The Muppet Christmas Carol – ‘Tis the Season Cinema

I have a confession to make. The biggest reason that I decided to tag along with Lisa at Boondock Ramblings and Erin at Cracker Crumb Life with their Christmas movie watching (‘Tis the Season Cinema) was because this movie was on the list. Not only is it my favorite Christmas movie of all-time, it’s probably in the top five of my favorite movies ever. That being said, I’ve been having a lot of fun with this anyway!

Movie still/promo shot – (not my work)

It all started in the Christmas season of 1993. I was a young teenager, but old enough that my mom let me walk around Wal-Mart myself. As I was wont to do, I usually ended up in the electronics section. In the days before all the super-sized Wal-Marts, this section usually tended to be near the center of the store, and had its own “choke point” entrance. Almost inevitably, smack dab in the center of the intersection of the aisle running along the entrance to the section and the aisle leading out of the choke point, there would be a television display, and usually there would be some sort of family friendly movie that had recently come out running off of a hidden VCR to multiple televisions on the display. Wal-Mart wasn’t just trying to sell the televisions, but also get people to buy whatever the newest VHS release was. After all, this was just before DVDs were out, and at a time where pretty much everyone I knew had a sizable VHS collection, but for families with kids, it seemed almost more so. Included seemed to always be a good number of Disney tapes in their familiar, oversized containers.

On this fateful day, the movie playing happened to be “A Muppet Christmas Carol”.

I think I walked up just as the song “Bless Us All” was playing, and by the end of the song, I wanted to get the movie. After all, who can resist tiny, singing frogs. I asked my mom if we could get it, and although neither of us had even known that “A Muppet Christmas Carol” existed before that day, she bought it for me, and I have been in love with it ever since.

Seriously, why doesn’t this song get played in the month and a half of Christmas music on the radio? Maybe it needs to get inserted in a couple of more films, like “White Christmas”! 😉

I liked the novel “A Christmas Carol”, which I know we read in school when I was in 7th or 8th grade, but it may have been the second reading of it for me. Charles Dickens wrote a lot, but this may be his most influential – after all, 175 years after Dickens wrote this book, the term “Scrooge” has become part of the English language. (Dickens had a thing with names, and John Granger picks up on this in praise of J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series. Names and their sounds are important to characters, and when C.S. Lewis started The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with ‘There was once a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it,’ native English speakers are instinctually repulsed a little by it, just like they would have been with a name like “Ebenezer Scrooge”.) T

Things I love about this movie:

  • This is amazingly faithful to the book considering that it’s a children’s movie. As a kid, the popular “children’s” version of A Christmas Carol was Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which I remember as being awful.
  • I love the way how they keep a lot of Dickens’ prose intact, but they say it in such a way that it may sound a little old-fashioned, but not crazy weird. It reminds me of the HBO miniseries “Chernobyl” and how they got all the characters comfortable with the Russian names so that when they were talking about “Comrade Nemobezskovskaya” (made up name) it just rolled off the tongue.
  • The costumes are fantastic. I don’t know if they strictly stick to a period, but the styles of clothes and hair seem to all go together, at least, and with the flashbacks, it actually seems like they changed the period of this as well.
  • It’s funny. You can argue with Gonzo as Charles Dickens, but it’s the first of the humor and absurdity in the movie, and I think this is a failing of most retellings of A Christmas Carol in general – they just take themselves too seriously. The semi-opaque “fourth wall” is done in a really amusing way as well. There’s plenty of inserted humor, which I think works, mostly as it is between Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, but because the characters are talking to each other
  • The music is fantastic. Besides just being good, I enjoy a lot of the little details, like using all the brass to give the film a little bit of a “regal” feel.
  • The continuity between the human and Muppet actors is great.
  • Contrary to a lot of the retellings of this story, it’s cheerful. The sets are bright and interesting. There’s not a whitewashing that some people were living in terrible conditions at this point in history, but there’s a sense of joy throughout the entire movie, and in the end, with Scrooge’s redemption, he’s now able to join in and be part of that. I would have to say that the 1999 version of A Christmas Carol (starring Patrick Stewart) is probably the version that I’ve seen that is a) most faithful to the book and b) faithful to all sorts of little details of time and place. It’s a very good version, but it’s depressing in all the dreariness. I mean, when they talk about Tiny Tim not dying as a child, that should be a cause for rejoicing, rather than leaving somebody wondering who would actually want to live in that time and place.
  • Balance and range in the personalities of the characters. Michael Caine manages to pull off the “bad” Scrooge and the redeemed Scrooge; Kermit as Bob Crachit pulls off quiet and meek without being a pushover, etc.
  • They did not excise the Christian parts of it. Very similarly to the spirit of the book, it’s very much a Christian story, but it’s not pushy or contrived and doesn’t proselytize.
  • I could probably spend all night with this list. 🙂

