Did you hear? Apparently, Santa received the letters from a bunch of Muppet fans, because he’s brought them some good news for Christmas. For years, the song “When Love Is Gone” from The Muppet Christmas Carol was lost – or at least, the original, film-quality version of it was lost.

But it’s been found! And according to Brian Henson in an interview with the BBC, Disney has the ability to insert in a 4K restored version of the movie which we could see on Disney+ soon. Some fans are also crossing their fingers for a new Blu-ray.

Is this exciting news? Or is it actually completely uninteresting?

There was a time when I would have greeted this announcement with a shrug and an “Eh, who cares?” See, for a long time, it was my belief that the best version of the movie was unquestionably the version without “When Love Is Gone.”

Actually, before I go on, here’s a brief history of this miraculous disappearing, reappearing song, as per Muppet Wiki:

  • “When Love Is Gone” is the song Scrooge’s girlfriend Belle sings in the past, as she and Scrooge are breaking up. When the film was released in theaters in 1992, the song was not present. Reportedly, kids in test screenings didn’t respond well to it so Brian Henson and the Disney people made the decision to cut it.
  • When the film came out on VHS the following year, the song was put back in. A 2002 DVD release featured the same version, and the song was also included in most TV airings. This is why so many people assume that the “default” version of the movie is the one that has the song in it.
  • When the film was re-released on DVD in 2005, it included a fullscreen version with the song and a widescreen version without the song.
  • When the film was released on Blu-ray in 2012, the song was absent once again. The Disney+ version of the movie is also devoid of When Love Is Gone. In an Entertainment Weekly article published just last month, Brian Henson explained that the original negatives from when they filmed the song had been lost, which was why it was impossible to present an HD version of the number.
  • Just a few days ago, in that BBC article, Brian Henson revealed that the missing film negatives had been found and Disney is ready to proceed with a new “full-length” cut of the movie.

You got all that? Good.

As I was saying, I used to 100% prefer the non-“When Love Is Gone” version. Waaay back in 2007, I wrote an article on this very website called “27 Things to Do During ‘When Love Is Gone.’” As the title suggests, it was based on the premise that the song is so boring that a person viewing the film would be better off doing anything else besides pay attention to it. I was moderately surprised at the time to learn that there were plenty of Muppet fans who liked the movie better with the song intact. “I guess some people like boring things!” I said to myself.

In 2009, I wrote an article on this very website called “Light the Lamp, Not the Rat! – 17 Years Later.” In that one, I made darn sure to refer to “When Love Is Gone” as boring, but I also noted that The Muppet Christmas Carol, which had begun life as a modestly successful effort at keeping the Muppet franchise going had, in the ensuing years, turned into an all-time holiday classic. Eleven years later(!), I don’t think there’s any doubt that The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of our most essential Christmas movies… and “When Love Is Gone” is an inescapable part of that phenomenon.

The Muppet Christmas Carol has a lot of fans. This includes both Muppet nerds, and a lot of people who aren’t very nerdy about the Muppets but watch the movie every year while they’re wrapping presents or frantically tracking Amazon packages. By this point, a lot of those fans have figured out that “When Love Is Gone” is present in some versions of The Muppet Christmas Carol and absent in others, and whenever the subject of the song comes up, a whole lot of them talk about how much they love the song and how sad they are when they watch a version that doesn’t have it.

“Really?!” I said to myself. “People are sad because they don’t have to watch a boring song?! What’s going on here?”

Well, don’t let this secret get around too much, but I must admit, I’ve started to warm up to “When Love Is Gone.” Now, I want to be clear – I haven’t completely turned around on it the way Scrooge went from hating Christmas to being its #1 fan. But I can see the purpose it serves.

“When Love Is Gone” happens during Scrooge’s trip to the past (with the Ghost of Christmas Past, AKA the spookiest Cabbage Patch Kid ever), and it shows us a crucial turning point in his life. The moment when he chose business over love defines him forever. If this moment hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have become a cold-hearted miser, and there would have been no reason for ghosts to visit him, or for Dickens to write about him, or for Michael Caine to play him. In which case we never would have gotten that “bus driver” dance he does with the Ghost of Christmas Present, and that would be a tragedy.

“Yeah, but hold on,” I say to myself. “Doesn’t all of that story & character stuff happen anyway, even if Belle doesn’t sing? Isn’t that why they decided it would be fine to cut it?”

Well, yeah. That’s true. But the song itself is also… dare I say it, kind of beautiful. All of Paul Williams’s songs for the movie are good, and when I hear this one on the soundtrack, it’s perfectly nice. My objection was always based mostly on the fact that, when it’s time for Belle to sing, the jokes stop and there are no Muppets onscreen. But you know what? It’s just a few minutes out of a whole feature film, so maybe I should just grow up and get over it. After all, it’s not like they made a Muppet movie and gave most of the Muppets less screen time than Jason Segel. (I’m kidding! I like The Muppets a lot!)

So at present time, I have fewer objections to “When Love Is Gone” than I ever have before. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten older, and I have a greater comprehension of the cruel twists of fate life throws at people that turn them into Scrooges. Maybe it’s because I’ve come to appreciate the performance of Michael Caine as Scrooge, as he grows more despondent through the song and eventually joins in for a very sad sing-along. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard so many people speak up and defend it. Or maybe it’s because I’ve perfected the art of taking a nap for the exact duration of it.

Here’s my vow: If Disney does release a 4K remaster of the movie with “When Love Is Gone” restored, I will not fast-forward through it. I will sit and watch it and pay attention to it. I think that shows a lot of progress on my part… and I didn’t even have to be visited by three ghosts.

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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com

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