The Muppet Christmas Carol came out in 1992. It was the first Muppets film to be produced after the passing of Jim Henson, and is dedicated to him and to Richard Hunt, the Muppeteer known for performing Scooter, Sweetums, Janice, and, in some Season 1 appearances, Miss Piggy. Hunt’s most notable role, however, is Wayne, one half of the popular Muppet duo, Wayne and Wanda.
Jim Henson’s son Brian would direct this movie as well as the other 90’s literary adaptation, Muppet Treasure Island, and many Muppet fans see this transition as the turning point where The Muppets start going downhill in quality, straying from the anarchic mania that Jim Henson brought to the production.
These fans are bad and they should feel bad.
While The Muppet Christmas Carol does not reach the exciting or emotional highs of the first three Muppet Movies, it remains a classic, anchored by a great Ebeneezer Scrooge played by Michael Caine. Caine is one of few non-Muppets in the film, and he plays the part totally straight. This (unlike certain other Muppet movies directed by Jason Segel) is an important component of a quality Muppet film: The humans should be the human element1 and the Muppets should be the chaotic element.
One of the most contentious elements of the film is the song When Love is Gone, a torch song sung by Belle to Scrooge as she calls off their engagement. This song was removed from the theatrical film, but it’s included in video releases as a deleted scene or alternate version. The concern that caused its removal is its pacing issues, as it’s a little more emotionally mature than most of the children watching, and without that appeal, bringing the movie to a crawl for a joke-less, Muppet-less four minutes that will bore children who don’t understand or care about the emotional weight of the scene.
This is accurate and correct.
HOWEVER, it is also wrong and bad. By taking the song out you have removed the emotional pivot of Scrooge’s arc, where he realizes how much he has lost by worrying only about money, and reduces it to one line and a cut to Scrooge crying. The song that is so crucial to the movie that it has a reprise that closes the film that completely loses its impact without the… preprise? That’s a word now. I made it a word. And then it’s played over the credits out of context why not.
Until recently, the masters for the scene of Belle singing this song were missing, so only a fullscreen version was able to be included in the video and DVD releases 2. However, this year, in the process of remastering it for 4K, the master for that scene was rediscovered, meaning that the scene can be included in future releases. The new version is not yet up on Disney+, but might be ready for next Christmas.3
There certainly is a film that is both emotionally coherent and does not have When Love is Gone, but this film, the one that actually exists, is not that. The decision was made shortly before theatrical release, too late for an entire reworking of the key emotional beats of the story, so now we have this version, where everyone suddenly has a powerful, tearful reaction to a jump cut.
Despite this GRIEVOUS ERROR, the film is still amazing, and it remains the Best Christmas Carol Adaptation According to Zeussical, an awards category which I still have not heard back from The Academy about.
Also the designs of the three spirits are amazing and perfect.
Have a good Day Thread and remember: I appreciate The Muppets on a much deeper level than you.