Next year, Star Wars is skipping Christmas for the first time since 2015, which gives Lucasfilm the perfect opportunity to resurrect one of the franchise’s most intriguing aspects: The Holiday Special.
It’s looking pretty much set in stone that Lucasfilm won’t be pushing Solo: A Star Wars Story back to December 2018. There was some speculation that Kathleen Kennedy may decide to move Solo from its May 2018 release date to Christmas, not just because of the production troubles, but also to maintain brand synergy with the holiday season; between The Force Awakens, Rogue One and the upcoming The Last Jedi, Star Wars has become synonymous with Christmas, with fans really indulging in getting one of the best presents they could imagine.
However, with Solo all-but-definitely hitting the Summer blockbuster season instead, that now leaves December 2018 void of such wonder and awe. Spreading out release dates for the major movies is hardly bad business – Disney has Mary Poppins Returns instead and Lucasfilm are likely keen to avoid shackling themselves to the end-of-year window to retain some sense of unpredictability. But now that the association of Star Wars and end-of-year cheer has really started to take root, it’d be a shame to not mark the occasion in some way, shape or form. In other words, 2018 is the perfect opportunity to do another Star Wars Holiday Special.
Before we go any further: no, this piece isn’t a trojan defense of the original Holiday Special. That piece of history is rightfully scorned for the misjudged nonsense it is and there’s no justification for a revisit unless accompanied by some strong alcohol. But the base concept – recognizable members of the universe in a canon-lite adventure themed around yuletide cheer – is a damn good one. Star Wars has always had widespread appeal and its cultural cache has only grown and spread across generations over the last 40 years. It’s one of few properties that’s created to be family-friendly and actually attracts entire families, making it ideal for a festive yarn espousing goodwill to all men. The production just needs to be made by people who actually respect the franchise and know what they want to make.
There’s any number of ways Lucasfilm and Disney could pursue this. Marvel’s deal with Netflix aside, Disney have yet to explore the realm of on-demand in any meaningful way. Something akin to what they’ve done with The Defenders, or a deal with Hulu or Amazon is unlikely for any other Disney-owned properties since the media giant is threatening to launch their own streaming service. But if that does come to fruition, a live-action Star Wars exclusive would be a mighty way to beef up those first-wave numbers. There’s plenty of characters and settings that could draw more than hardcore fans to fork over another subscription fee for access, especially if it came with the promise of more in the future.
Alternatively, Star Wars Rebels could get something feature-length, perhaps with appearances from a movie character or two, to wind it up for good. The fourth and final season began this October and, like The Clone Wars before it, the show has been one of the biggest success stories of the franchise relaunch. An epilogue of sorts that plays on how the Empire can’t extinguish peoples’ ability to celebrate hope could prove a very poignant, poetic exit for Ezra and Sabine.
More probable (and, frankly, more interesting) is the prospect of a different sort of animation. Star Wars and Lego have enjoyed a fruitful partnership through both video games and TV specials and miniseries. Considering that it was announced Marvel’s Black Panther would be getting a Lego movie next year, it stands to reason more, bigger Lego Star Wars projects are in the pipeline. While this would be separate from the Lego films (produced by Warner Bros. and thus focusing on their IP), that’s not stopped expansion so far. A Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is the perfect opportunity for Lucasfilm to address both the negative press they’ve received (getting rid of the old expanded universe, director troubles) and the fan-disdain for the initial special in one comedic swoop.
Or, Disney could stay in-house and commission something by current Mickey Mouse animator Paul Rudish. Since 2013 Rudish has been the showrunner for Disney’s Mickey Mouse, an ongoing series of shorts featuring Mickey and all his friends. Although most everything in the show is to be applauded, the animation itself has been consistently brilliant. The movement is so fluid, the backgrounds bold and memorable and the characters themselves more vibrant and intricate than they’ve been for years. Rudish is revitalizing one of animation’s most revered casts, so him working with the visual tapestry of Star Wars would be exciting just to look at, nevermind how charming it’d be if said work also recast the Disney brigade in the lead roles. Mickey as Luke? Goofy as Han? Donald as Darth? Adorable.
Better yet, they could fulfill everyone’s dream and give us The Muppets: Star Wars. The Muppets are responsible for several family movie classics, not to mention one of the greatest Chrismas movies with The Muppet Christmas Carol. Kermit and co. doing Star Wars with a holiday twist has the makings of pure gold, bringing the comedy troupe back into the spotlight after their ABC series The Muppets failed. Star Wars already has history with the Jim Henson group – they were responsible for the Yoda puppet used in The Empire Strikes Back – and now both owned by Disney the connection could become real.
There’s a cynical side to all of this in that cheering for a major corporation to continue producing a franchise around a generally happy time thus slowly creating a Pavlovian response is perhaps a bit on the dark side of capitalism. But Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the hope and the worthwhile in the world, and Star Wars is the rare property that brings so many together. Especially now, when escapism that lets the good guys win is wanted so dearly, the two combined is a legitimate light in the dark. On that principle alone Disney should consider a new Holiday Special. Heck, they could even keep the musical numbers. Although Princess Leia’s Life Day song might need some more work.
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