There’s been some exciting news floating around ToughPigs and… well, every other website about the lost song, “When Love Is Gone”, being reinserted into The Muppet Christmas Carol. And yet, we’re still seeing a lot of responses from people asking, “So what?”
And, y’know, legit question. It’s a song that was cut, presumably, for a good reason. It slows the movie down. It doesn’t feature any Muppets. It’s not technically missing, since it (confusingly) appears on a few home video releases. All of these observations are totally right, and yet totally wrong.
Sure, “more” is always better to us, especially when it comes to older Muppet content. So much of it is actually lost, and we want everything ever filmed for a Muppet production to be available to us. But beyond that, the scene has an important reason for being, and its return to the film is interesting and complicated. Therefore, we’ve got a handy Q&A to take you through the journey into this movie’s (and Scrooge’s) past.
What is “When Love Is Gone”?
It’s a song written by the great Paul Williams from the film The Muppet Christmas Carol. It is sung by Belle, Scrooge’s former love, performed by Meredith Braun. It’s the moment when Belle breaks Scrooge’s heart by telling him, “It’s not me, it’s you,” and confirming that his hatred of Christmas really mucked up his lovelife.
Is “When Love Is Gone” any good?
Some say yes! Some say no. I mean, that’s how opinions work. It’s the opinion of this writer that it’s probably the least-loved song on the soundtrack, but that’s not helpful because every song from this movie is genuinely terrific. Over the hundreds of listens I’ve given this song – both from the film and the album – it’s grown on me. It’s pretty and heartbreaking and not necessarily something you’d put on to get yourself in the holiday spirit, but it’s a perfectly lovely, non-Muppet ballad.
Why is “When Love Is Gone” important to the movie?
True, we don’t need to see Belle break up with Scrooge over the course of four minutes – that’s a bit of information gleamed from the edited version. But all of the emotion is ripped out, and every character suffers for it. Belle comes across as fickle, Scrooge doesn’t get justification for his humbuggery, Rizzo is sobbing for no reason, and the audience gets storytelling whiplash. With the song in the film in-tact, we not only see Belle stand up for herself and make a mature, yet difficult life decision, but we bare witness to Scrooge confronting the memory in real time. He tries to partition his feelings off from the event, but has a slow realization about what he threw away and pretty much ruined his chances at happiness. After all that, Rizzo is showing what the audience is feeling, and we’re ready to get the heck out of the past and meet the next ghost.
On top of all that, the movie ends with a slightly rewritten reprise – “When Love is Found” – which hits so much harder with the inclusion of the original song. Scrooge may have lost his chance at hanging on to his romantic love, but he’s found a new family with the Cratchits (and everyone else in Dickensian London), and that’s a pretty dang good Christmas gift.
Why was it removed from the film?
As the story goes, the song was present for early screenings of the film, but the kids in test audiences were getting fidgety during the long, Muppet-less song. Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, requested to Director Brian Henson that they edit it out, and I guess sometimes you just can’t argue with the boss. Later, when the movie was released on VHS, it was edited back in. Remember this (I say to you, doing my best Ghost of Christmas Past impression), because it’ll be important later!
Wait, what do you mean, it was “lost”? I’ve seen it!
You probably have! The song was included in the original VHS release, and the DVD release featured it in its “fullscreen version”, though not in widescreen. Weird, right? Apparently the original film was used for the transfer for the cropped home video, and then subsequently lost. But the theatrical film still survived, which was used for the fullscreen DVD, the Blu-ray, and the Disney+ version. Adding the scene back in would result in a lower quality (and poorly cropped) sequence, which would look weird and take you out of the story.
Okay, so if it was lost, how did they find it?
No clue! But they did! I imagine it was some sort of Raiders of the Lost Ark situation, and someone just went into a large warehouse full of unlabeled wooden crates and searched every one of them until they found it. But that’s far less important than the fact that it was found, and now I gotta wonder what else is hidden in those warehouses just waiting to be discovered…
How do I watch it?
A terrific question! If you go to Disney+ and just play the movie as usual, you’ll still be watching the original “When Love Is Gone”-less theatrical version. Lucky for you, we made this handy infographic to walk you through the very easy, yet deceptively confusing process:
Why did Disney+ hide it?
I’m sure they didn’t mean to! But not everyone wants to see alternate versions of their favorite movies, so the most familiar will always be the default. But until they introduce a new category of films (which they’ll probably never do, lest they invite a barrage of Disney fans demanding more alternate versions of classic movies), we’ll gladly settle for it to be stuffed into “Extras”. It’s better to have it hidden than not there at all!
Now that they found the missing song, is Disney gonna re-release it on Blu-ray?
Baby steps, friends. We’re lucky that Disney still seems to be invested in giving us more Muppet content, no matter the format. I’d hope that we can prove to them that Muppet fans would be willing to spend money to own this movie (again) by watching it a whole bunch on Disney+. The higher those numbers, the more likely it is that Disney could justify investing in a new physical release. And the fact that it’s a holiday movie, and therefore a great gift idea, definitely makes it slightly more likely to happen. But for now, let’s be happy with this present that we’ve been given!
So as you can see, there’s a lot of importance behind the return of “When Love Is Gone”, and isn’t it wonderful that you have the option to watch the movie in a more complete format?? Go ahead and do that this holiday season – The Muppet Christmas Carol is streaming on Disney+ and you cat literally pull it up whenever you want!
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com