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The Making Of Star Wars - Television Specials!
Matt - 11/10/00

THE QUESTION IS.... What do R2-D2, Billy Dee Williams, and a fucked up Ewok mask have in common?

The answer is: they've all been intricate parts in Making Of Star Wars television specials. These shows were incredible. Over the years, there's been several of 'em...some really good, some utterly ridiculous, but all chock full of things you were never supposed to know about the Star Wars trilogy. Where else could you find out that Jabba the Hutt wasn't just fake, but actually a puppet with no less than 3-4 guys inside it dancing around as if Liz Phair's Supernova was playing in the background? Oh its true. And how about this one: the guy who played the Wampa's name was...Dez Webb! And you thought you learned everything you needed to know in Kindergarden? Eh eh...true Star Wars buffs realize that if they want to be on top of the trivia chat rooms, they gotta get their hands on these tapes. So today, as I wait anxiously at 10 AM for an assuredly dirty, dirty man to arrive with my cable modem, we pay tribute to the Star Wars television specials!

Hollywood. 1977. Real celebrities are pretty shitty, so the disco decade decides to honor C-3P0 and R2-D2 instead. Now while this seems fine on the surface, all too cute that C-3P0 gets to write his name in the cement, most realize that its just Anthony Daniels under that suit, and start crying foul that fucking Tony Daniels is on that famous walkway instead of people like Judd Nelson and Mr. T. All that aside, its a big moment for the Droids. Let's not spoil it. Remember, in 1977, people were nuts about Star Wars to the point where I'm surprised those goofs didn't choose it to worship over L. Ron Hubbard's works. The Droids might be geeky today, but back then, they were twice as cool as the Fonz and with double the staying power. But the Droids weren't the only ones who were honored on this momentous occassion...

Vader! He's the true man of the hour, gracious enough over this esteemed recognition to not choke anybody out during this brief appearance. Amazingly enough, the guy who had no problem destroying an entire planet just because 'it felt good' was really awestruck by the huge crowd who insisted on cheering him on. Vader didn't understand it. He wouldn't reveal his good-natured and really ugly true self until 1983. All he was doing by this point was killing everyone in sight. Why were all these ugly Americans cheering for him? Were they sadists? Were they sick? As much as he wanted to deny it, Vader knew he was bad news. And to be honest, the fact that we egged him on with totally unnecessary hooting only reinforces how twisted our society is.

On the plus side, they really nailed the costume down!

Here we find the late, great Alec Guiness and the alive, just won't die Carrie Fisher sharing their thoughts on the success of Star Wars. Carrie has nothing but good words, and is even shown playing the kickass old Star Wars arcade game. I'm actually a big fan of really can't not be a fan of anyone who was willing to co-star in Drop Dead Fred. She's got some serious balls. Alec, on the other hand, mumbles so incoherently that you'd have to have ears the size of Alderaan to hear him. But this wasn't without intent: Alec just didn't want to get the mic cut on him during his continuing tirade about just how stupid the Star Wars phenomenon really was.

This scene changed my life, and to this day, I still have absolutely no idea why. When I was young, I was deathly afraid of Jabba the Hutt. Seeing him joking around off-camera was really theraputic. If I had known he was such an easy going prankster before my parents dragged me in to see Return of the Jedi, maybe I wouldn't have watched the entire movie through the reflection of the projector. Alas, we live, we learn, and believe it or not - the thing's a giant puppet with no less than 3-4 flannel shirt-wearin' fools dancing around inside him. It really changes the way you watch the movie, as you can bet when Jabba eats that gooey rubber frog, there's three people playing hot potato with it inside him. Speaking of about your gratuitous scenes. Man, Jabba was sick. He was tearing off the clothes and forcing human females into sex slavery. That's kind of like one of us shaving a cat and putting it in a leotard. But the frog thing? Imagine Lucas writing the script on that one. 'Hmmm...this is good...but it needs...something.' Plus, Jabba was a big puppet. It was literally like a little clubhouse. For all we know, the puppeteers tacked up posters of Ron Howard inside it. Now you try and tell me that's not a sobering thought.

