I know that I already opened the door by stating that my psyche was formed by Sid and Marty Krofft, but there’s more. As a child, my local UHF channel regularly showed the Beatles animated movie Yellow Submarine, a film that I never missed. My parents were pretty hip and owned many of the Beatles albums on vinyl, but this was probably my in-road to their music. Put this together with my love of the early 1960’s psychedelic Dr Who, Philip K Dick, garage rock and Gerry Anderson productions and you may think that I’m far more interesting than I really am.
Rumor has it that the Beatles had no interest in a cartoon film and only became invested after seeing the script. Appearing only briefly in the final product, their contribution was minimal, but it is widely accepted that the screenwriters and animators had a perfect grasp of the Lennon/McCartney/Starr/Harrison material. It is a celebration of their music and embodies the thoughts and feelings that were so unique to the Beatles. It also premiered several of my favorite Beatles songs such as ‘Hey Bulldog.’
Directed by innovative animator George Dunning, the movie uses a stunning color pallet and features designs that would later appear in the pop art of Peter Max, Yellow Submarine remains one of the most important pieces of animation and entertainment in general. The script may be corny at times, but it is also timeless and shows insight into what would become the future of pop culture.
When the film was screened in 1968, it stood out as the first serious animated film since Disney’s Fantasia. It also contains a narrative format that would fit in with not just children’s literature but comic books as well. Liverpool is presented as a bleak colorless landscape and the various seas that the Yellow Submarine takes the characters through are wild and uninhibited by rules. The laws of physics change gleefully according to their location as does the nature of the inhabitants that they encounter. Only the Blue Meanies seem to stand in the way of happiness, and of course their chief weapons of apples and a weird massive blue glove.
The film’s new version is apparently a fancy 4k digital restoration, conducted by a team at Triage Motion Picture Services and Eque Inc. Instead of relying on automated software, the “delicate nature” of the touch-ups meant specialists had to clean the movie frame by frame. The Blu-ray package also includes the original theatrical trailer, interviews, stickers, pencil sketches, and Mod Odyssey, a behind-the-scenes film. Pixar founder John Lasseter has written an accompanying 16-page essay.
Ahead of Yellow Submarine’s CD and DVD release, Candlewick Press will publish a book of the screenplay on 24 April, the tome showcasing “the light-hearted wit of the film’s script alongside original artwork from the movie”. A digital version of the book is already available.
On May 29th, a restored version of the Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’ will be released on Blu-ray, each frame hand-cleaned by Apple Corp. The soundtrack will also be re-issued to coincide with the release.
(Thankfully, a 3-D CGi remake has been shelved, so there’s another reason to be happy.)