Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yellow Submarine

Yellow Submarine is a 1968 animated feature film based on the music of The Beatles. It is also the title for the soundtrack album to the feature film, released as part of the Beatles' music catalogue. The film was directed by animation producer George Dunning, and produced by United Artists (UA) and King Features Syndicate. The real Beatles participated only in the closing scene of the film, with the fictional counterparts of the Beatles voiced by other actors.

Plot summary

At the beginning of the story, Pepperland is introduced by a narrator as a cheerful music-loving paradise under the sea, protected by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which falls under a surprise attack by the music-hating Blue Meanies, who seal the band inside a music-proof bubble, turn the Pepperlanders into statues, and drain the countryside of colour.

In the last minute before his own capture, Pepperland's elderly Lord Mayor sends Old Fred, a sailor, (whom the mayor calls "Young Fred") off in the Yellow Submarine to get help. Old Fred travels to Liverpool, where he follows the depressed and aimless 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, passing through several episodes:

* Sea of Time – where time flows both forwards and backwards to the tune of "When I'm Sixty-Four",
* Sea of Science – where they sing "Only a Northern Song",
* Sea of Monsters – where a monstrous "vacuum cleaner beast" sucks up the entire landscape and then itself, freeing them.
* Sea of Nothing – where they meet a rather helpful "nowhere man" named Jeremy Hilary Boob Ph.D, and sing the song "Nowhere Man" in reference to him. As they leave however Jeremy starts crying and Ringo takes pity on Jeremy and lets him join them aboard the submarine.
* Foothills of the Headlands (or Sea of Heads) – where they are separated from the submarine and John sings "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds",
* Finally, the Sea of Holes – where Jeremy is kidnapped by one of the Blue Meanies patrolling the outskirts of Pepperland. When Ringo jumps on to a green hole (which turns into the Sea of Green and is actually a hidden temporospatial portal), they arrive in Pepperland.

Reunited with Old Fred and the submarine, they imitate Sgt. Pepper's band, and "rally the land to rebellion". Jeremy is rescued, colour and flowers rebloom, the original Sgt. Pepper's band is released (thanks to a hole carried in Ringo's pocket from the Sea of Holes), and Pepperland is restored. The Blue Meanies are forced to retreat, but John extends an offer of friendship, and the Chief Blue Meanie has a change of heart (partly due to some "transformation magic" performed by Jeremy), and accepts. An enormous party ensues, with everyone living happily ever after.

At the end, the real Beatles, having returned home, playfully show off their souvenirs, whereof George has the submarine's motor, Paul has "a little LOVE", and Ringo still has half a hole in his pocket (having supposedly given the other half to Jeremy). John sees "newer and bluer Meanies being sighted within the vicinity of this theater" and announces that there is only one way to go out: "Singing!". The quartet obliges with a reprise of "All Together Now" which ends with various translations of the song's title appearing in sequence on the screen.


Released in the midst of the psychedelic pop culture of the 1960s, the movie Yellow Submarine was a box-office hit, drawing in crowds both for its lush, wildly creative images, and its soundtrack of Beatles songs. The original story was written by Lee Minoff, based on the song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and the screenplay penned by four collaborators including Erich Segal. The recurring line "It's all in the mind" is taken from The Goon Show.

As with many motion picture musicals, the music takes precedence over the actual plot, and most of the story is a series of set-pieces designed to present Beatles music set to various images, in a form reminiscent of Walt Disney's Fantasia (and foreshadowing the rise of music videos and MTV fifteen years later). Nonetheless, the movie still presents a modern-day fairy tale that caters to the ideals of the "love generation".

The dialogue is littered with puns, double entendres, and Beatles in-jokes, many scripted by poet Roger McGough.

The imagery, character names, and vocalisations include numerous in-jokes, such as the character Max being blue and having a German accent, possibly being a reference to the 1966 movie "The Blue Max", who also refers to escaping to Argentina, as some Nazis had done.

In the DVD commentary track, production supervisor John Coates adds an additional perspective, stating that "blue" was a play on "Jew", not as a reflection of any anti-Semitism on the part of the filmmakers, but rather as a commentary on the stereotypical casting of Jews as villains. There is also a scene where a Blue Meanie questions some disguised Beatles, asking, "Are you Bluish? You don't look Bluish..." However, Millicent McMillan recalls that the Blue Meanies were originally supposed to be red, or even purple, but when Heinz Edelmann's assistant accidentally changed the colours, the film's characters took on a different meaning.

