George Lucas Had An Unexpected Response To Family Guy's First Star Wars Special

There's no denying the cultural relevancy of "Star Wars" and its impact on everything from science to filmmaking to pop culture. A big part of why the franchise has remained a juggernaut is its expanded universe of merch, games, comics, novels, TV shows and more.

Indeed, the expanded universe allowed for all kinds of interpretations for the franchise, from horror, to romance, from adult-oriented to kiddie fare. Since every take and every story was valid, there was nothing stopping the franchise from also being parodied to hell and back, from "MAD Magazine" parodies, to "Hardware Wars," to a whole Mel Brooks parody in the form of "Spaceballs." Even television saw plenty of winks and nods to "Star Wars," including a handful of excellent animated parody specials from "Family Guy" and "Robot Chicken."

These last two are particularly fascinating. Not only were they made with permission from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, but he actually participated in the "Robot Chicken" special. Can you imagine Disney allowing Mel Brooks to make a lewd comedy starring the Avengers today? And yet "Family Guy" turned a major character into a pedophile.

A long time ago, in a parody far, far away...

After already making plenty of jokes about "Star Wars," the legal department over at Fox told the producers of "Family Guy" that they should clear the gags with the folks at Lucasfilm in order to avoid getting sued. That might make it sounds like there was a battle to be had over the creation of the first "Star Wars" parody that Seth MacFarlane and his crew made, but they were pleasantly surprised by the reaction they received. 

Speaking with the LA Times, Seth MacFarlane spoke about how the "Blue Harvest" special came about, and they got just one specific request from Lucasfilm. As MacFarlane recalled their response, "OK, you can do it, just make sure the characters look exactly like they do in the movies."

And they actually do. Sure, they alter the designs to fit the cartoony aesthetic of the show, and Stewie's Darth Vader still has the body of a baby, but otherwise, it looks as if it was overseen by Lucas himself. The setpieces and vehicles in particular were painstakingly and accurately recreated in animation.

As for the special, it is mostly a retelling of the first "Star Wars" movie, but with the humor of "Family Guy." It does have some really funny moments, as the special pokes fun at the ineptitude of the Empire, the incredibly long text crawl, and much more. But there is more than just parodying here. The special is a genuine love letter to the trilogy, from its cheesy lines and its wipe transitions, to the incredible score by John Williams. Many of its best jokes are just playing the movie scene completely straight, only slightly changing its tone with various punchlines. Peter, playing Han Solo, delivers the line, "We're all fine here," line, but then the interaction turns into a radio show scenario as if Han was Frasier Crane. 

As for the response to the episode, MacFarlane said George Lucas himself invited the "Family Guy" crew to Skywalker Ranch to watch the episode with him. Did he like it? According to MacFarlane, "He laughed a few times, yeah. He's a very muted guy."

George Lucas strikes back

But as good as the "Family Guy" show was, even better was the "Robot Chicken" parody. While the former was a broader, more superficial parody of the biggest scenes in the films, the latter dived deeper, making jokes about smaller details and about the mundane parts of the "Star Wars" universe. This resulted in sketches you may not have thought about before, but make perfect sense to think about in the context of the films. This includes a sketch about the lack of bathrooms in the Death Star and how Ponda Baba (the butt-chin alien at Mos Eisley who gets his arm sliced off by Obi-Wan Kenobi) and what his life was like before and after losing his appendage

Lucas was also enthusiastic about this parody, but what makes it special is that the filmmaker not only encouraged the episode, he even voiced himself in a sketch. Other cast members like Mark Hamill and Ahmed Best also voice their characters in the parody, which lends some authenticity to the proceedings. For those who don't know, "Robot Chicken" also counts "Family Guy" co-star Seth Green among its creators.

It is rare for a filmmaker to get so involved with poking fun at his own creation, yet that is what makes Lucas and "Star Wars" so special. After all, he was even involved in making his own "Star Wars" parody cartoon with the "Robot Chicken" creators, "Star Wars Detours." Unfortunately, it was unceremoniously canceled and put inside a vault after Disney acquired Lucasfilm, even though there were 39 episodes completely animated and ready for air. 

"Star Wars" was once unique because it didn't consider itself so important that it was beyond parodying, and the lack of non-LEGO comedies or parodies has made this franchise a little less cool and fun. Check your funny bone, Disney. It might be broken.