‘Lego Star Wars Holiday Special’ takes a nostalgic tour of ‘Star Wars’ history


(CNN)The 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special” has become the stuff of legend for how notoriously, epically bad it was, which provides some indication that “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” — with that title alone — knows precisely what it’s doing. The resulting animated hour delivers a clever romp through “Star Wars” history, smartly snapped together and wrapped in a bright, colorful bow.

The basic conceit of this Disney+ offering — set after the most recent trilogy, and featuring the voices of a few cast members — is that Rey takes a break from “Life Day” festivities to seek a better understanding of Jedi lore in order to better train Finn. (Life Day, incidentally, is a nod to the original special, for the 12 or so people who’ll remember.)

In the process, she and BB-8 visit the Jedi Temple and discover a time-traveling portal, one that allows her to parachute into various scenes from 40-some-odd years of “Star Wars,” interacting with key players in particularly cheeky ways.

Obviously, the more steeped in “Star Wars” trivia viewers are, the more apt they’ll be to enjoy it. At the same time, the program (directed by Ken Cunningham and written by David Shayne) rather neatly straddles the line between spoofing old-style holiday specials and embracing the sappier side of reminding people that such celebrations are about family and friendship, complete with “Rudolph”– style narration courtesy of Yoda.

    That tone neatly fits the Lego animated brand. As noted, the sundry ties to the actual universe include vocal cameos by Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels, but the nostalgia goes a whole lot deeper than that. Plus, there are amusing little Lego-specific gags, like having a character’s hair pop off and snap back on.

    Disney+ has been particularly savvy about leveraging its various brands — specifically, Marvel, “Star Wars” and the studio’s animation library — as the backbone in programming the service, from big splashy series like “The Mandalorian” to small interstitial items like a short featuring the Olaf character from “Frozen.”

      On its face, this latest holiday special represents little more than a playful lark, and a welcome one for fans. But in its magical tour of George Lucas’ galaxy, it’s also reminder — assuming one is needed — of what a potent force “Star Wars” has been and remains as we approach the holidays, both real and imagined.

      “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” premieres Nov. 17 on Disney+.