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An expanded radio dramatization of the original Star Wars trilogy was produced in 1981, 1983, and 1996. The first two radio series, based on A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, were produced and broadcast by National Public Radio as part of NPR Playhouse. A dramatization of Return of the Jedi was produced by most of the same team and also broadcast on NPR.
The radio serials were made with the full co-operation of George Lucas, who for one dollar each sold the rights to KUSC-FM, the public radio affiliate at his alma mater, the University of Southern California. Lucas also allowed the use of original sound effects and music from the films.
Star Wars: A New Hope is a 13-part (5hr51m) radio serial first broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981. It was adapted by Brian Daley from the original film, and directed by John Madden, with music by John Williams and sound design for Lucasfilm by Ben Burtt.
The program expands the storyline by adding a great deal of back story. Examples include Princess Leia's acquisition of the Death Star schematics; Luke Skywalker using his binoculars to observe the movie's opening battle and trying to convince his friends at Tosche Station of what he saw; a skyhopper race that results in Luke's vehicle being damaged (seen in the movie in the background of his Tatooine garage); Han Solo's encounter with Jabba the Hutt's agent, "Heater"; Vader's interrogation of Princess Leia; and Admiral Motti's attempts to convince Grand Moff Tarkin to leverage the Death Star as a political tool. All this material was released on tape.
The episodes are titled:
The supporting cast included James Blendick, Clyde Burton, Bruce French, David Alan Grier, Jerry Hardin, John Harkins, Scott Jacoby, Meshach Taylor, Marc Vahanian, John Welsh, and Kent Williams[disambiguation needed].
When the series was re-issued on NPR several years later, it was retitled The New Hope (as opposed to the official alternate title, A New Hope), keeping in line with the subtitles of the episodes of the original trilogy films.
The success of the first series led to a 10-part, four hour 15 minute series based on The Empire Strikes Back, again written by Daley and directed by Madden. The series debuted on NPR on February 14, 1983.
Like the preceding series, The Empire Strikes Back expands on the movie's story by incorporating new scenes. Examples include an Imperial attack on a Rebel convoy set before the film's opening scene and a tense conversation between Solo and Skywalker while the two are stranded in the Hoth wastelands.
National Public Radio's promoted the series in part by getting Craig Claiborne to create his version of Yoda's rootleaf recipe, which the Jedi Master serves Luke in the hut on Dagobah. The recipe ran in magazines and newspapers across the country.
The episodes are titled:
Billy Dee Williams reprised Lando Calrissian, and John Lithgow played Yoda at the same time Madden was directing Lithgow in the play Beyond Therapy. Hamill and Daniels returned to voice Skywalker and C-3PO.
It was recorded in 1982 at A&R Studios, New York City.
NPR's plans for a Return of the Jedi radio serial were put on hold when federal funding for NPR was dramatically reduced. However, NPR was never the producer of the radio series nor was it ever granted the rights to produce the radio adaptions nor did NPR fund any of the radio productions. Plans for a "Jedi" radio adaptation fell apart in the 1980s due to a disagreement (believed to be financial) between KUSC, Los Angeles (the producer of the two previous radio adaptations and to whom the rights were granted for production) and Lucasfilm. NPR was granted limited rights to air the two previous radio series because KUSC, Los Angeles provided the radio adaptations to NPR as part of NPR's National Program Service that allows any NPR member station rights to air the series as part of the annual dues already paid (rather than the 3rd party Extended Program Service where KUSC could have charged each station a fee for rights to air cutting out NPR). It was not until 1996 that a six-part adaptation of Return of the Jedi was made by Highbridge Audio, the company that had released the first two series on tape and CD.
Like the preceding series, Return of the Jedi expanded its story by incorporating new scenes, such as Luke Skywalker's construction of a new lightsaber. Also introduced in the storyline is a brief appearance of a dancer named Arica in the palace of Jabba the Hutt... a character whose true identity is that of popular Star Wars Expanded Universe character Mara Jade, established to have been present there in the Timothy Zahn-penned novel trilogy starting with "Heir to the Empire".
Scriptwriter Brian Daley died only hours after recording concluded; "additional material" was contributed by John Whitman, who introduced changes required for continuity with the newly developed plan for the prequels, as well as changes identified by the director and cast. The series was dedicated to Daley's memory.
The show's cast recorded a special "get-well" message for Daley after the author left the studio, unaware that he would never hear it. The message is included as part of the collector's edition box set.
The episodes are titled:
The adaptation used many of the original radio cast, though Joshua Fardon took over as Luke and Arye Gross replaced Billy Dee Williams as Lando. Ed Begley, Jr. was the voice of Boba Fett and Edward Asner, speaking only in Huttese, voiced Jabba the Hutt. The only actor who starred in all the feature films as well as all three radio dramas was Anthony Daniels.
The supporting cast included Rick Hall, Andrew Hawkes, Sherman Howard, Karl Johnson, John Kapelos, Ron Le Paz, Joe Liss, Paul Mercier, Steven Petrarca, Jonathan Penner, Gil Segel, Nia Vardalos and Ron West.