142 in x of animated feature film history
Release: Jul. 17th, 1968
Country: United Kingdom
Director: George Dunning
“Yellow Submarine is a 1968 British film inspired by the band The Beatles and their song ‘Yellow Submarine.’
Pepperland is a cheerful, music-loving paradise under the sea, protected by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The titular Yellow Submarine rests on an Aztec-like pyramid on a hill. At the edge of the land is a range of high blue mountains. The land falls under a surprise attack from the music-hating Blue Meanies, who live in or beyond the blue mountains. The attack starts with magical projectiles fired from big artillery stationed in the blue mountains. The Blue Meanies seal the band inside a music-proof blue glass globe, they render the Pepperlanders immobile as statues by shooting arrows and dropping giant green apples upon them (a reference to the Apple Records music label), and drain the countryside of color. In the last minute before his capture, Pepperland’s elderly Lord Mayor sends Old Fred, an aging sailor, to get help; he runs to the Yellow Submarine and takes off in it. Old Fred travels to Liverpool, where he finds Ringo and persuades him to return to Pepperland with him. Ringo collects his ‘mates’ John, George, and finally Paul. The five journey back to Pepperland in the yellow submarine.
The film features 12 of the Beatles’ songs: ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘All Together Now’, ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, ‘Only a Northern Song’, ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘All You Need is Love’, ‘Hey Bulldog’, ‘It’s All Too Much’, and ‘All Together Now.’
The Beatles were not enthusiastic about participating in a new motion picture, having been dissatisfied with their second feature film, Help! (1965), directed by Richard Lester. They saw an animated film as a favorable way to complete their commitment to United Artists for a third film, however. George Dunning, who also worked on the Beatles cartoon series, was the overall director for the film, supervising over 200 artists for 11 months. The film’s surreal visual style, created by creative director Heinz Edelmann, contrasts greatly with the efforts of Disney Feature Animation and other animated films previously released by Hollywood up until the time.
The Beatles’ animated personas were based on their appearance in the promotional film for the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, with the exception of Paul being without his moustache.
Initial press reports stated that the Beatles themselves would provide their own character voices; however, aside from composing and performing the songs, the real Beatles participated only in the closing scene of the film, while their cartoon counterparts were voiced by other actors.
The film received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike, in contrary to some of the Beatles’ previous film ventures. Time commented that it ‘turned into a smash hit, delighting adolescents and aesthetes alike.’
In The Beatles Anthology, released in the mid-1990s, the three surviving Beatles all admitted that they truly liked the film; regarding their initial non-participation, Harrison, who considered it a ‘classic’, later admitted that he preferred that the group did not provide their own voices, feeling that the professional voice actors captured a certain ‘cartoonish’ element far more effectively than they might have done themselves. Starr also revealed that for years he was approached by children and asked ‘Why did you press the button?’, referring to when his character curiously pressed the panic button ejecting him from the submarine into the sea of monsters. Lennon also implied that his son, Sean, first realized his father had been a Beatle because of the film. After seeing Yellow Submarine at a friend’s house at the end of the 1970s, Sean came home asking why his father was a cartoon. Harrison’s son Dhani also claims that he had no idea about his father’s past life until watching this film. As Dhani said: ‘I came home and I freaked out on my dad: ‘Why didn’t you tell me you were in The Beatles?’ And he said, 'Oh, sorry. Probably should have told you that.’”
FIRST POSTED: 7/23/17