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. The film also includes several references to songs not included in the soundtrack, including "A Day in the Life" where the lyrics are referenced in the "Sea of Holes" scene, as well as the orchestral breaks earlier in the movie, also from "A Day in the Life".


National and foreign animators were assembled by TVC. Bob Balser and Jack Stokes were animation directors. Charlie Jenkins, one of the film's key creative directors, was responsible for the entire Eleanor Rigby sequence, as well as the submarine travel from Liverpool, through London, to splashdown. Jenkins also was responsible for "Only a Northern Song" in the Sea of Science, plus much of the multi-image sequences. Australian Anne Joliffe was a key animator. The background work was executed by artists under the direction of Alison De Vere and Millicent McMillan who were both Background Supervisors. Ted Lewis and Chris Miles were responsible for Animation Clean Up.

George Dunning, who also worked on the Beatles cartoon series, was the overall director for the film, supervising over 200 artists for 11 months. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was George Dunning's idea, which he turned over to Bill Sewell, who delivered more than thirty minutes of rotoscoped images. By that time, George Dunning was not available, and Bob Balser, with the help of Arne Gustafson, edited the material to its sequence length in the film.

The animation of Yellow Submarine has sometimes falsely been attributed to the famous psychedelic pop art artist of the era, Peter Max; but the film's art director was Heinz Edelmann. Edelmann, along with his contemporary Milton Glaser, pioneered the psychedelic style for which Max would later become famous, but according to Edelmann and producer Al Brodax, as quoted in the book Inside the Yellow Submarine by Hieronimus and Cortner, Max had nothing to do with the production of Yellow Submarine.

The movie's 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 film uses a style of limited animation. It also paved the way for Terry Gilliam's animations for Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python.


In addition to the existing title song "Yellow Submarine", five new songs were commissioned for the movie: "All Together Now", (a football-crowd favourite); "It's All Too Much", (a George Harrison composition); "Baby, You're a Rich Man" (the first song recorded specifically for this film, but which made its first appearance as the B-side to the "All You Need Is Love" single); "Only a Northern Song", a Harrison song originally recorded during sessions for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (the partial inspiration for this film); and "Hey Bulldog", a John Lennon piano romp echoing of "Lady Madonna", which was recorded at the same time (this song was originally included only in the European theatrical release, but restored for the U.S. theatrical reissue in 1999).

The film's instrumental music was an orchestral score composed and arranged by George Martin. One of the film's cues, heard after the main title credits, was originally recorded during sessions for "Good Night" (an album track for The Beatles, aka the "White Album") and would have been used as the introduction to Ringo's composition "Don't Pass Me By", also on the "White Album"; it was later released as "A Beginning" on the Anthology 3 album.

Beatles' participation

The Beatles were not enthusiastic about participating in a motion picture. They were displeased with their second feature film Help!, and were discouraged by the disastrous reception of their self-produced TV special Magical Mystery Tour. They did, however, see an animated film as a favourable way to complete their commitment to United Artists for a third film. (Ultimately, due to their relatively small roles and the fact it was animated, United Artists still considered them to owe another movie; Let It Be would be the third film to complete their contract with the studio.)

The Beatles were impressed after seeing a draft of the film, and agreed to make a live-action cameo appearance in the final scene, which was filmed in early February 1968 upon the band's return from India. The cameo was originally intended to feature a post-production psychedelic background and effects; but due to time and budget constraints, a blank, black background remained in the final film. While Starr and McCartney still looked the same as their animated counterparts, Lennon and Harrison's physical appearances had changed by the time the cameo was shot. Both were clean-shaven, and Lennon had begun to grow his hair longer with accompanying lamb chop sideburns.

In The Beatles Anthology video, the surviving Beatles (including Harrison) all admitted that they truly liked the film. Ringo 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, Sean came home asking why his father was a cartoon.


