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Keep Circulating The Tapes / Star Wars

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Considering its status as a Long Runner franchise, Star Wars has seen numerous entries and works fall out of circulation and remain lost for years. Luckily, the franchise retains a very passionate fan community that works to preserve many of the examples listed below:

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  • The original theatrical cuts of the Star Wars Trilogy have flirted with this on many occasions. For a period of time between 1997 and 2006, VHS and DVD sets of the "Special Edition" trilogy were the only official releases on the market (with the 1995 "Faces" VHS and Laserdisc set proudly boasting that it was the last release for the original films). The theatrical cuts came back into circulation for a limited time in 2006 as part of a (barely-advertised) set, which included a non-anamorphic Laserdisc port thrown in with the Special Edition cuts. The release of the Complete Saga Blu-Ray boxset has also knocked those sets out of circulation, so the theatrical cuts are once again unavailable unless you resort to the (highly active) fan community. The "official" explanation for the originals' unavailability (including from George Lucas himself) is that they had deteriorated in the intervening years, but many fans call bullshit on this one, or claim that the original negatives were irrevocably altered to create the Special Edition. Many filmmakers and editors (including film restoration expert Robert Harris) have offered to restore the negatives for free, and the U.S. Library of Congress does have an unaltered original print of A New Hope in its archives.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special is the Trope Codifier and quite possibly the most notorious bootleg ever circulated. It was the first Star Wars story of any kind to be filmed after A New Hope and was heavily promoted at the time, but it was shown only once on TV in the U.S. in November 1978 and never saw the light of day again. This is because people realized it was terrible, and it became an Old Shame to practically everyone associated with it (the only ones who don't care aren't involved with Star Wars in any other capacity, like Bea Arthur). But Bile Fascination kicked in, and the show's heavy advance promotion meant that a lot of people had recorded the show on their VCR, so people were trading tapes of it to see exactly what it was that everyone said was so terrible. These days, you can easily find it on the Internet. Interestingly, because the only copies are based on TV airings, they include the ads as well, which were not exactly the same across the country and have created "variant" recordings; the ads themselves can also be Memetic.note  Lucasfilm has slowly acknowledged the interest in the special — they've intermittently released merchandise relating to it, and a couple of times have even included the special's cartoon segment (considered not as bad as the rest, in part because it's the first appearance of Boba Fett and thus kind of a mini-preview of The Empire Strikes Back) as an Easter Egg on the Blu-ray for one of the main films — but they've been very clear that there is not going to be an official release of the entire special any time soon. Rifftrax, for what it's worth, has sold a video-on-demand version of their riff on the special for years, and they've never been bothered about it by either Lucasfilm or Disney.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Star Wars d20 RPG articles and modules posted on the internet by publisher Wizards of the Coast were taken offline by the company when the license expired in May of 2010. They're still out there, kept online by fans who saved them before they were taken down.
    • Fans continue to circulate the old West End Games versions of the RPG as well.
    • Fantasy Flight Games released in 2018 a replica set of the two core rulebooks to celebrate the game's 30th anniversary.

    Video Games 
  • Free Radical's Star Wars: Battlefront III, which was subject to an infamous Troubled Production that resulted in the franchise being rebooted by Electronic Arts. Having reportedly been "99% finished", the project was beset with financial delays, scheduling problems and friction with Lucasarts executives before the project was scrapped in 2009. While some of the cutscenes and content from the scrapped game made its way into the PlayStation Portable title Battlefront: Elite Squadron (itself an example of this trope), the original title has never seen proper release, despite a playable prototype making its way online in 2016. Even now, the only way to play said prototype is to have an XBox 360 development kit, as the game refuses to load on regular versions of the console, and Lucasfilm has seen fit to pull down any links to copies of the prototype circulating around the web.
  • Several interactive games related to the films, including Behind the Magic (an encyclopedia that was notable for featuring some of the earliest deleted scenes to see release in public) and Making Magic (a behind-the-scenes look at how the Special Edition Trilogy releases were created) became this, with no word on their status since they were released in The '90s.

    Web Original 
  • The regular and "Hyperspace" paid content on the official Star Wars website. Created in 2003, Hyperspace was the only way to get exclusive — really exclusive — content like video diaries, insider information on the prequels, an unfinished workprint scene from Attack of the Clones, concept art, exclusive commentaries for the original films and more. However, when the site switched over to a new redesign, all of that content wasn't converted into the site's new Flash format and subsequently vanished into the ether. Short of getting said exclusive content from unofficial fan preservations, there's currently no official way to obtain any of this material. Most of the open content is lost as well. The SW official forums were also closed on June 6, 2011, just after the announcement of the "Complete Saga" Blu-Ray boxset. Given how more than ten years of content (and interviews with notable Lucasfilm authors and guests) were available on that forum, screenshots of topics and forum posts continue to circulate amongst diehard fans. When Disney redesigned again, any content that was on the site prior to July 2012 was lost, and is only accessible through the Internet Archive.

