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Why You Can't See Any Of The Wookiees' Faces At The End Of The Star Wars Holiday Special

If you're a "Star Wars" fan, your level of familiarity with the infamous 1978 CBS Holiday Special could vary, depending on how old you are or how inclined you are to visual torture. It's widely known that George Lucas buried the 97-minute nightmare after it aired, leaving fans searching for rare bootlegged VHS copies. Looking back now, the people involved in the production each seem to have their own reasoning for what went wrong with what should've been a major television event. But they generally explain how different creative directions and an insufficient budget led to the strange, uneven special — which even had a final scene that was so poorly executed, it needed to be filmed so that viewers at home couldn't see some of the characters' faces.

Originally, the "Star Wars Holiday Special" was seen as an opportunity to keep "Star Wars" in the public's mind while waiting for "The Empire Strikes Back" to be released (via Mental Floss). Due to positive ratings linked to a couple of "Star Wars" aliens appearing on a Donny and Marie Osmond variety show, the holiday special was to intertwine different comedic and musical scenes with the overall story, focusing on Chewbacca's family of Wookiees celebrating "Life Day." However, when it came to filming the final scene, producers found themselves with no budget left and the challenge of making it work, using any filming trick they could think of.

The budget was gone, and so were the faces

The 1978 "Star Wars Holiday Special" centers around Chewbacca, who is trying to get home to his family to celebrate "Life Day." When he does, viewers at home finally get to see what the celebration is all about — that is, if you have binoculars. It turns out that the scene of celebration, which consists of Wookiees in red robes, was shot from far away to hide the lack of production quality, deliberately placing the faces of the Wookiees too far away to see.

Camera Operator Larry Heider confirmed in an interview with Matt Gourley that the Wookiees' faces can't be seen because they had to wear store-bought Don Post studios masks. When it came to that final scene (which included a musical number from Carrie Fisher), Heider said of the Wookiees, "Their back was to the camera, most of them. By that point, we all just wanted to get this done."

Director Steve Binder and Lucasfilm consultant Miki Herman also spoke to Mental Floss about the effort of literally masking the production team's lack of resources. "No one ever mentioned there was no set for the closing," Binder confessed. "So I said, 'No problem, just go out and buy every candle you could find in the store.' We filled an empty stage with candles." Despite all they could do with the cheap masks and candles, Herman concluded, "Honestly, a set wasn't going to save that scene. All the Wookiees were wearing [consumer licensee] Don Post masks."