* John Clive – John (speaking voice)
* Geoffrey Hughes – Paul (speaking voice)
* Peter Batten – George (speaking voice) (Batten was arrested during voice recording because he had deserted the British army, so Paul Angelis finished recording his part.)
* Paul Angelis – Ringo (speaking voice), Chief Blue Meanie, George (speaking voice)
* Dick Emery – Lord Mayor, Nowhere Man (Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D), Max
* Lance Percival – Young/Old Fred (Lance Percival also provided the voices of Paul and Ringo for the ABC TV Beatles cartoon.)
* John Lennon – John (singing voice)
* Paul McCartney – Paul (singing voice)
* George Harrison – George (singing voice)
* Ringo Starr – Ringo (singing voice)

Songs in Yellow Submarine

All tracks written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney except where noted.

* "Yellow Submarine"
* "Eleanor Rigby"
* "Love You To" (George Harrison) (excerpt, played during George's entrance)
* "A Day In The Life" (excerpt, orchestral swell played as the Sub takes off)
* "All Together Now"
* "When I'm Sixty-Four"
* "Only a Northern Song" (Harrison)
* "Nowhere Man"
* "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
* "Think For Yourself" (Harrison) (short excerpt, a line is sung a cappella to revive the Lord Mayor)
* "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
* "With a Little Help from My Friends"
* "All You Need Is Love"
* "Baby, You're a Rich Man" (excerpt, played as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are, due to Ringo's "hole in his pocket", set free from the anti-music missile that the Blue Meanies set upon them)
* "Hey Bulldog"
* "It's All Too Much" (Harrison)
* "All Together Now"

The original soundtrack album consisted of Beatles tracks and some orchestral pieces by George Martin on the second side:

1. "Yellow Submarine"
2. "Only a Northern Song" (Harrison)
3. "All Together Now"
4. "Hey Bulldog"
5. "It's All Too Much" (Harrison)
6. "All You Need Is Love"
7. "Pepperland" (George Martin)
8. "Sea of Time" (Martin)
9. "Sea of Holes" (Martin)
10. "Sea of Monsters" (Martin)
11. "March of the Meanies" (Martin)
12. "Pepperland Laid Waste" (Martin)
13. "Yellow Submarine in Pepperland" (Lennon/McCartney, arranged by Martin)

The orchestral pieces were also used in the short NASA Apollo 9 mission film, which NASA made for every mission.

Another soundtrack, the Yellow Submarine Songtrack, was released in 1999, which contained all of The Beatles' songs from the film except "A Day In The Life":

1. "Yellow Submarine"
2. "Hey Bulldog"
3. "Eleanor Rigby"
4. "Love You To" (Harrison)
5. "All Together Now"
6. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
7. "Think for Yourself" (Harrison)
8. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
9. "With a Little Help from My Friends"
10. "Baby, You're a Rich Man"
11. "Only a Northern Song" (Harrison)
12. "All You Need Is Love"
13. "When I'm Sixty-Four"
14. "Nowhere Man"
15. "It's All Too Much" (Harrison)

Release history

Original theatrical release

The movie was distributed worldwide by United Artists in two versions. The version shown in Europe included an extra musical number, "Hey Bulldog", heard in the final third of the movie. For the U.S. version, the number was replaced with alternate animation due to time constraints. It was felt that at the time, American audiences would grow tired from the length of the movie. Of all the Beatles films released by UA, this is the only one UA retained the rights to, leading up to its purchase by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1981. In 2005, Sony Pictures Entertainment led a consortium that purchased MGM and UA, thus SPE now handles theatrical distribution for MGM, while 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is responsible for home video distribution, although the most recent home video release is now out of print.

Initial home video releases

With the dawn of the home video era came an opportunity to release Yellow Submarine on VHS and LaserDisc. However, it was held up for some years due to music rights issues that UA had to clear in order for the film to be issued on video by what was then MGM/UA Home Video in 1987. This was presented in its U.S. theatrical release (without the "Hey Bulldog" scene), with a simulated stereo mix of the film's original mono soundtrack. After a couple of years, the video was pulled from release, and for many years mint copies of the initial home video pressing were considered collectibles.

1999 film and soundtrack re-release

In 1999, United Artists and Apple Records digitally restored the audio of the film for theatrical and home video re-release. Though the visuals were not digitally restored, a new transfer was done after cleaning the original film negative and rejuvenating the colour. A soundtrack album for this version was also released, which featured the first extensive digital stereo remixes of Beatles material.

