Brian Truitt, USA TODAY
Published 9:30 a.m. ET Aug. 13, 2020 | Updated 9:53 a.m. ET Aug. 13, 2020
For the 40th anniversary of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker) reveals never-seen exclusive shots to USA TODAY.
With a new holiday special, “Star Wars” is tapping into its kitschy Yuletide past with irreverence and “A Christmas Carol” style.
Premiering Nov. 17 on the Disney+ streaming service, “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” brings beloved heroes like Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron back together to celebrate Life Day, the “Star Wars”-y holiday introduced way back in the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special” that first aired on CBS November 17, 1978.
The new project features animated building-block versions of characters throughout “Star Wars” history and pays homage to the special’sdisco-era predecessor, which has become a so-bad-it’s-good cult favorite as fans have found it via video-sharing sites and bootleg videos.
‘Empire Strikes Back’: Mark Hamill shares exclusive ‘Star Wars’ photos for sequel’s 40th anniversary
“We wanted to give a wink and a nod to the original,” executive producer Josh Rimes says, adding the new 45-minute holiday special was inspired by “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “Christmas Vacation” and old Burl Ives musical cheer.
The Lego holiday special, which Rimes teases will feature a few “Star Wars” movie actors reprising their roles, catches up with the cast after the events of last year’s saga-closing “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Rey and droid pal BB-8 head off on a quest to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force, but their visit to a mysterious Jedi Temple sends them careening through time and space. Rey interacts with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and other characters in some of the franchise’s most beloved moments, as they try to return in time for a Life Day feast with her friends on Chewbacca’s Wookiee home world of Kashyyyk.
“It’s a celebration of the saga,” Rimes says. “A lot of characters will be interacting with different characters and perhaps even different versions of themselves at different ages.”
Lego versions of Emperor Palpatine, Vader and Kylo Ren get to hang out together: “It’s really hilarious with what’s going to happen with those guys,” Rimes says. But the heart and soul of the special is Rey’s relationship with Luke – not the old Jedi master she knew but instead the rookie Rebel version from George Lucas’ original 1977 “Star Wars” movie. “It becomes a much different take on a teacher and apprentice with the more seasoned Rey and a younger Luke,” Rimes adds.
That Luke, played in the films by Mark Hamill, appeared with his co-stars Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in the 1978 holiday special, which centered on Han Solo and Chewbacca trying to stave off Imperial pursuit for a Life Day celebration with Chewie’s family. Although it offered the first screen appearance of Boba Fett (via a cartoon short) and appearances from Beatrice Arthur, Harvey Korman and Art Carney, the original holiday special hasn’t had the greatest reputation over the years. In fact, it’s pretty bad. “That’s one of those things that happened, and I just have to live with it,” Lucas said in a 2002 Maxim interview.
The redemption tour started with a Life Day reference last year in Disney+’s popular live-action “The Mandalorian” series and continues with the upcoming special. “Life Day was an easy sell with Lego and ‘Star Wars’ because it gives you the license to be a little more playful and comedic,” Rimes says.
He adds that Lego versions of some of the Wookiee characters from the ‘70s special will appear in the upcoming update. Any chance of Lego Bea Arthur? “Well, you can wait and see. I don’t want to spoil anything.”
Rimes hopes that “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” becomes “as beloved as something like ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ ” for fans. “It’ll bring a little joy to this world in this very, very crazy year we’re having.”
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