Let’s All Chill Out About The Muppet Christmas Carol
Ah, Christmas movies. While December is a barren wasteland as far as music is concerned, I do have a fondness for some of those classic Christmas films: the stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, It’s a Wonderful Life (Doad’s favorite movie), and, of course, The Muppet Christmas Carol.
To people my age, it was a staple, released in 1992, constantly on TV during December, and a part of many of our VHS collections. But returning to it now, we are met with what, apparently, is for some of us an overwhelming shock: One of the songs, “When Love is Gone,” is missing from the DVD and Blu-Ray versions.
People tend to get overly nostalgic about the children’s media from their era. This is especially marked in young adults because we have nothing else to be nostalgic about; the only previous time we remember is our own childhood. Thus, for instance, the constant complaints about changes to Sesame Street from its peak perfection in the 80s; the Nostalgia Critic, who primarily reviewed kids’ media from the 80s; and a young person who claimed to me that 1989 was the best year for movies* because of, among others, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It’s important to maintain perspective and remember that the media one was exposed to as a child will always seem particularly inviolable.
After all, many movies go through changes. That’s why director’s cuts exist. And the DVD/Blu-Ray version of The Muppet Christmas Carol is actually the theatrical version; the song was cut before the film was released. It’s the VHS that is the unusual version.
The relevant question should not be “Which version did I always see as a child?” but “Which version is better?” Did the song add to the movie, or was it correctly cut from the theatrical release? Let’s have a look at the song itself.
It’s easily the weakest number in the movie. Michael Caine gets to sing a nice little duet at the end, but aside from that, it has little to recommend it–certainly no compelling reason why it needs to be included but, say, Sam the Eagle’s song (recorded, but cut before filming began) didn’t**. It’s the only song in the film and in fact the only Muppet movie song at all until the 2011 film that doesn’t feature any singing Muppets***. And the stated reason for the cut–the song’s lack of kid appeal–is true, at least as far as I was concerned: I always zoned out at that point when I was younger. (Assertions that the song is absolutely necessary to understand Scrooge’s character are just silly; the unnamed Belle gets all of two pages in the book.)
So there are strong reasons for removing the song. If it had been cut (or shortened) pre-production, I think the film would have been clearly the better for it. Unfortunately, it makes an awkward post-production cut. Belle’s scene comes to an abrupt, jarring end, and the film’s final song, a reprise of “When Love Is Gone,” no longer reprises anything.
In the end, I think it’s a toss between the version with the unnecessary song and the version with the awkward edit. However, it looks like the theatrical version is the one that will be available for the foreseeable future. Let’s all stop getting bent out of shape and accept it as an executive choice between two different released versions of a film, rather than some sort of malicious attempt to ruin our childhood memories.
*My vote is for 1939. 1931 is also a strong contender.
**Fozzie’s song was also cut, which is a crying shame, because surely the entire project was only greenlit because Fezziwig could become Fozziwig.
***Depending on whether you count Walter or not, the 2011 movie seems resentful that any Muppets should get to sing.