The film was also re-edited to its original European theatrical release version, with the "Hey Bulldog" number restored, and some of the additional animation removed. This included a very short "closure" shot of Old Fred and the Lord Mayor dancing in celebration.

The DVD that was released also featured a "soundtrack only" version, in which the dialogue is removed, leaving only the music and the songs. The DVD is currently out of print and it is up to UA and Fox to decide when it will be released again, pending new licensing fee issues.

At the 2010 Golden Globe awards, McCartney said that the film is "about to resurface."


Variety reported in August 2009 that Disney and director Robert Zemeckis were negotiating to produce a 3D computer animated remake of the film. Performance capture would be used, as with Zemeckis's previous animated films The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. According to the story, Disney hopes to release the film in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Disney and Apple Corps Ltd. officially announced the remake at the inaugural D23 Expo on 11 September 2009.

Comedian Peter Serafinowicz was cast to voice Paul McCartney, Dean Lennox Kelly as John Lennon, Cary Elwes as George Harrison and Adam Campbell as Ringo Starr.

California-based Beatles tribute band, The Fab Four was cast to do the motion-capture performance for the animated Beatles.


* Art Director, Production design, Major Character Design: Heinz Edelmann
* Supplemental Character designers (Pepperland): Jon Cramer, Dick Sawyer
* Screen story by Lee Minoff
* Screenplay by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, and Erich Segal
* Animation directors: Robert Balser, Jack Stokes
* Animators: Alan Ball, John Challis, Hester Coblentz, Geoff Collins, Rich Cox, Duane Crowther, Tony Cuthbert, Malcolm Draper, Paul Driessen, Cam Ford, Norman Drew, Tom Halley, Dick Horne, Arthur Humberstone, Dennis Hunt, Diane Jackson, Anne Jolliffe, Dave Livesey, Reg Lodge, Geoff Loynes, Lawrence Moorcroft, Ted Percival, Mike Pocock, Gerald Potterton, Jack Stokes
* Effects animator: Chris Caunter
* Layout: Ray Aragon, Peter Arthy, Jack Daniels, Alan Grey, Gordon Harrison, Ted Pettingal, Gill Potter
* Colour stylists: Alison DeVere, Millicent McMillan
* Backgrounds: Jenny Aldridge, Arthur Button, Malcolm Dakin, David Elvin, Paul Francis, Ian Gordon, Caird Green, Clare Greenford, Muriel Jennings, Martina Selway
* Clean-up animation directors: Ted Lewis Chris Miles
* Key assistant animators: Ian Cowan, Richard Dakin, Norman Drew, Ray Newman
* Ink and paint managers: Jenny Brisbane, Susan Brown, Margaret Geddes, Susan Gibbons, Janet Hosie, Helen Jones, Corona Maher
* Animation camera: John Williams (Department Head), Alan Foster, Tony Hanes, Ian Letts, Malcolm Livesey, Rex Neville, Graham Orrin, Bev Roberts, Richard Wodyinski
* Film editor: Brian J. Bishop
* Assistant editor: Torquil Stewart
* Sound editors: Donald Cohen, Ken Rolls
* Re-recording mixer: Hugh Strain
* Co-produced by Mary Ellen Stewart
* Production executive: John Coates
* Production coordinator: Abe Goodman
* Production assistant: Sally Hyman
* Production administrators: Peter Franklin, Norman Kauffman
* Special sequences: Charles Jenkins
* Live action director: Dennis Abey
* Assistant director: Edrich Radage
* Music supervised by George Martin
* Produced by Al Brodax
* Directed by George Dunning


* 1970 Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special (nominated)
* 1969 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (nominated)
* 1968 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Special Award


1 comment:

Mr. On said...

YELLOW SUBMARINE along with HEAD (The Monkees), PLANET of the APES, and 2OO1: a space odyssey, 1968 was a great year for Betelgeuse in pop-culture sci-fi cinema and music.
Wish that I could get some of these YELLOW SUBMARINE figures for my Beatles memorabilia room, along with the TMA-1 Monolith.
(my birthday's next month.)
Oh well...