‘The Mandalorian’: Why Disney+’s ‘Star Wars’ Show References ‘Holiday Special’

Star Wars fans are eagerly awaiting the launch of the Disney+ streaming service so they can watch The Mandalorian. The very first live-action Star Wars TV series premieres exclusively on the streaming service. Jon Favreau created the show with Star Wars animation maven Dave Filoni directing and producing with him. Disney showed reporters the first extended footage from The Mandalorian today.

Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian on Disney+
Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian on Disney+ | Lucasfilm

Star Wars fans will be pleased to see all the epic action and planetary landscapes on display in The Mandalorian. The show matches the films with its widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, practical alien makeups and massive creatures generated by digital effects. One big difference is in the score. The Mandalorian music is not John Williams inspired. It sounds more industrial.

Carbonite is back in The Mandalorian
Carbonite is back on Disney+’s The Mandalorian | Lucasfilm

There are plenty of references to Star Wars canon, but it may surprise even die hard Star Wars fans to hear a reference to the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special on The Mandalorian. We’ll have more with Favreau, Filoni and the stars of The Mandalorian in November but first we had to report their explanation for giving the holiday special a shoutout. The Mandalorian premieres November 12 on Disney+.

Why ‘Mandalorian’ creator Jon Favreau brought the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ to Disney+

After the success of Star Wars, CBS aired a two-hour variety special featuring appearances by Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reprising their roles. The premise was Han Solo (Ford) had to get Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) home for Life Day. The special also featured the first appearance of Boba Fett in an animated short. 

“Well, it happened,” Favreau said. “I mean, it’s there. The cartoon holds up.”

Filoni razzed Favreau for dropping Life Day jokes in the Mandalorian scripts.

Disney Plus’s Star Wars series The Mandalorian | Lucasfilm

“It’s fun reading Jon’s take on Star Wars,” Filoni said. “I would read something like oh, I see the Holiday Special’s back. I’d give him a hard time about it.”

Marvel taught Jon Favreau it’s okay to make obscure ‘Star Wars’ jokes

As a director, Jon Favreau launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it with the first Iron Man. His initial plan was to make a movie accessible to everyone, but the success of the MCU taught Favreau that fans would be on board with deep cut comic book references.

The Mandelorian on Disney Plus
Disney Plus’s Star Wars series The Mandalorian | Lucasfilm

“That’s who’s been there along and you build out from the grass roots. So never lose touch with the people who’ve put in the time and who’ve cared. Even though we have new characters and you can jump in because it’s chapter one, we wanted to make sure that if you are watching and you knew about it, and this is where Dave has really been a treasure trove, we try to effort to work stuff in, whether it’s humorously, like making a reference to Life Day, or a reference to a prop that has been appreciated by a core group over time.”

Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian press conference, 10/19/19

The ‘Holiday Special’ joke in Disney+’s ‘The Mandalorian’

So is there a very special Life Day episode of The Mandalorian? Not quite, but one of The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal)’s bounties makes a remark about Life Day.

“Just putting those little Easter eggs in or big movements in the story that reflect storylines in either of the legends that people have known and, by the way, all of the animated content that Dave’s been working on. How do you weave all of it together so that you don’t have these divided, segmented parts of the audience but you can start to bring it all together and coalesce it in a way that creates an overarching narrative and rewards the people who’ve been putting the time in over the years since they were kids growing up with it. So that’s a longwinded answer of why I snuck a Life Day joke in there.”

Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian press conference, 10/19/19

One other ‘Holiday Special’ item is in ‘The Mandalorian’

Life Day isn’t the only thing that survived The Star Wars Holiday Special. The pulse rifle first introduced in the Boba Fett animated short is the weapon of choice in The Mandalorian.

The Mandalorian and IG-11
IG-11 and The Mandalorian | Lucasfilm

“It’s a long way of saying you really like the Holiday Special,” Filoni said. “We know you have the gun in the show because you liked it and you wanted to have it and now it’s in your office. We get that. I have never experienced that before. You say, ‘I want to design this. I’m going to have this’ and then someone literally makes it, walks up to you and hands it to you. That doesn’t happen in animation. That’s amazing by the way.”

Favreau added that if Filoni ever said no, he would have respected that

“Some of it was when I would write and want to see if Dave caught it and see what his reaction would be,” Favreau said. “He had veto power over everything and I’m learning just as much from him and just tuning in on what is too far, where do we push it, what are things that hadn’t been addressed.”