For as long as I can remember my family has had the tradition on Christmas Eve to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. I mean, the book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a classic and to add the Muppets to it just makes it that much better. Every year we would cozy up on the couch as a family, turn on the movie to the theatrical version (that would fit the screen of the TV), about halfway through we would stop the movie and switch to the full screen version for a couple minutes, and then go right back to the theatrical version. What? Who switches the version of the movie halfway through just to switch back? Well, we did because the version that we wanted to watch is missing a very important couple of minutes.
When Ebenezer is viewing the shadows of his past with the Ghost of Christmas Past, he comes to the Christmas where his fiancé Belle breaks it off with him and sings the song “When Love Is Gone.” According to BBC, “It was removed as Disney felt it wouldn’t appeal to young viewers. In the process of cutting the song for the cinema release they lost the video master and couldn’t find the negative either. The love song remained in the VHS copies of the film but when DVDs were invented only the cinematic master was available.” While I can understand that MAYBE the song is not relatable to young viewers, I would have never taken it out in the first place. It’s not because I love the song, even though I do. I wouldn’t have taken it out because it is cutting out part of the story.
Musicals aren’t written with songs just because the playwright or composer thinks it would be more fun with music, but because sometimes music is the only way to say what needs to be said. We all know this. How many times have you wanted to say something but you can’t and music says it better? Probably at least a few times in your life. Musicals would not be the same shows without the music. It has to be there to tell the story. Without “When Love is Gone” we still understand that Belle breaks up with Ebenezer, but the lyrics that are sung wouldn’t be the same if spoken and definitely don’t hit the same when they aren’t there at all. I’ve always wondered what Paul Williams, Oscar nominated Muppets composer, thought about the song being removed from the theatrical version.
The biggest reason that I am bothered by the missing song is because the whole film ends with a reprise of it. Scrooge (surrounded by his new friends and family) sings, “The love we found, the love we found, the sweetest dream that we have ever known. The love we found, the love we found, we carry with us so we’re never quite alone.” Well that’s nice and sweet and all, but does it really hit as hard if we never heard his fiancé break up with him by singing, “When love is gone, when love is gone, the sweetest dream that we have ever known. When love is gone, when love is gone, I wish you well but I must leave you now alone.” I’ll give you a hint. It doesn’t. We’re missing a huge piece of understanding his character arc. Of course most of us already know how A Christmas Carol ends, but this is a different version meaning we need the WHOLE VERSION.
The good news is, “When Love is Gone” is found! Disney is in the current stages of remastering the film in 4K and the lost piece of the film was found and is being added back into the film for streaming on Disney+. It wasn’t on in time to watch this year for my family’s tradition, but I’m looking forward to next year when I can watch the whole film through, “When Love is Gone” included, without switching versions in the middle of the movie.