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Scrooge U : Part XIX -- Missing scene mars "Muppet Christmas Carol"

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Scrooge U : Part XIX -- Missing scene mars "Muppet Christmas Carol"

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Just how good is The Muppet Christmas Carol"? Well, to be honest, that depends on whether or not you saw the version that ran in theaters back in 1992 OR the version of this Brian Henson film that now runs on television and/or is currently available for sale on DVD.

"What's the difference between these two versions of 'The Muppet Christmas Carol?,' " you ask. Just one scene. But oh what crucial scene it is.

Copyright 2005 Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Before we get to that cut scene, let's talk about the movie itself ... "The Muppet Christmas Carol" is a handsome production. And Jerry Juhl's screenplay for this Jim Henson Production certainly does a skillful job of making it seem as these whimsical characters really do belong on the dark-and-smoky streets of London circa 1843.

Of course, the real genius touch of Juhl's "Christmas Carol" adaptation is that it casts Gonzo the Great as Charles Dickens. So that -- as the film goes along -- Gonzo can periodically chime in with an actual passage from Dickens' original text. Which (to be honest) is just a brilliant narrative device.

Now add to that the fact that Gonzo ("I am here to tell the story") is paired with Rizzo the Rat ("And I am here for the food") ... And you've got this beautiful marriage of Muppet madness and Dickens' own words. Which often makes "The Muppet Christmas Carol" seem like a much more faithful adaptation of this holiday favorite than it actually is.

Copyright 2005 Walt Disney Home Entertainment

As for this film's Ebenezer Scrooge ... Michael Caine is saddled with an almost impossible task. After all, he's the one who has to make this version of "A Christmas Carol" work. Make it seem logical & natural that this all-too-human miser could live & work in a world that was loaded with all these silly creatures.

Now add to this the fact that -- in order for the audience to actually care about what's going on in "The Muppet Christmas Carol" -- we (the moviegoers) first have to care about Ebenezer & his plight. So it's a real tribute to Caine's talent that -- in spite of being surrounded by all these weird pieces of fur & felt that continually upstage him -- Michael still manages to hold your attention in whatever scene he's in. Your eye is constantly being drawn toward Ebenezer.

Which is a pretty significant achievement. Given that this film sometimes plays like the all-Muppet edition of "Where's Waldo?" Meaning that the viewer is constantly being forced to disengage from the emotion of a particular moment in this movie as they say:

  • "Hey, look! It's Bunsen Honeydew & Beaker as the two charitable gentlemen!"
  • "Hey, look! It's Fozzie Bear as Fezzwig!"
  • "Hey, look! It's Statler & Waldorf as Scrooge's old partners, Jacob & Robert Marley!"
  • "Hey, look! It's Bean Bunny as the boy that Ebenezer sends to the poulterer!"

Copyright 2005 Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Which is why it was probably a wise move on Brian Henson's part of have the three holiday spirits -- the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be -- be played by three brand-new Muppets. So that the audience wouldn't then be distracted by wondering what sort of spin their favorite old Muppet was then going to put on that particular Dickens character.

Copyright 2005 Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Anyway ... Getting now to that scene that was cut out of the theatrical release of "The Muppet Christmas Carol." How many of you recall that moment in the movie where Belle (Meredith Braun) breaks off her engagement with Young Scrooge (Raymond Coulthard)?

In the theatrical version of this Brian Henson film, these two characters literally exchange just a line or two of dialogue. Then we cut to Michael Caine in tears talking with the Ghost of Christmas Past, saying "Spirit, show me no more. Why do you delight in torturing me?"

Copyright 2005 Walt Disney Home Entertainment

That seems like a rather abrupt transition, don't you think? Well, in the original cut of "The Muppet Christmas Carol," Belle actually had this beautiful Paul Williams song that she sang called "When Love is Gone." Which made it quite clear why this woman was breaking off her engagement with Young Scrooge.

Of course, the really heart-breaking moment in this song came when Michael Caine stood beside Ms. Braun. And just for a single verse of "When Love is Gone," the older version of Scrooge sings along with Belle.

The lines that these two sing together read as follows:

It was almost love,
It was almost always,
It was like a fairy tale we'd live out, you and I
And yes, some dreams come true
And yet some dreams fall through
And yes, the time has come for us to say goodbye

Copyright 2005 Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Now what may be surprising to hear is that Michael Caine actually has a very pleasant singing voice, with a reedy sort of quality.

But what absolutely kills you as you're watching this moment in the movie is the way that Scrooge's face just sort of crumples in on itself when Michael & Meredith reach the "And yet some dreams fall through" line in the song. You literally get to see Ebenezer's heart break right there in front of you. Caine shows you the anguish that Scrooge must be feeling (I.E. Having to losing Belle all over again).

Anywho ... When "When Love is Gone" is left in place, now Ebenezer's emotional statement to the Ghost of Christmas Past (I.E. "Spirit, show me no more. Why do you delight in torturing me?") finally makes sense. More to the point, after you've see this scene in "The Muppet Christmas Carol," you're now solidly in Scrooge's corner. You're actively rooting for him to be redeemed.

Whereas the theatrical cut of "The Muppet Christmas Carol" ... With that song gone, it takes quite a bit longer for the audience to begin rooting for Ebenezer. To want to see this character be redeemed.

Which is obviously why -- when this Walt Disney Pictures release was being readied for its sale on home video in 1992 -- Brian Henson made sure that "When Love is Gone" was put back into the picture. Brian also made sure that this Paul Williams song was folded into the television version of "The Muppet Christmas Carol."

Which is how a good adaptation of Dickens' classic holiday tale eventually became a very good adaptation. Perhaps one that even borders on being great.

Copyright 2005 Walt Disney Home Entertainment

But -- that said ... I don't know how exactly to explain this. But (to me, anyway) "The Muppet Christmas Carol" seems to be one of the most melancholy versions of "A Christmas Carol" ever produced. I don't know if it's because of that dedication card at the very start of the movie. The one that reads:

"In loving memory of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt"

But knowing how keenly these two Muppeteers were missed by the folks at Jim Henson Productions, somehow the lines that Kermit the Frog says at that first Christmas dinner after Tiny Tim has passed away, about how ...

" ... Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it. I am sure that we will never forget Tiny Tiny or this first parting that was among us."

... have so much resonance in this particular version of "A Christmas Carol."

So -- in the end -- where exactly does "The Muppet Christmas Carol" rank in the pantheon of "Christmas Carol" adaptations? Me personally, I'd place it in the Top 10. But only if I'm watching the extended version of this Brian Henson film. The one that features "When Love is Gone."

Copyright 2005 Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Tomorrow ... Alvin & the Chipmunks star in a name-only version of "A Christmas Carol." Talk about your half-hearted holidays.

Your thoughts?

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  • Oh! I had no idea that song wasn't in the original version. I can't remember if I saw the movie when it was in theaters--I think I might have, but it's been a while.

    I loooove this version of A Christmas Carol. Probably not the best one ever made, but one of the best Muppet movies ever made.

  • I too love this version. The Muppets have always embodied the ideal that everyone, regardless of species, is in this together ! This is an ideal vehicle for them and many of the scenes are played with great sincerity. I cannot see the ommision of the song 'When Love is Gone' as anything significant. As kids, we used to hate the obligatory soppy bit in any film and for me, the un-necessary warbling just slows down the pace of the film. Glad to see it cut to be honest. I had an early pre-recorded video for years and it wasn't until I saw a DVD cut that I noticed it was gone. I didn't mourn the loss.Its on thew soundtrack album afterall. One thing we should mention is the death of Tiny Tim. Death can be a touchy subject in a childrens movie and I was interested to see how they handled it. In getting rid of the narrative device for the last spirit, they set the tone perfectly. When we remember that the father of the muppets, Jim Henson had just died, there is a massive poignancy to the words 'Life is full of meetings and partings - thats the way of it' that Kermit says to his family. I doubt any version of Christmas Carol has played that moment with such a touching and weighty honesty.

  • I definitely agree that this is a remarkably faithful adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Sure, they're the Muppets, but Gonzo aka Dickens did serve his purpose, as some of the narrative passages are now able to take life on screen.

    Of course, Gonzo is also the only character to "break character," reminding the insanely patriotic Sam the Eagle that he is, in fact, in a British story.

    Now, "When Love is Gone" may be poingnant, but the song is so darn long and slow, that as a kid, I always would make fun of it... dragging out the song so it ran on for hours (in much the same fashion as Barbara Streisand's "Brushing out my hair for three hours" song in Hello, Dolly!). If the song were handled differently in the movie, then yes, that would be a good moment. But the song is slow, and punishing on the pace.

    An abridged version of the song, including Caine's sing-along would suffice.

  • Apart from the Muppet-ized context, Caine delivers a quite sincere and affecting performance—perhaps among the best in this role.

    I don't recall "When Love is Gone" being excised from the theatrical release of the film, in fact, I remember listening to the song on the Soundtrack CD over and over again because the film scene had been so moving.

    Perhaps it was trimmed on some TV showings, but I absolutely remember it in the original theatrical release.

  • Even though The Muppet Movie was my favorite, I love the score

    to this movie.     I especially love Robin's song.   (Tiny Tim)

    You can't watch Muppet Christmas Carol,

    and then watch Muppet Treasure Island after that.

    You loose your interest right away.

  • Muppet Treasure Island was awful.

    But Tim Curry sure was good.

  • Hi-ho, all!

    I completely agree with Jim on this one. The excising of the song "When Love Is Gone" was an atrocity to this loving adaptation (and fitting tribute to Jim Henson's legacy).

    As a composer, you learn to work with motifs and themes, and the melody presented in this song is a prevalent theme in the film. I absolutely hate when a song is removed and you still hear the theme played throughout the film (i.e. "If I Never Knew You" from "Pocahontas"). It's also important to note that

    "The Love Is Gone" becomes a measure of what was lost AND what was gained - at the end of the film the cast gathers to sing about "The Love We've Found", which is a reprise of this same song with a positive spin on the lyrics. Removing this song removes the heart from the film and unbalances the score (which you can tell Paul Williams imbued with a great deal of heart).

    I don't think it's inclusion slows the pace of the story at all. In a crisp, quick script such as this, a few moments spent to fully develop an idea and an emotional trauma is essential. Otherwise the entire blast at the end loses it's potency. Is anyone afraid of a roller-coaster with a 20-foot first drop? Or how about a roller coaster that can't get to the top of the second hill because not enough care and time was spent building the momentum down the first one? Storytelling is all about progression, and plateau and progression again - and sometimes a moment of sincere emotion is worth it when you get to the end of the ride.

  • Thank you so much for including the Muppet version! I have been following your Christmas Carol series and I've been waiting for your take on my favorite holiday video!

  • I have the original VHS release of the movie AND it has the cut out part in it :)

    Personally, I've never been too fond of this version because of how many times I've seen it ... some things get worse with more repeatings.

  • Bravo Nitemuze2!  What an accurate and truthful description of the moments of music-making in storytelling.  I can't imagine the movie without this song.

  • my favorite christmas carol.

    Your forgot to mention its a musical. And the soundtrack is always a part of my holiday listening.

    i have the vhs release and the song is in it. And i always understood it as an emotional look at ebenezer. To show us why he became so hard.

    much like Davy Jones in POTC:2. Hes a jerk. But maybe because of the hardships, and how many times hes had to harden his heart due to heartbreak. Thats such a relateable quality that I think we all tend to feel bad for Jones and Scrooge.

    Cant get enough of this one!!

  • I've been waiting for this one.  My favorite!  I remember seeing it in theaters and God knows how many times I've watched my DVD, but had no clue about that song side-story.  When I watch it this year I'll pay better attention.

  • I think there's a lot of confusion where the song has been cut.

    The song was in the theatrical version.   It was on the VHS, Laserdisc, and the first DVD release.

    According to IMDB.com, the song was cut from the Kermit's 50th and (surprisingly) the UK DVD releases of the movie.

  • Check the audio commentary on the DVD, guys. Brian Henson clearly states that "When Love is Gone" was cut for "The Muppet Christmas Carol" 's original theatrical release in December of 1992. All versions thereafter -- whether it be VHS, DVD or the version that's now shown on television -- had this Paul Williams song folded back in.

    I think what's causing people to get confused is that the "Kermit's 50th Anniversary" edition of "The Muppet Christmas Carol" that was released on DVD features this Brian Henson film in its original widescreen format as well as a full-screen version. The only problem is ... The widescreen version of "The Muppet Christmas Carol" on that DVD was apparently duped off of a print of this film as it was shown during its original theatrical release. Which once again means that "When Love is Gone" is nowhere to be found in that version of the film.

    Again, if you'd believe me, go listen to the audio commentary on "The Muppet Christmas Carol." Brian Henson tells the whole story ... Without -- of course -- mentioning the name of the executive who told him to cut that song out of the movie in the first place.

  • I distinctly remember watching "When Love is Gone" sung in the theater when I saw the movie in the theaters.  I was there the first day it was released. It was in the theater in Burbank.  Could have there been an alternative cut that was released in a very limited amount of theaters?  

    My biggest problem with  this song (for me at least) really dragged down the proceedings and all the longer to get to the really cool sequences with the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Yet to Be.  

    I believe you Nancy as I have heard the commentary myself being the muppet geek and aspiring muppeteer myself, but like I said, I distinctly remember seeing this song in the theater on the opening weekend.  

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