Jabba's palace was a big special effects bonanza. I really don't consider myself a movie buff, but I do appreciate the amount of work that went into films like this - something that's become somewhat of a lost art with all the computer generated graphics of today's world. Hey, they might look good, but there's a certain thing about knowing that all this shit, while fake, is actually there. I don't blame movie companies for going for the easier, vaster, and cleaner route of computer animation, but for me, nothing compares to things like this. Anyway, the Rancor Beast, as you can tell, really wasn't 50 feet tall. Unless the guy in that picture really likes his vegetables. And for the last time, Max Rebo wasn't a trained elephant. He's a painted puppet, just like everyone else. As much as I was initially amused by the updated song scene for the ROTJ Special Edition, I feel all the added computer characters kind of killed it. Half the fun in watching these kinds of movies is knowing that there's a ton of shit going on that you can't see that actually makes it happen...and somehow, someone moving their mouse over the enter key just doesn't leave you with that same appreciation. In any event, for those interested: according to Star Wars lore, Max Rebo now owns a restaurant on Tatooine. Star Wars is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. Among all these robots and Jedi warriors, there's an elephant with a food obsession.

Uh oh... You knew he was coming. You just didn't know when. You tried to prepare, but there is no preparing. Judgement day has arrived, and with it, your savior:


The man, the myth, the Colt 45 spokesperson who wrote the damn book on cool. Lando Calrissian. Billy Dee. They're one in the same, and Billy's taken some time out from his usual routine of smooth talkin' and beating up his wife just to chat with Star Wars fans. Check out that suit! Billy looks like he should be talking about a forensic case rather than the Mon Calamari masks in front of him. But come on, let's face it...doesn't really make a difference what the guy talks long as he's talking. Billy Dee is virtual poetry in motion.

Oh, and Mark Hamill was in one of these too. I'm sure after seeing Billy Dee, you're not too impressed. I can't say I blame you, but actually, Mark seems to be a pretty nice, down-to-earth guy from the interviews I've seen him in. While its incredibly easy to make fun of him, he was my childhood hero, so as hard as it is for me to not make light of his career blossoming into supplying voices for the Batman cartoon, I'll digress. Mark is more than pleased to be a part of this television special, but knowing full well that his star power is limited to when he's wielding a big flashlight, he's brought in some backup.

In one of the most amazing scenes associated with Star Wars, Mark has a five-minute argument with R2-D2. Unfortunately, we have no idea what they're arguing about, since Mark's the only one who can understand R2's beeping. Still, the director apparently felt this was really entertaining, since it droned on seemingly forever. The why ask why? phrase spawned from this scene. People got really sick of trying to explain why they threw this scene in there.

Speaking of the Droids, they also hosted one of these specials. Inside of a control room that had little televisions that showed scenes from the movie, 3P0 and R2 did their best to make sure you knew exactly how the Death Star model was built...

The first picture shows the robots discussing why Star Wars is so big. The second features C-3P0, on set, getting his makeup done. I'm not kidding. And while that's food for thought, its nothing compared to this:

SCARY EWOK MASKS! Jesus, those poor kids watching this show! That thing's freaking me out, I hate to imagine what it did to the mind of a kid who really wanted an Ewok of their own for Christmas. Generally though, I'd suggest that only the diehard SW fans made sure to watch these shows, and generally, diehard SW fans hate Ewoks with a passion. It wasn't until The Phantom Menace came out that we saw how bad things could really get and start to appreciate the Ewoks a bit more. Personally, I was only 4 years old when ROTJ came out, so I loved the fucking things. I couldn't get enough Ewok action. I'm shamed by it, but I can't help getting chills when that Ewok blows the horn to signify the beginning of their attack on the Imperial troops. I guess we've got some pretty distorted emotional capacities if that's what it takes to get us riled up.

Some of these shows are actually still available on video...and if not, definitely for rental if you've still got some mom'n'pop video stores around. I don't care how tough it is to master computer generated animation and shit, there's no way the movies of yesteryear were easier to create than they are today, so for the trilogy to pull off what is has, its a pretty amazing feat. Now, before I leave to go watch the Breakfast Club (review coming tomorrow) ...I leave you with this:

STAR WARS CONCERT! Someone on the forum's been posting these pictures, I couldn't help but save them for a rainy day. Seeing the Emperor's Royal Guard wham and jam might seem disturbing at first, but these guys really did need a hobby. Think about it, their entire lives were devoted to standing next to ships and elevators. You'd get pretty bored too. And besides, with all their enhanced Dark Side powers, chances are good that they can dish out some pretty kickass death metal.

Here's some other Star Wars X-E links...

Deleted Scenes From The Star Wars Trilogy
Old Star Wars T.V. Commercials
Plot Oversights of The Phantom Menance
Top 12 Star Wars Figures
Star Wars on The Muppets Show
Star Wars Meets...Burger King?
Tribute To Admiral Ackbar

Jesus...I guess I kinda like Star Wars, huh? Enjoy.

- Matt
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