I originally bought the DVD when I was living in Germany. I had purchased a laptop with a DVD player in late 2002, and this was one of the first movies I bought. I was so appalled with what they did with this DVD release that I actually contacted Disney Germany to complain. (I actually got a response back, basically telling me to take it up with Disney in the US!)

Muppet Christmas Carol Muppet Weihnachtsgeschichte DVD

First of all, with that first release, they didn’t offer it in widescreen at all, even though it had been filmed in widescreen, and there had been a home release of the entire movie in widescreen on Laserdisc. The DVD was inferior to this release on that count, but even more disturbing than that, they cut the song “When Love is Gone” as sung by Meredith Braun, who played Belle.

What I didn’t understand was that the VHS and Laserdisc versions of The Muppet Christmas Carol was technically the “extended version”. At the scene where Belle releases Ebenezer from their engagement, Belle breaks into song. The song, “When Love is Gone”, not only is powerful, but structurally serves as the end of ‘Act I’ in a musical.

Now, this was the first movie that Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson, directed. This was before the Muppets were purchased by Disney, and I believe this was their first collaboration. Jeffrey Katzenberg was in charge of Disney, and, if I remember correctly, he absolutely hated the song “When Love is Gone”, and believed, in general, that kids’ movies shouldn’t have slow ballads in them. Apparently, he also wanted to cut “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, but it stayed. When the focus group results came back and showed that kids didn’t really like the emotionally difficult scene, Katzenberg had “proof” that it didn’t belong.

Henson has claimed that he wasn’t forced to cut it, but he and Paul Williams, who wrote the score for the movie, were big fans of the number, which is probably why it ended up in those 90s home releases. His opinion was that it’s not necessarily bad for kids to be a little uncomfortable. I side with Henson on this one.

One would think, then, that it would stay for the DVD releases, but it didn’t. Over the years, review after review on Amazon and other places had people complain about the song being cut. I am sure more people saw “A Muppet Christmas Carol” on VHS than in the movie theater, so for people who remember the movie from the 90s, that song was just part of the movie, and makes the movie complete.

Again, a variation of the song is used as the ending reprise, and they had a version sung by Martina McBride to play over the end credits and for radio release.

There was some sort of deluxe edition DVD (which I bought for a dear friend) that came out circa 2005 that had the song with the full-screen version, but not the widescreen edition. I bought a widescreen edition a few years later where the same thing was true, and it seemed completely bizarre. It seems as though while Henson and tons of fans were getting their point across, the original film was lost somewhere in Disney’s archive. Henson says that for a long time, he’d call and ask if anyone had found it, and the answer was always “no”. Apparently, he even put some money into hiring people to look, or he was going to, but that went nowhere as well. Disney didn’t think that it would be lost forever, but Henson seemed doubtful, and without that film, transferring it to a widescreen digital edition with that song would be almost impossible.

In late 2020, Brian Henson informed fans that the original film had been found, and that this meant that there was a possibility, again, to do a “restored” widescreen edition. Disney+ will be broadcasting this edition starting December 11.

