Yellow Submarine

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Yellow Submarine is a 1968 animated cartoon movie, based on the music of The Beatles, and was inspired by their song of the same name. It is also the title of two soundtrack albums, featuring the music used in the movie.

Song[change | edit source]

Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote "Yellow Submarine" in 1966, with help from another singer, Donovan, who also performed on the Beatles's recording of it. The recording appeared on their Revolver album, released later the same year. It also became a single, with "Eleanor Rigby" as its flip side. Both songs became popular, but "Yellow Submarine" was especially liked by children.

Movie[change | edit source]

King Features Syndicate, a cartoon publisher (who were also famous for Popeye the Sailor), produced an animated series featuring the Beatles's likenesses and songs. (The band themselves were not involved in the making or writing of the series, and did not like the series very much.) The Beatles had a contract with United Artists, to make three movies for them, but had not liked the way their second movie, Help!, had turned out. They did not want to appear in another movie. When George Dunning and Al Brodax, who directed and produced their cartoon series, asked the Beatles for permission to make a cartoon based on "Yellow Submarine", they agreed mostly because the cartoon would help them finish their movie contract.

More Beatles songs (and ideas based on their song lyrics) would be featured in the movie. Along with using songs they had already recorded, the Beatles were expected to make new music especially for the cartoon. They did not put much effort into making this music. Instead they set aside leftover songs, or songs that had not turned out as well as they had hoped, to give to the producers. In all, only four new songs were set aside for the movie. Two were written by George Harrison.

The band helped more with ideas for the movie's story, adding jokes and things they thought would make an audience laugh. Erich Segal, who later became famous for his novels Love Story and Oliver's Story, helped write the screenplay for Yellow Submarine. The Beatles' speaking voices in the movie were not their own, but were provided by actors.

The animators working on the movie did their best, to make it entertaining and interesting. George Martin, who was the Beatles's music producer, composed orchestral music to play behind the dialogue. He also worked hard, to make the music fit well with the imagery of the cartoon.

The Beatles themselves produced a television special, Magical Mystery Tour, which was shown on British TV over the Christmas holidays in 1967. It was strange, and did not have a normal storyline. Many people who saw it did not like it, and ABC in the United States cancelled their plans to show Magical Mystery Tour in America. The failure of the show hurt the Beatles's reputation, even though the soundtrack still sold well. Yellow Submarine was scheduled to appear in cinemas during 1968, and many hopes were placed on it, to be a success.

When the Beatles saw an unfinished version of the cartoon, they were very pleased and impressed with it. They decided to appear in a live action epilogue, to finish the movie. Yellow Submarine made its public debut on June 6, 1968, and became an instant hit with audiences, especially with children and families. Most of the people who saw the movie did not know how little the Beatles had really been involved with making it, or even thought to ask. Many of their later memories of the Beatles were based on what they saw in Yellow Submarine.

Even though one song, "Hey Bulldog", had been recorded specially for the movie, its sequence was edited out of the American version. The title still appeared in its credits, however.

Storyline[change | edit source]

Much of the movie is set in "Pepperland", an undersea country filled with happiness, music, kindness and peace. The "Blue Meanies", who hate anything that is positive, invade Pepperland, taking it over and doing their best to destroy everything that the Pepperlanders love. Old Fred, a servant of Pepperland's Lord Mayor, escapes the invasion in a yellow submarine, and seeks help.

He finds it in Liverpool, England, in the form of the Beatles, whom he brings back to Pepperland. They pass through the Sea of Time, the Sea of Holes, the Sea of Monsters, and the Sea of Green, finally reaching Pepperland. Disguised as Sergeant Pepper's Band (the official Pepperland band), they bring music back to the country, and are able to defeat the Blue Meanies. Rather than chase away or destroy the Blue Meanies, they instead invite them to the victory celebration. The Meanies change their ways, and learn to enjoy the things that make Pepperland a happy place.

Soundtrack[change | edit source]

The movie's soundtrack album did not appear until months after the movie was first shown. Another album, The Beatles (called the White Album by listeners, and later by the band themselves) came out first. The first half of Yellow Submarine featured the four new songs, the title song, and "All You Need Is Love", which played a major part in the storyline. The other half featured George Martin's orchestral score. Tape versions of the album also included "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", between the two halves.

Some critics and fans noticed that only a few Beatles songs appeared on the album, and were disappointed. Most did not care, and bought copies to hear the music. The album became another hit for the band.

Later history[change | edit source]

Yellow Submarine was still popular years later, even after the Beatles disbanded in 1970. It appeared on television (including CBS) many times during the 1970s and 1980s, and also in small "second-run" theaters. During the 1970s, John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono had a son together, named Sean. Sean did not know his parents were famous. One day he saw the movie on television at his babysitter's house, and came home full of questions about his father's Beatle past. Lennon told Sean that he gave up being a famous musician, so he could be a family man.

When home video came along, Yellow Submarine was released on videotape, and copies sold well.

Thirtieth anniversary[change | edit source]

In 1998, Yellow Submarine was remastered for a re-release, thirty years after it first appeared. Movie and recording technology had improved greatly over the years, and both the producers and Apple Corps, the Beatles's company, did not want the movie to seem old or outdated. They put much work into the remastering. The original version had been in monophonic sound. Most movie theaters now had Surround Sound, and the producers wanted to upgrade the sound if they could.

For many years the Beatles had not allowed any remixing of their music. They made an exception for Yellow Submarine, though. Technicians went back to the original recordings, using new machines and ideas to make them sound better than ever before. John Lennon had died in 1980, but the surviving former Beatles all approved the new mixes. Ringo Starr was impressed most of all, and was pleased that parts of the music could be heard, that had never been heard before.

Along with a theatrical re-release, the remastered Yellow Submarine was also issued on videotape and DVD. A new soundtrack (called "songtrack") album was also issued, that included the new mixes of all the songs used in the movie. (George Martin's orchestral music was not included, but was available on the original soundtrack, which was still for sale.)