On Christmas Day in 1997, our kids were given a video copy of The Muppet Christmas Carol, and it has been part of our festive season ever since. You could say it’s as much a part of our Christmas as the turkey and presents, and is one of those family rituals faithfully observed every year. Our kids have grown up with it. In the first months we owned it, they watched it relentlessly, as children do, and before the next Christmas rolled around, they knew every word of every song, and pretty much every line of dialogue as well.
Last Christmas, it was apparent that our original video copy was much bashed, loved to death and barely playable, so we replaced it with a DVD copy in the summer, put it on the shelf and waited for Christmas Eve. Fifteen years down the line, Christmas Eve 2012, we took down our shiny new DVD, opened a bottle of wine and sat back to indulge.
All was going well until the moment where Michael Caine’s Scrooge is taken in hand by The Ghost of Christmas Past, and forced to revisit the moment where his sweetheart of several years makes the painful but eminently sensible decision to dump him because it’s obvious he loves money more than her. At this juncture, there is a terribly affecting song, When Love is Gone, which she sings to young Scrooge while his crusty present-day self stands behind her weeping.
The problem was that on the new DVD we had purchased, not only had the love gone – the song had gone as well! We were incensed! A major edit had been arbitrarily carried out without any indication on the DVD cover that we would be purchasing an incomplete product. As well as being robbed of four minutes of screen time, the film suffers – we spent the next fifteen minutes feeling as if we had fallen up a step. The song is an important step on Scrooge’s character arc, and cutting it out means that his subsequent dialogue with the GCP, spoken while he is weeping – which he wasn’t before the song, which isn’t there anymore, had started – doesn’t make much sense.
So I am curious to know why the cut was made, and if Disney in its wisdom has since thought better of its decision and issued another version with the song restored. I notice that a lot of other people have complained about this edit next to the clip featuring the song on You Tube.
It is also an interesting departure from the current Disney trend, which is to salvage duff songs from the cutting room floor, splice them into what was a perfectly good film in the first place, and then have the cheek to release an inferior product as a Special Edition. Beauty and the Beast is not improved by either the positioning or content of Human Again – the work of the song has already been done by the characters, and it interrupts the dramatic momentum of the plot.
In the same way that Special Edition covers boast new material, it might have been appropriate for The Muppet Christmas Carol DVD edition to carry a banner stating, “Not the original cinematic release – major song cut from running time.” I don’t suppose it would stimulate sales, and nor would “Bad song spliced in to increase running time and give us an excuse to hike our price” do anything for the numbers attached to Beauty and the Beast.
Ah well, I’ve had my rant. Before next Christmas, we will be attempting to find a copy of The Muppet Christmas Carol which is intact. I may be gone for some time ….