A Saga in Review: The Star Wars Holiday Special & Christmas in the Stars!

Andrew and Blake take on the one but two times Star Wars got...musical?!

"I'm like the mutant baby
of 'squatch and King Kong."
It's fitting George Lucas would sell off his Star Wars franchise to Walt Disney pictures.  Both artists turned movie moguls harbored a strange secret obsession with working random musical numbers into their movies with no bearing on the plot whatsoever, often to the films' detriment.  Whether it be Disney's critical and commercial failure (at the time) of Fantasia to trying to sneak yet another song into Dumbo or Lucas managing to sneak Lapti Nek by Sy Snootles and Yub Nub by the Ewoks into Return of the Jedi, these guys just couldn't help themselves when it came to trying insert musical numbers into intellectual properties where it was unwelcome.  

Lucas even took further steps with the Special Edition release of Jedi when he replaced Lapti Nek with a souped up Jedi Rocks replete with new characters such as Joh Yowza.  While these bits are mercifully brief sores to the eyes and ears in Return of the Jedi, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away (well, not quite that far) Lucas did in fact explore his musical proclivities to the full unholy extent with two Christmas/Holiday special releases! Yes, we are talking about the dreaded 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special and the 1980 Christmas album (yes, there really was a Star Wars Christmas album, not joking), Christmas in the Stars.  While your inner masochist has the option to pick up Christmas in the Stars on a digitally remastered CD (really?!), George Lucas has seen some degree of the errors of his ways and thus has taken great steps to bury the Star Wars Holiday Special.  Thanks to nerds like ourselves at The Movie Sleuth, the Star Wars Holiday Special is easy to find on YouTube and is the festering piece of fly ridden dog feces that won't go away everytime a new Star Wars film comes out.  For all the endless fanboys out there, here from The Movie Sleuth is our reminder of the time when George Lucas and his Star Wars saga, in the words of Han Solo himself, 'what an incredible smell you've discovered'.

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

You remember those scenes in sitcoms when characters are confronted with people speaking a foreign language?  Instead of recognizing that this person doesn't understand them, they amp up the volume of their voice to ear-splitting levels, thinking this will somehow circumvent all language barriers and make them understood.  Imagine being the person on the receiving end of all those decibels for one hour straight.  Now substitute the shrieking voice for loud growling mixed with nails on chalkboard and multiply it by a hundred.  Welcome to the Star Wars Holiday Special.

"Yes! Join our cult!"
Not technically a "Christmas special", this mountainous pile of Bantha excrement focuses instead on the Wookiee holiday known as "Life Day".  The whole driving force of this star-sudded spectacle, the entire cast of Star Wars (and the mind-blowing addition of random names like Bea Arthur) is to get Chewie home to his Wookiee family so they can celebrate Life Day by doing Wookiee things, talking endlessly in a cacophonous symphony of Wookie language, free of subtitles.  No, you didn't misread that.  This is a holiday special that assaults your sonic senses to death with Wookiee growling, and there's no way to even remotely begin to understand it.  Muting the TV--or better yet, just shutting it off--is your only salvation.  

To this day, this remains one of the unholy grails of the Star Wars universe.  George Lucas ignores its existence as if he were trying to forget a drunken one night stand that resulted in this prom night dumpster baby.  This is the same man who freely gave us Jar Jar Binks, and continues to defend his existence.  He also is responsible for burning the image of animatronic duck tits into our heads as children.  Think about those two things for a moment, and then realize that this is the project that makes him ask: "What was I thinking?" 

"Chewie! Your kid is messed up looking!
You might want to talk
to your wife about having
relations with Bigfoot again!"

The Star Wars Holiday Special remains unreleased, but if you're into a kind of holiday masochism that makes Krampus look like Will Ferrell in Elf, you can watch this infamous turd on YouTube.  It seems like sooner or later, everyone takes a crack at trying to sit through it.  My only piece of advice is to avoid seeing it sober at all costs.  Not even the copious cameos and horrific animatronic effects provide enough laughs to make this enjoyable in an ironic way.  The incessant Wookiee croaking makes bathroom visits on Taco Tuesday sound like Mozart.  Ten minutes into this, and you'd rather be watching The Phantom Menace.  There, I said it.


- Blake O. Kleiner

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Christmas in the Stars (1980)

After music producer Meco Monardo created the 1977 Platinum album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk disco rendition of the Star Wars soundtrack (you heard me, Star Wars Disco), the music arranger and frontman of the Sci-Fi Disco band MECO which proceeded to exploit every major science fiction film of its era envisioned a new kind of Star Wars musical to 'Meco-ize' (or bastardize) as it were.  Around the time of the release of The Empire Strikes Back, Meco (debatably the Menahem Golan of the music industry got lucky) released what became infamously known as Christmas in the Stars, a Star Wars Christmas album consisting of songs by C-3PO (Anthony Daniels reprising his role) and R2-D2 singing songs about what a Merry Christmas listening to this album will be.  Most of the song lyrics are pretty generic and often tacky hand-me-down Carpenters Christmas Portrait songs with a few reservations like What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?) and R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  For what began as an unofficial Star Wars album, Meco Monardo had the unusual luck of bringing sound designer Ben Burtt aboard as well as harnessing the artistic talents of conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie for the sleeve and jacket design.  

Best known in the industry as the first official recording by Jon Bon Jovi (credited as John Bongiovi) for the lead vocals on R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas as well as one of the first albums to be fully recorded and mixed digitally, RSO Records' Christmas in the Stars became a surprise hit on the Billboard Charts.  R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas went on to reach #69 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1980 and the album became a Platinum seller.  If that wasn't enough, in late 1983 a 45rpm vinyl single of the song R2-D2's Sleigh Ride was released as a B-side to Christmas in the Stars.  Meco planned what he had hoped to be a yearly string of Star Wars Christmas albums.  Further still, Meco sought George Lucas' blessing and a reprinting of the vinyl nearly happened with Lucas' approval affixing the cover art, but an unrelated lawsuit shut down RSO records and Christmas in the Stars went out of print until a 1996 Rhino Records CD release came along...unfortunately.  Mercifully, the closure of RSO records meant Meco's dream project of helping to destroy whatever dignity Star Wars had years before George Lucas' prequel trilogy came along was dashed, if only for a while.

"R2-D2, where the hell is
Bing Crosby!?"

Listening to Christmas in the Stars with a fellow Star Wars fan unaware of the assault on the ears to come is always worthy of filming said fan's reaction and uploading it to YouTube.  It's such a ghastly shock to one's senses and idea of Star Wars that upon hearing it, you really aren't sure whether to laugh or cry.  It's not only terrible, obnoxious Star Wars themed memorabilia, it's just awful music, period.  The sounds of C-3PO singing amidst what sound like elves and minstrels set against an overproduced disco background score is enough for even the most seasoned fan of bad 70s music to take a knife to their ear.  It's as though Meco Monardo recorded a generic and forgettable disco Christmas album and decided the only way to give it form was to randomly insert Star Wars sound effects of Droids and Wookiees.  The task of listening to Christmas in the Stars for the sake of this review already racked up 33 minutes of time I'll never get back and is about as far removed from what people think of when they regard Star Wars as you can get.  While it isn't exactly on par with the life-day celebration concluding The Star Wars Holiday Special, there are numerous times when Christmas in the Stars comes pretty close to achieving the aforementioned television program's level of musical awfulness.  Let me just say that you've been warned and if you don't feel like having your ears bleed needlessly, avoid giving into your morbid curiosity like I did and don't listen to Christmas in the Stars no matter what people tell you.


-Andrew Kotwicki