A deleted scene refers to footage that has been removed from the final version of a film or television show. (It is occasionally referred to as a "cut scene", however the different usage of this phrase in reference to video games makes this term uncommon in this context.) A related term is "extended scene", which refers to the longer version of a scene which was shortened for the final version of the film. Often extended scenes will be included in collections of deleted scenes, or also referred to as deleted scenes themselves, as is the case with for instance, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Serenity.
Reasons for removal of a scene
Scenes are removed from films for a variety of reasons, including:
Requests that it be altered
The studio or network that is providing funding/support for, owns the rights to, or plans to air or distribute the film(s) (usually the prior two) may be uncomfortable with a certain scene, and ask that it be altered or else removed or replaced entirely.
This kind of situation is most common in the production of television series, since networks and channels often have to be mindful of how the viewers, critics, and/or censors will react to programming, and may fear losing ratings, incurring fines, or having trouble finding advertisers.
- The 2002 Fox series Firefly's original pilot episode ("Serenity", parts 1 & 2) had such a change made, with the original, less action-packed scene being replaced in the final cut of the episode but featuring on the later DVD box set release of the series as one of several bonus features.
- A scene in the pilot of 24 involved the destruction of a 747 airplane. Aired just a few months after the events of 9/11, the producers made some creative edits to cut out shots of the plane visibly exploding.
Concerns about running time can also be cause for removal or shortening of scenes.
In feature films, sometimes scenes are cut to keep the length of the film's theatrical cut shorter. This has apparently happened with most of the Harry Potter feature films, including an arguably important transitional/plot-related scene in the second film (involving Harry's overhearing of the conversation in the shop in Knockturn Alley), which was not in the theatrical cut but was released on the 2-disc DVD along with several other deleted scenes.
In the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the scene showing John Connor reprogramming the Terminator was shortened by deleting dialogue which made other scenes necessary, and these scenes were left out of the theatrical release version (but restored on the special edition VHS). Also, a scene where the T-1000 kills the family dog was deleted. In interviews, both Schwarzenegger and Cameron stress this was done to shorten the film (the theatrical version still ran 2 and 1/2 hours, even without these scenes), but these scenes were not restored for the DVD set released in 2003.
In the movie Thirteen Ghosts, there was a scene where Kathy and Bobby were in the trap room, where they were summoned for the Eye of Hell, in which they were having a conversation about not liking the house, and talking about one of the ghosts being their deceased mother. This scene was included on the DVD release.
In television serials, however, running time becomes an even greater concern, due to the strict timeslot limitations, especially on channels which are ad-supported, where there can only be approximately 20 minutes of actual show per half-hour timeslot (depending on the station and the particular format of the show, this may/may not include opening credits; closing credits may/may not count towards running time, either, in some cases, because many ad-supported stations now "squish" the closing credits or force them into a split-screen in order to show more advertising), and the majority of shows are in either a half-hour or one-hour timeslot. This somewhat forces producers of television serials to both break up the acts in a manner that will (hopefully) make the viewer want to continue watching after the ad-break, and to not go over the stricter running time limits.
One TV serial that has had to make such changes is Firefly, which had to remove a lengthy scene from the episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds" due to time constraints; this scene was also included on the series' DVD collection as an extra.
A few Jim Henson specials deleted all scenes featuring Kermit, like in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and The Christmas Toy (both post-2004 releases). The TV versions and pre-2004 video releases have all Kermit scenes intact.
In the 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron scenes showing the development of Ultron were cut out, to make the film shorter, even though the film still ran for two-and-a-half hours. However, director Joss Whedon said that these scenes will be included in the Blu-Ray.
In the film Windtalkers, the assault scene in Saipan was cut, removing some gory scenes. And at another scene, as Yahzee was wearing a Japanese soldier's uniform, the corpse was seen only wearing underwear, while at the edited scene, the corpse was not seen.
Disruption of narrative flow
Though the quality of initial vs. the final cut of a film is of course subjective, a certain scene or version of a scene in the film is sometimes perceived to have an adverse effect on the film as a whole, serving only to slow the film down, to provide unnecessary details or exposition, or to even over-explain points that might be better left either unsaid or more subtly handled. It is common to remove such scenes at the editing level, though they occasionally are released on the home video release as a bonus feature.
There are at least a few examples of this, including a number of the deleted scenes on the DVD release of the sequel film Serenity (in fact, the audio commentary on the DVD's deleted scenes collection quite often makes mention of the plot or tension being disrupted or slowed by the inclusion of a scene and/or expositional overkill being the main reason for the scene in question's non-inclusion in the final theatrical cut). Another well known example is the cocoon sequence in the film Alien. The scene added a lot of information about fate of several crew members, as well as new information on the life cycle of the creature, but was ultimately deleted because it was thought to slow down and disrupt the tension of the last part of the film.
Deleted or extended scenes can come in any of several different formats. They may or may not feature finished special effects (especially in science fiction and fantasy films, where visual effects are more expensive), and the film quality may or may not be the same as in the rest of the film, though in some cases this may depend only on how much post-production editing was done.
Additionally, animated films' deleted scenes might not be in the form of a fully animated scene, but rather included in the form of an animatic or a blooper form, as is the case with the deleted scenes on the DVD release of Pixar's Toy Story and Finding Nemo.
YTVs ZAPX on occasion makes "deleted scenes" that are not genuine deleted scenes, but rather random scenes of the movie with footage of the host of ZAPX, Simon, inserted into the clip, for this purpose.
- Joss Whedon, audio commentary in Firefly, The Complete Series (DVD box set), 21st Century Fox, 2003
- Sangster, Jim (2002). 24: The Unofficial Guide. London, England: Contender Books. p. 34. ISBN 1-84357-034-3.
- Finding Nemo, DVD, Pixar, 2003
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, DVD, Touchstone Pictures, 2005