Strikes Back. He was both introduced and disposed of (in that stupid comical death at the Sarlacc Pit) in a shabby way.

Thanks to Dan Collins of Protein Wisdom.

I'd Like to See... a fan pay back Lucas for ruining the original trilogy by tastelessly digitally inserting banthas and robots and explosions into the Christmas Special. Like have cute robots fighting when Bea Arthur is singing.

Of course, that would make the special better, alas.

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posted by Ace at 05:19 PM

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