One highlight of the 2022 D23 Expo was “Magic in the Air: 30 Years of The Muppet Christmas Carol.” In this post, we’ll share photos from the panel, news about the full version of the film including “When Love is Gone,” and more.
The panel was moderated by Nina West, who was joined by director Brian Henson, core Muppet performer Dave Goelz (who plays Gonzo/Charles Dickens), Oscar-winning songwriter Paul Williams, and costume designer for the film Polly Smith. It was a distinctly festive presentation–a salute to all holiday films, but mostly Muppet Christmas Carol.
Let’s not bury the lede: the big news out of the Muppet Christmas Carol 30th Anniversary panel is that the full version of the film including “When Love is Gone” will be available on Disney+ starting December 11, 2022. Brian Henson revealed this news on stage, suggesting that the this version of Muppet Christmas Carol would be available under extras as an extended version.
Brian Henson also shared the story of how “When Love is Gone” was cut from the film in the first place. He explained that Jeffrey Katzenberg was the one who had the scene cut, saying it was too emotional and adult for little kids to stay connected to the film. Katzenberg had indicated that, despite strong audience scores in screenings, he had seen kids disengaged during the song and wanted it removed for the theatrical run.
According to Henson, the two agreed that the song could be removed for the theatrical run but would be immediately restored thereafter for every home release. Henson was okay with this arrangement because Katzenberg had been a strong advocate for the film and since most people would see the movie at home anyway.
Henson said that when they cut the film, they first made a version for home video using the prevailing standards for British television at the time. After that, they removed “When Love is Gone” and made the theatrical version from that. Unfortunately, as the high definition era started, there was not 1080 (or higher) cut of the film. Disney wanted a high def version, so they went back to make a new cut.
According to Henson, Disney could not track down the “When Love is Gone” footage. He said that he was given multiple reassurances that it wasn’t lost–that where the footage was stored was a high-security Technicolor facility and it had to be somewhere. He gave Disney credit, saying they had two people tasked with finding the footage–but they never had any luck for years and years.
Henson continued, “almost two full years ago–and you’ll notice I’m emphasizing that–they told me they finally found it.” He continued to clarify that what they found wasn’t technically the original film negative, but a secondary reproduction of that. (I’m sorry, I don’t recall the precise term used.)
We reported on this almost two years ago when Henson shared on BBC Radio 2 that “When Love is Gone,” had been found by Disney and would soon be reinstated. At that time, Director Brian Henson had recently received a call from Disney telling him the film was being remastered in 4K and he was asked to approve the new version.
Upon reviewing the reels two years ago, Henson was surprised to see the original song restored: “I was like, ‘No, you did not!’ and they said, ‘Yes we did! We found it!’ I was so happy, I was so happy. They are all set with the full-length version again. I don’t know if they are going to get it up on Disney+ in time for Christmas…but it is coming back, the full-length version is coming back.”
As Henson reiterated during this panel, all of that was nearly two full years ago.
In case you missed the #1 title on our Best Disney Christmas Movies List or haven’t noticed this blog’s incessant hyping of all things Muppets at Walt Disney World, we’re huge fans. To my recollection, I’ve actually never seen the original cut of the movie–I cannot wait to see anew this Christmas classic that I’ve watched (literally) more than any other film. This is really great news!
The rest of the Muppet Christmas Carol 30th Anniversary panel was awesome. There were some really great anecdotes shared by Brian Henson, Dave Goelz, Polly Smith, and Paul Williams. I’d share some here, but Disney had a lot of cameras filming the presentation–suggesting it’ll (hopefully) be released online, or maybe even Disney+, soon. Anyway, I’ll leave you with some additional photos…
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What do you think of Disney+ restoring “When Love is Gone” for the 30th Anniversary of Muppet Christmas Carol? Will you be watching the extended edition or the theatrical cut this Christmas? Agree or disagree that Muppet Christmas Carol is one of the best holiday films of all time? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!