The "true" version of The Muppet Christmas Carol is coming to Disney Plus

Michael Caine in Muppets Christmas Carol
(Image credit: Disney)

Read any ranking of the best Christmas movies and The Muppet Christmas Carol consistently places in the top five. But even the most ardent fans of Michael Caine’s Ebenezer Scrooge and Kermit the Frog’s Bob Cratchit may not know that they’ve never seen the complete movie that director Brian Henson intended audiences to enjoy.

What was released to cinemas in 1992 was missing the Paul Williams-penned song 'When Love Is Gone', which was sung to young Scrooge by his neglected love Belle (Meredith Braun). It was a true three-hanky moment which signified Scrooge closing his heart to love and embracing his miserly ways. But in celebration of The Muppet Christmas Carol’s 30th anniversary, Henson and some determined archivists have achieved a Christmas miracle by restoring the song to a new cut of the film, available from December 9 on Disney Plus.

At the recent D23Expo, Henson revisited the long-told lore of how it came about that former Chairman of Walt Disney Studios Jeffrey Katzenberg made them excise the song. Back in 1992, they screened the film for an audience of families in England. Everyone in the production was nervous.

"It was a little scary because it’s not a laugh-out-loud movie," Henson remembered, as reported in the new issue of SFX magazine, featuring Violent Night on the cover. "The Muppets had always had laugh-out-loud movies. But Muppet Treasure Island is also not a laugh-out-loud movie and yet people afterwards will say it’s one of the funniest movies they’ve ever seen. So we watched the movie and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was always very supportive yet very strict to work with, said, 'Not a lot of laughs in there, Brian.'"

Luckily, the audience scorecards gave The Muppet Christmas Carol a stellar 94 out of 100. However, Katzenberg still had some input. "Jeff said, ‘You have a super-solid movie. But I saw four kids leave to go to the bathroom during ‘When Love Is Gone.'" 

Because of that observation, Katzenberg wanted to remove the song. Henson tried to argue its value, but because the film ended up costing more than initially budgeted, didn’t feel he had much leverage. However, he did ask if once the movie transitioned to home video, it could be restored. The compromise was agreed upon... but then the restored version went missing.

When the film was due for a high-definition remaster, Henson went back to find it, but it was nowhere to be found. “Disney post-production couldn’t believe it,” Henson remembered. "They said, ‘Brian, it’s got to be here. Nothing can leave the Technicolor lab.”

A two-year search ensued, but to no avail – until they went back to the 1991 production negatives. "What we did was we found that reel with the song back in, so it’s just as good as the negative really," Henson said. "Now the film has been put back together and it’s so beautiful to hear what Paul did. It’s just a wonderful balance that’s so achingly beautiful."

That's just a small part of the Christmassy goodness in the Violent Night issue of SFX Magazine, available on now! For even more from SFX, sign up to the newsletter, sending all the latest exclusives straight to your inbox.

Freelance Writer

Tara is the NYT bestselling author (or co-author) of 30 movie and TV companion books including the upcoming official history of Marvel Studios. She's also a freelance journalist with bylines at print and online publications such as: SCI FI Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire,, Fandom, Fandango/, Fancast, Newsarama, Star Wars: Insider, Walking Dead Magazine, Star Trek Magazine, LOST: The Official Magazine, Alias Magazine, 24 Magazine, and She is also the U.S. Editor for the world’s premiere sci-fi/fantasy publication, SFX Magazine. She is the host and producer for SYFY Wire’s official podcasts for USA Network’s, Colony, HISTORY's Project Blue Book official podcast, and the Lost retrospective, Through the Looking Glass co-hosted with Maureen Ryan.