I think most people would agree that the Star Wars films aren’t generally considered to be festive movies. We’re all familiar with the classic cracker joke: “How did Darth Vader know what Luke Skywalker got him for Christmas? He felt his presence”, but in the actual movies, Christmas doesn’t exist. However, to celebrate Thomas Cook’s new TV advert being shown in selected iMAX cinemas before ‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens’, I’ve delved into the history of Star Wars and found it has a bigger connection with Christmas than you’d think.
Here are seven reasons why Christmas time and Star Wars go together like blue milk in a Tupperware cup.
1 – When Star Wars was first released on 25th May 1977 it was only in the USA. In Great Britain, audiences had to wait another seven months until it arrived in cinemas on 27th December 1977. After two days of families cooped up indoors, breathing in the fumes from Brussels sprouts, it’s no wonder people flocked to cinemas to see it!
2 – Back in 1977, Meco were the USA’s biggest toy company. After making Star Trek toys for the TV series, they turned down the rights to Star Wars, thinking it wasn’t worth their time or money. As a result, a smaller toy company called Kenner took it on, but were so unprepared for the film’s popularity that they weren’t able to make any toys in time for its release in May 1977. By Christmas they still weren’t ready, so sold Christmas gift certificates that promised delivery of the toys by February 1978. From Christmas 1978-1985 (when the original run of toys finished), the Star Wars action figures, vehicles, play sets and other assorted toys were on every child’s list to Father Christmas.
3 – In 1980, a novelty album ‘Christmas in the Stars’ was released, featuring the dulcet tones of Anthony Daniels as C3PO, narrating and singing the story of working in a droid factory with R2-D2 making toys. The album has achieved cult status amongst fans, particularly for the tracks ‘What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)’ and ‘R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas’. The latter was sung by 18 year old John Bongiovi (better known now as Jon Bon Jovi) whose cousin Tony co-produced the album.
4 – Throughout the 1980s, ‘Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’ was always shown at Christmas or in the build-up. When it made its UK television premiere on Sunday October 24th 1982, at the height of the toy action figure craze, video recorders weren’t yet an everyday household appliance. Many parents set up tape recorders next to their televisions in order to record it onto cassette, so that their children could listen back in their bedrooms whilst playing along with their toy figures. (And yes, I may have been one of those kids.)
5 – ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is often considered to be the best of the Star Wars films, and it’s also the only one that got a Christmas Day TV premiere. In 1988, ITV put it on in the same timeslot as the very first TV showing on BBC1 of ‘Back to the Future’. Arguably the best two films of the eighties, both on at the same time. Thankfully video recorders were commonplace by then which made Christmas 1988 a magical time. The following Christmas, ‘Return of the Jedi’ premiered on Boxing Day and ever since, the Star Wars films have been a regular fixture of festive TV.
6 – In 1999, Star Wars was the first film series to be licenced by Lego to coincide with the release of ‘Episode I: the Phantom Menace’. Model sets for each of the films have continued to be released every year since and have proved incredibly appealing to both children and adults. The popularity of the Star Wars Lego brand has seen it turned into video games, animated cartoons and since 2011 a new Star Wars Lego Advent calendar has been released each year in the build up to Christmas.
7 – The amount of Star Wars merchandise released to coincide with ‘The Force Awakens’ will again see Star Wars gifts prove hugely popular this Christmas, but perhaps the ultimate gift for the Star Wars youngling or rebel at heart in your family this month will be a trip to the cinema to see the film destined to break all box office records.
Do you have any Star Wars Christmas related memories of your own? Why not share them with us in the comments below.