Yellow Submarine (1968).
Love, love, love…
It’s more than just the chorus of a Beatles song; it was also the overriding philosophy of their short recording career. And, of course, it pervades “Yellow Submarine” — a film designed as just another product of the Fab Four’s marketing machine, but which transcends it despite featuring almost no contributions from John, Paul, George and Ringo themselves.
Al Brodax, who produced the Beatles’ Saturday morning cartoon series, approached the band members about making an animated feature film, but they were resistant because they hated the show. However, they also wanted out of their movie contract with United Artists, to whom they still owed one more film, and Brodax’s proposal was just the ticket. So the Beatles gave Brodax four new songs (actually unused outtakes from the “Sgt. Pepper’s” sessions) and permission to use selections from their back catalogue, and sent him on his way.
Thus left to their own devices while the band traveled to India, Brodax, director George Dunning and a small team of voice actors and writers (including “Love Story” novelist Erich Segal) created a fun adventure that turns the rare trick of being entertaining for both children and adults and not feeling dated, even more than 40 years later.
When the peaceful, music loving citizens of Pepperland are attacked by the vicious Blue Meanies, sea captain Old Fred escapes in the Yellow Submarine and seeks out the Beatles, the only band that can save Pepperland. On their long journey, the boys have various adventures, sing several Beatles favorites and even meet a Nowhere Man. When they finally make it to Pepperland, they team up with their local doppelgangers, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to free the citizens and win over the Blue Meanies through the power of music and love.
Besides the four original songs (“It’s All Too Much,” “Hey Bulldog,” “All Together Now” and “Only a Northern Song”) the soundtrack includes “All You Need is Love,” “Nowhere Man,” many of the songs from the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album and, of course, the title track. The animation is supple and vibrant, drawing inspiration from the best pop art of the late 1960s, but executing it in a way that’s timeless. The script is a gas, too, capturing the Beatles ethos with the kind of fast-paced wit and clever allusions that reward repeat viewing.
And the thread that weaves through it all is love. This is Love with a capital L, the idealistic brand of love that embraces everyone. In fact, the main message of the film is the importance of loving even one’s enemies — a message that is all too rare today.
Paul: “I think it’s Beatle-proof.” / John: “Nothing is Beatle-proof!”
Peter Batten, who voiced George, was a deserter from the British army and was arrested while the film was in production. His part was finished by Paul Angelis, who also voiced Ringo and the Chief Blue Meanie.
“Magical Mystery Tour” (1967).
Take a Look:
“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”: