In 2022, Christmas got here slightly early for followers of The Muppet Christmas Carol — a minimum of, those who subscribe to Disney Plus. Not solely did the streaming service add a 4K restoration of Brian Henson’s 1992 vacation film, however the launch got here with an additional choice for deep-cut followers: a model of the movie that restores the track “When Love Is Gone.”
The Paul Williams-penned quantity was lower from the theatrical model of Muppet Christmas Carol, reportedly on the orders of Disney honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg. Then it was restored haphazardly in residence video editions. VHS copy? Included. The 86-minute widescreen DVD launch? Not included. The 90-minute fullscreen model in the identical DVD set? Included! The unique movie negatives of the scene the place at one level presumed misplaced, then rediscovered, however not in time for the movie’s first streaming launch on Disney Plus in 2020. Followers must wait till the film’s 30th anniversary this yr for the addition of “When Love Is Gone” to The Muppet Christmas Carol on Disney’s flagship streaming service.
That addition set off a tiny vacation struggle at Polygon, with staffers debating what the track provides and whether or not it’s an important a part of the movie. (Disney probably had its personal inside debate in regards to the inclusion: The streamer provides the theatrical model of the movie, the “full-length model” with the track included, and a clip that’s simply the track by itself, so viewers can decide their poison relying on their preferences.) However what’s a popular culture debate in case you don’t invite your complete readership to select sides? We determined to speak it out in public.
Tasha Robinson: OK, let’s make clear one factor: I noticed The Muppet Christmas Carol for the very first time per week in the past, because of mates who had been appalled that I’d by no means watched it earlier than and arrange a gaggle viewing on-line. (They really discovered final yr at our group semi-hate-watch of White Christmas, and insisted on establishing this week’s screening almost a yr upfront. That’s dedication!)
Principally what this implies is that I’m not coming into this dialog with any long-standing nostalgia for the film, or any inside meter about what constitutes the “proper” model. It doesn’t really feel bizarre and misplaced to my ears the best way, say, the misplaced Wizard of Ouncesmusical quantity “The Jitterbug” did when the preservationists first discovered and launched the footage. You’re far more of a Muppet Christmas Carol vet than I’m, Susana — did that have an effect on your opinion right here?
Susana Polo: Oh, on the contrary. Although it was lower from the theatrical model, “When Love is Gone” was included haphazardly in residence video variations. All of the copies my household occurred to personal, from VHS to modern-day, included the scene. It’s at all times been there for me. And yeah, I feel it suuuuuuuuu— I imply, uh, I feel it’s the weakest a part of the movie. However how did it hit you, contemporary to the glory of Muppet Christmas Carol?
Tasha: As an important a part of the story, actually! We watched the theatrical lower first, and that scene, the place Ebenezer Scrooge’s youthful romance ends, setting him on the trail of the bitter miser, appeared weirdly curtailed and complicated to me. I wasn’t actually certain why she was dumping him! The lower scene isn’t simply the track, it’s the entire rationalization of how he retains suspending their wedding ceremony, and the way she feels he doesn’t love her anymore, and is continuous their plans with out actually feeling them. It’s fairly essential context!
Picture: Walt Disney Photos
After which I assumed the track itself was fairly pretty. It’s one other one from frequent Muppet songwriter Paul Williams, the man behind Muppet classics like “Rainbow Connection” and “I’m Going To Go Again There Sometime.” This track isn’t in that class, however for me, it has among the similar taste of candy melancholy and candy concord. Why do you hate it a lot?
Susana: See, now that is an attention-grabbing flip. I’ve principally by no means seen the film with out that scene, provided that I used to be in elementary college when it was in theaters. It was not truly clear to me till simply now that Katzenberg excised the whole lot of that character beat. That was a particularly dumbass factor of him to do. And it makes me doubly glad that Disney Plus has restored it.
As one would hope for any discrete scene in a film, there are a variety of issues that “When Love Is Gone” does for Muppet Christmas Carol, as you say, not least introducing a musical motif that’s reprised within the very remaining moments of the movie. If nothing else, it needs to be included in any launch of the film for the sake of preservation. These are issues I consider wholeheartedly.
It’s simply additionally that I object to “When Love Is Gone” on the grounds of what makes a superb musical. The track itself isn’t all that good, is carried out stiffly, and is staged uncreatively, however greater than that, it takes the viewer on an overlong detour with a personality we barely know and who’s about to go away the narrative completely — marking it as an actual outlier in a area of absolute banger musical sequences.
Tasha: It’s just a few minutes! It isn’t that lengthy! And it’s nearly our final touchpoint for younger, emotional Scrooge earlier than his coronary heart hardened. So he’s the main target right here, not his minimally developed love curiosity!
However for probably the most half, I’ll concede that you simply’re on-the-nose-correct right here, and that this can be a fairly flawed scene, largely as a result of we don’t know who Belle actually is. (Aside from being performed by singing stage star Meredith Braun.) So the sudden give attention to her emotional ache does really feel fairly odd, particularly when she peaces out ceaselessly instantly afterward.
Picture: Walt Disney Photos
However none of that is what I used to be anticipating a longtime Muppet Christmas Carol fan to object to — right here I assumed most individuals who wished this track gone would simply really feel prefer it was misplaced in a film stuffed with Muppets to have a dramatic, melancholy, Muppet-less quantity, with two people navigating their extraordinarily rudimentary love story, and never a puppet in sight. Is that in your calculus in any respect when you concentrate on slicing this scene? What are your huge objections right here?
Susana: Bluntly, I feel the entire scene wanted to have been rethought earlier than it was ever filmed. There’s the entire thing about how we’re not invested in Belle and won’t see her once more the very second the music ends on this track. However I’ve much more questions:
Why is the visible staging of this solo quantity so unutterably boring? She by no means even takes her palms out of her cute little Victorian muff. [Ed. note: While gathering images to lay out this post I discovered that Belle is actually not wearing a muff at all, she just keeps her hands so still and pinned to her stomach for the whole song that I Mandela Effect-ed one into existence. I am noting this in case you too believed that Belle was a muff-wearer.] Why on earth wasn’t this quantity designed to be a shared track between Belle, younger Scrooge, and older Scrooge from the get-go? We are able to nonetheless culminate with Belle and Current Scrooge harmonizing — that’s excellent and I’ve no notes.
If I needed to do the scene with this track, I feel the perfect repair can be to easily slim it to its essence. Belle spells out the whole lot of the character growth right here within the first verse and refrain. The second verse is about… how she feels journey calling her away from an ideal life and worries she might remorse it? However then she leaves anyway! It doesn’t jibe. Reduce straight from the tip of the primary refrain to her and Current Scrooge on the bridge and the outro. Brief, candy, it communicates all we have to know, it introduces the musical motif for callback later, and it makes the perfect of a slipshod state of affairs.
Tasha: I’ll go to bat for not letting Belle begin off by singing with younger Scrooge — consciously, I do know it’s the identical character, however watching Belle and this random younger’un work together, it feels to me like we’re watching two characters we barely know and haven’t meaningfully linked with. And once more, the scene isn’t actually about Younger Scrooge, it’s in regards to the previous man wanting on and remembering this second he’s suppressed within the means of convincing himself that he likes his solitary, bitter, environment friendly life. Younger Scrooge isn’t feeling something main on this second, and that’s what the scene is telling us. (The man taking part in him seems extra like he’s concentrating on making a convincing Michael Caine face than like he’s watching his deliberate life crumble in entrance of him.)
Picture: Walt Disney Photos
That staging is a part of what makes the track so nice! Younger Scrooge actually simply walks away from her within the background, out of focus, whereas she’s nonetheless singing about leaving him! He proves her level in that second — he isn’t prepared to struggle for her or argue along with her, he’s off to do his personal factor. He isn’t stuffed with remorse, so it’s as much as Current Scrooge to step in and categorical that remorse — and perhaps even perceive and acknowledge it for the primary time in his life. Their duet — the previous and current in dialog in an entirely new approach — is most of what’s lovely about this scene for me. The specter of an previous man realizing for the primary time that he didn’t know the whole lot when he was younger, conceited, and certain of himself? It’s loads to pack right into a track, however as stiff because the staging is and as fakey and plastic because the set is right here, Michael Caine getting into this second and including his voice actually brings all of it throughout.
Susana: I’d actually by no means actually thought of it that approach — for a very long time it’s simply been the place within the film that I’d rise up to pee or seize one other cookie and a scorching chocolate refill, so I’m actually having fun with this various perspective.
Perhaps the opposite half of this case is simply that Muppets musicians have traditionally struggled to suit the genre-mandatory earnest romance track right into a Muppet film. The examples vary from the forgettable (“He’ll Make Me Joyful,” The Muppets Take Manhattan) to the cloyingly saccharine and not likely supported by the plot (“Love Led Us Right here,” Muppet Treasure Island) to campy bombast (“By no means Earlier than, By no means Once more!,” The Muppet Film; “The First Time It Occurs,” The Nice Muppet Caper). I feel the nicest romance track in a Muppet film could be “Couldn’t We Journey” from The Nice Muppet Caper, and it’s actually just a bit ditty about how good it’s to trip a motorbike together with your sweetie within the park, in addition to an advanced feat of puppeteering pulled off with chic ease.
Tasha: Yeah, I’m certain not going to attempt to struggle you on Muppet love songs normally. I’m completely on board with the take that the Muppets are at their greatest after they’re wholly honest, and my favourite Muppets songs are usually the form of achy melancholy songs Williams writes, together with those I discussed above and “When the River Meets the Sea,” a candy vacation track about demise.
However one way or the other that sincerity simply by no means actually interprets into good Muppet songs about romantic love. Muppets can love rainbows, artwork, nonsense, their very own wistful fantasies of belonging someplace, or (I’ll say it once more) the candy embrace of demise, however after they attempt to love one another, the alchemy doesn’t work, and it simply falls flat. It’s in all probability a superb factor that Gonzo and Rizzo don’t attempt to become involved in “When Love Is Gone.” For me, a minimum of, it’s a flawed however charming quantity that makes some essential character factors for the film. It’s no love track for the ages. However within the methods it does work, it in all probability works greatest as a result of it units the Muppets apart for a second and appeals on to the viewers’s humanity.