D23 Expo 2022: Magic in the Air: 30 Years of “The Muppet Christmas Carol”


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Hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s Nina West, this presentation celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Muppet Christmas Carol was one of the fan favorites of the entire Expo.  The panel of artists present included Brian Henson, the director, Polly Smith, the costume designer, Paul Williams, songwriter, and Dave Goelz, puppeteer for Gonzo and many others in the Muppet pantheon.



  • The idea for The Muppet Christmas Carol actually came from Henson’s agent Bill Haber, founder of CAA.
  • It was initially developed as a TV movie for ABC, but Jeffrey Katzenberg read it and stole it from them to remake it into a feature film for Disney.
  • The film is often voted (particularly in Great Britain) as one of the most faithful of the Christmas Carol adaptations, partly because of their decision to include Gonzo as Dickens, which opened the door to including a lot of the book’s prose.
  • When Williams got the call from Henson to do the songs, he immediately felt a parallel between the redemptive story of Scrooge, who was addicted to greed, and his own struggle at that time to quit alcohol.  “Talk about timing.  This guy has gone through in literature 100 years or whatever, what I’m going through this month!”
  • One source of discontent with the film had always been the loss of the ballad “When Love Is Gone” (sung by Belle, Scrooge’s fiancee, at the point of dissolving their engagement.)  Henson revealed that Katzenberg requested it be removed because during a test screening, he saw four children leave for the bathroom and decided it didn’t play well to them.  After a long discussion, Henson agreed that it could be removed from the initial theatrical release, if it was re-inserted into every version afterwards, such as home video, etc.
  • When it came to replace the song, however, it was discovered that the negative for the footage had inexplicably been lost and despite searching for it for over two years, it was never found.
  • What has been found, however, is a copy very close to the negative which has been used to put the scene back together, and on December 11th, under the “Added Extras” section, viewers can watch the Full Length version streaming on Disney+.
  • As a special treat, Disney legend Jodi Benson made an appearance to sing “When Love Is Gone” for the occasion.

  • The entire film was shot indoors on a stage so that they could use forced perspective to make all the streets seem longer…which was a relief to Henson who had not had much prior experience filming on location.
  • Henson on discussing Scrooge with Michael Caine:  “He said ‘I think the only way I can play this, is if I never react to anything with the Muppets as is there if anything out of the usual.  I’m gonna play it like I’m playing opposite the Royal Shakespeare Company.'”
  • Goelz on his thoughts about the film:  “Like Brian said, none of us knew if we could do this without Jim. But luckily, most of the team, like Jerry Juhl, had a huge part of this and we were able to carry on and do a wonderful, wonderful, heartfelt story that really celebrated the spirit of giving that was characteristic of Jim. We all knew him as a really incredibly generous person.  Kind, high-spirited…The way we wanted the world to be.  So in a way, for me anyway, this was making a movie about the way we want the world to be.”