I have soured a lot on Disney since the 1990s, and even the restored version is not enough to get me to subscribe. If it comes out as a DVD or Blu-Ray version, I probably will buy it, though. Before I found out about the new release (last week) I finally found a decently-priced Laserdisc copy on Ebay. I have never had a Laserdisc player, but … I love this movie. I think it’s the only movie I’ve purchased multiple times for myself, and I even have two different editions of the soundtrack. (I thought I had lost the first one, but it turned up after a couple of years – doubled up in the case of a different CD, if I recall correctly, after I had purchased the soundtrack re-release.)

I was afraid, last night, that the only version I could find was the “bad” release from 2003 or so. Luckily, I found the widescreen disc from the second time I got the DVD with a couple of other discs that were sitting on the shelf without cases (thanks kids!) What I ended up doing was watching the movie on the TV with the DVD player until the scene with Belle, pausing the movie, watching the song (in widescreen) on Youtube on my laptop, and then going back to the DVD on the TV once it was done. It was kind of awkward, but it worked after a fashion.

Yesterday ended up being quite a crazy day – I knew it was going to be busy, but it seemed like with everything, there was some sort of snag or complication, so although I started on this pretty early, by 11pm the top priority was getting kids in bed since it was WAY past when they should have been asleep. I haven’t read the other reviews, but if you’re interested to read, Lisa’s review is here: and Erin’s is here: I think I saw mentioned earlier that this is one of Erin’s favorite movies as well, so I can’t wait to read what she has to write!

dore canto 31 white rose

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12 thoughts on “The Muppet Christmas Carol – ‘Tis the Season Cinema

  1. This is a spectacular write up! I thoroughly enjoyed every word.
    I also watched this movie first on VHS as a teenager! It was the very first Christmas movie my boyfriend at the time, now husband, and I ever watched together. We were just commenting the other night how the song “When Love is Gone” has been cut and we found it so weird. And I agree, kids can be uncomfortable sometimes. 🙂
    I am so glad that you are joining in! And yes, this is one of my very favorite movies!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just realized I didn’t embed “When Love is Gone” in the post, so I just did that. Meredith Braun wasn’t even 20 when the movie was made. It must have been really hard to see your “big movie break” get cut with theatrical release. However, it seems like she doesn’t have hard feelings, and I’m sure the support of fans of the “extended version” being vocal about how important THAT SCENE is to the movie for years and years is something she couldn’t imagine as a teenager. It also seems like she’s on good terms with Paul Williams, and she re-released the song on a solo album of hers a couple of years ago.

      I really enjoyed reading your write-up too! 🙂 This has been a lot of fun! (And now back to dishes while my littlest is still sleeping!)


  2. Oh wow! This was a great post. I had a crazy busy day so finally got a chance to sit down at 10 p.m. and read it. There was so much information in it and that song that was cut! Wow! The way Michael Caine was actively sobbing. It broke my heart! I want to make sure I link to your post again in my Sunday post so everyone can read all this fascinating trivia. Thanks for linking up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Two of my kids had birthdays this week, so even with no parties scheduled, it was kind of nuts. And yesterday… the whole day was just a little off… I meant to do errands with youngest daughter (age 2) in tow, but wasn’t planning to do them until late morning… Middle daughter (5) got in the car in the morning rush to school without a coat – with the thermometer reading 21F. Of course, I didn’t notice until she’s getting out of the car at school. Their school believes in getting them outside whenever possible, which is great, even if we’re in Wisconsin, but their first recess was at 10:10am, and trying to get everything for the errands and youngest daughter back in the car in less than an hour just seemed to be the beginning of a very long day. Who knew I’m capable of misplacing my Costco card 4 times in one morning! Pure talent, I tell you! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! That part with the Costco card totally sounds like me actually! And ugh that temp! We aren’t that low yet but today it was 34 all day and it was very depressing to me. I wasn’t ready for winter temps.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It ended up getting up to the mid 40s by the afternoon, so not bad considering it’s December. No snow on the ground, and one of the neighbors was actually mowing his grass this afternoon.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Erin and Lisa’s posts are interesting to read too. Erin has loved the movie for a long time, and Lisa just saw it for the first time, and there’s conversation about the movie attached to both posts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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