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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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    Film 
  • 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 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.
    • Several sources and interviews (including ones with George Lucas himself) claim that the prints of the originals had deteriorated in the years between their original release and the creation of the Special Editions, though other sources claim that the original negatives were irrevocably altered to incorporate the new changes. This is despite the fact that the U.S. Library of Congress has an unaltered original print of A New Hope in its archives, and several filmmakers and editors (including film restoration expert Robert Harris) have offered their services to restore the negative for free.
  • 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 haven't been included on any Blu-Ray or next-gen media sets, leaving their legality in doubt. Fortunately, the official Star Wars channel on YouTube released Empire of Dreams in 2013 and The Beginning in 2014.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special, quite possibly the most notorious bootleg ever circulated. Yes, it actually exists, and it might as well be the Trope Codifier. It was shown only once on television, never released to VHS, and never saw the light of day again. (Un)Fortunately, VCRs were brand new and all the rage, and fans had enough advance notice of that airing (it was well-advertised), so just about everyone taped it. Five seconds on Google or Bing will net you a copy. This one is also very much intentional: the film is Old Shame to everyone associated with the franchise who have fought to keep it buried (in fact, the only actor involved known to have been pleased with the special was guest star Bea Arthur, who is also regarded to have filmed the only good portion of the special), and only Bile Fascination keeps those tapes flying around. The "keep circulating the tapes" nature of this created its own meme: The most commonly circulated version includes portions of a news update in which a reporter promotes a news story about "fighting the frizzies"; the makers of South Park later utilized this version of the tape as the framework for the Season Three Christmas Episode "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics". In fact, the special is already so well-known at this point that it seems ludicrous that Lucasfilm refuses to release an authorized version since they have nothing to hide anymore and it seems highly unlikely that acknowledging it would taint the Star Wars brand.
    • The cartoon segment of the special (featuring the first appearance of Boba Fett) was later included as an Easter Egg on one of the Complete Saga boxset bonus discs, and merchandise related to the Holiday Special has been designed and released by Lucasfilm over the intervening years. Despite this, Steve Sansweet (Lucasfilm's Head of Fan Relations) has sworn up and down that the special will never be released in any form.

    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 StarWars.com again, any content that was on the site prior to July 2012 was lost, and is only accessible through the Internet Archive.
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    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.
  • 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 does not 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 are slated to be be re-released on Disney+.
    • 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.

    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 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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