Yellow Submarine (1968)

“All you need is love.”

Synopsis:
The Beatles accompany Captain Fred in his Yellow Submarine to help free Pepperland from the music-hating Blue Meanies.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
The Beatles’ only animated film — featuring their music and their cartoon likenesses but not their actual voices — remains as enjoyable and mind-blowing today as it was 30+ years ago. As Peary notes, the film’s visuals are “consistently imaginative, innovative, colorful, and startling”, and a recent renovation has restored the film’s eye-popping panorama of colors to full capacity. The sheer variety of animation techniques in Yellow Submarine is blissfully overwhelming. If you pause randomly on any given frame, you’ll undoubtedly be inspired to hang the image on your wall as a legitimate piece of groovy pop art. At the same time, watching the imagery in motion — as colors bleed and entire worlds are literally created and destroyed — is an indispensable treat all its own.

It’s enormously satisfying to see the Beatles immortalized as cartoon caricatures; I’m amazed by how just a few strategically drawn lines make each of them instantly recognizable. And while Peary laments the fact that the Beatles themselves didn’t provide the voices for their characters, I have to say this didn’t bother me much — there’s no mistaking John, Paul, Ringo, and George, and the group’s playful banter (exploited so successfully in A Hard Day’s Night and Help!) is still greatly in evidence.

It’s hard to pick favorite sequences, but I feel a special fondness for “Eleanor Rigby” (which uses b&w photo stills of the “lonely people” in Liverpool); “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” (possessing perhaps the most psychedelic imagery in the entire film); and “It’s All Too Much”, a final celebratory song before the Beatles themselves appear in person (be still my heart!) to close the film.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Stunningly original and vibrant animation — each frame is a wonder to behold
    Visuals
  • The Beatles’ avatars: with just a few distinct lines, the film’s animators brought the Fab Four’s faces to 2-D life
    Beatles
  • An excellent, rousing soundtrack (naturally!)
    When I'm 64
  • Countless humorous and/or punny verbal exchanges by the deadpan Beatles:

    John: It’s blue glass.
    George: Must be from Kentucky, then.

    Blueglass

Must See?
Absolutely. This classic animated musical is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and merits multiple viewings.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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2 Responses to “Yellow Submarine (1968)”

  1. A giddy must!

    What possible reason could there be that prevents this from DVD release? (Imagine my surprise when I came across it on youtube!)

    I share the enthusiasm of the assessment (obviously). Two of the musical sequences mentioned are two of my favorites as well: “Eleanor Rigby” and “It’s All Too Much”. (My biggest fave from the soundtrack recording, “Hey Bulldog”, was – alas – cut from the original release print, which is the one youtube shows.)

    The film plays out rather like a classic Warner Brothers cartoon: something for the kiddies that adults can enjoy as well. As laid out in the film’s plot, ‘YS’ exists for practically no other reason than to – ok, I’ll say it – chase your blues away. (Though that wasn’t the original intention, apparently, since The Blue Meanies were first thought up as Red; for various reasons, a very wise switch, I’d say.) There couldn’t be a lighter heart at work here (even the use of “Eleanor Rigby” can be seen as more thoughtful than a downer). The message is an uplifting and supportive one.

    The imagery is as endlessly varied and surprising as the songs themselves and each sequence has its own suitably distinct character – which, by extension, exhibits how fearless the Beatles were when it came to constantly changing direction in songwriting.

    The bulk of Terry Gilliam’s work for Monty Python (as imaginative as it is in its own way) owes…well, more than a little to ‘Yellow Submarine’, doesn’t it?

  2. Update:
    A 1999 restored version did come out on DVD and is currently out-of-print. (Again, why?) Copies are available at Amazon via 3rd-party sellers.

    The ‘Hey Bulldog’ sequence can be seen as a stand-alone clip at youtube. Adorable.

    AND – apparently a 3D CGI remake of the film is set to eventually premiere at the 2012 Olympics in London. (Check Wikipedia.) Hmm…

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