    Western Animation 
  • The Star Wars animated canon from the 1980s, including Droids (and its follow-up special, The Great Heep) and Ewoks (which lasted two seasons). The two series were released on DVD as part of an "Animated Adventures" series — the only problem? The releases are simply two sets of six episodes edited into mini-features — more than half the run of Droids is still unavailable, and more than an entire season of Ewoks is also unaccounted for. Even though the two series have both been referenced in various Star Wars-related material over the years, neither have been released as a complete series. Lucasfilm has said a DVD release is "possible" — meaning you're better off scrounging for the old VHS releases of the series, which had all the episodes.
    • Along with the microseries listed below, neither Droids, Ewoks, or the Ewok TV movies have been placed on Disney+.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • With Warner's distribution contract with Lucasfilm expiring as a result of Disney's purchase of said company, the Pilot Movie is completely out of print and both Blu-ray and DVD copies are considerably expensive to find. Not even digital outlets got any break from the contractual lapse. While Disney initially didn't appear to have any plans to re-release the Pilot Movie, the rest of the show is still circulating and much easier to find, physically (until around 2019, when WB's rights to the series also expired) and digitally. The Pilot Movie and the rest of the series were available on Netflix (in certain markets) between March 2014 and April 2019, and were re-released on Disney+ in November 2019.
    • As for the series itself, the "Decoded" versions of episodes in the first season — re-airings that had some lore annotations by the Lucasfilm Animation team to go along with them — only aired once on TV and on the official Star Wars website before the premiere of the second season. Most of the episodes have been lost over time, but a blog on Wordpress as well as some parts of Wookieepedia have kept records of some of the lore drops.
  • That show's micro-series predecessor, Star Wars: Clone Wars, got its entire series released through two DVD volumes, both of which are now out of print and cost a pretty penny on eBay. Since Disney no longer considers the show canon and has placed it under Star Wars Legends, it's not clear if it will ever resurface legally.

    Rescued Works 
  • A documentary created for The Empire Strikes Back by French filmmaker Michel Parbot (who did camera work for a similar documentary, SP/FX: Empire Strikes Back) was thought to be lost for decades after its initial airing on French television. Comprised of off-the-cuff interviews, behind-the-scenes clips and on-set/rehearsal footage, the documentary was considered to be a "holy grail" for diehard fans for years, but rights issuesnote  largely kept it out of the public eye. After a partial release in 2008 (comprising 26 minutes of the documentary), the full version of the documentary was finally released in September 2018, after fan editor Adywan was able to secure a lower-generation copy from a French television airing.
  • A laserdisc used to test Pioneer's EditDroid editing system (similar to Adobe programs like Final Cut Pro) used a half-hour worth of unused and alternate takes of footage from Return of the Jedi (of Luke speaking with Yoda on Dagobah), and was demoed at conventions in 1984. However, the disc containing said footage disappeared into the ether and was thought lost for good... until 2013, when the same laserdisc came up for auction on eBay. An enterprising fan bought the laserdisc for an exorbitant price, collated the clips together and released it to the public.
  • Several documentaries, including the UK television special Clapperboard: The Empire Strikes Back and the PBS pledge drive special From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga, were unaccounted for years after their appearances on early VHS boxsets related to the franchise. They were later released in the Complete Saga Blu-Ray boxset.
  • The George Lucas interviews with Leonard Maltin, created as part of a tie-in with the aforementioned "Faces" VHS set and released in the mid-90s, have never been re-released since their original appearances. The official Star Wars YouTube channel uploaded the complete interviews, but they are all clearly taken from the VHS tapes.
  • Both The Beginning (a documentary about The Phantom Menace) and Empire Of Dreams (a feature-length documentary about the franchise and its influences in popular culture) appeared on early-2000s DVD releases, but weren't been included on any Blu-Ray or next-gen media sets, which left their legality in doubt. Fortunately, the official Star Wars channel on YouTube released Empire of Dreams in 2013 and The Beginning in 2014.
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special is able to be legallynote  purchased as a VOD, so long as you don't mind that Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett are making jokes over it... though most people would agree that this makes it so much better.


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