“Yellow Submarine” a treat
Fifty years later, restored movie is eye-popping fun
By Steve Metsch
It’s not often an animated movie released 50 years ago can pack ’em in.
But that was the case when a restored version of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” first released in 1968, was shown at selected movie theater around the nation. There was a crowd July 9 at the Marcus Theatre in Addison, where it was show on three screens. Addison was one of several theaters in the Chicago area showing the movie that night.
The price was $15 per ticket, and was well-worth it. I’m very glad my wife and I attended.
I was surprised to learn, in the closing credits, that artists had painstakingly restored the movie frame by frame. Think about that for a moment. It’s a lot of work. A lot. And the results are beautiful. The vibrant colors jump off the screen at viewers.
The animation, so different and so stunning for 1968, is still pretty cool five decades later. It sort of set the tone for future animation. One person who jumped to mind was Terry Gilliam, of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” fame. He notable did the artwork for the hilarious BBC series and I’m pretty sure he may have seen “Yellow Submarine” beforehand.
The story line is how Pepperland is being destroyed by Blue Meanies, a group of odd characters who do not like music. Using huge apples – ironic given the Beatles’ Apple record label – among other weapons, the Blue Meanies systematically turn Pepperland quiet and place its residents into susupended animation, sending Old Fred on a mission for help in his yellow submarine. He eventually finds the Fab Four, and they agree to assist.
It’s interesting to note that although the film stars animated Beatles, none of the four provided voices for their cartoon counterparts. The actors who did do a convincing job mimicking the vocal stylings of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
However, it is the real Beatles singing and playing instruments. And that’s the best part of “Yellow Submarine,” watching the stunning cartoons give new life to some of the best songs from the ’60s. Kudos to the folks who restored the music of this animated movie. I’ve listened to Beatles songs most of my 57 years, and I heard instruments and nuances in each song that I had never heard before. It was like hearing new music, music that is a half-century old.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Here were are in 2018. It’s 50 years since “Yellow Submarine” first hit movie screens. Yet, crowds of people around the nation bought tickets in advance to see this movie. Can you imagine folks in 1968 doing the same for a silent movie released in 1918? I can’t.
Listening to the 11 songs, including the title track, “Eleanor Rigby,” “Nowhere Man,” and “Hey Bulldog” are treats for the ears and eyes. You’ll be blown away by the animation for “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” “When I’m 64” is a a fun song as we watch the Beatles age and get white hair. Actually, that one saddened me a bit, thinking about how Lennon and Harrison never got the chance to grow old.
But the mood soon brightens as The Beatles’ wit and sarcasm shines through, bringing many smiles and a couple honest-to-God LOL moments. Most of those revolve around Ringo.
Old Fred and The Beatles do sail through the Sea of Holes safely and survive various threats to their mission before they arrive in Pepperland. Of course, it wouldn’t be Pepperland without Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, four fellows who suspiciously resemble another quartet we all know. Both bands play a key role in the movie’s finale
It’s too bad “Yellow Submarine” didn’t have an more of an extended stay in more movie theaters this summer. I think it would have been cool for more people – those who remember and those who are new to it – to watch the restored version.
The movie is streaming on Amazone Prime Video. And, you can purchase it on Blu-ray ($22.99) and DVD ($17.99). Those are great options and worth buying. Could be a good Christmas gift for a Beatles fan. Nothing in here is offensive for children, either.
But do yourself a favor. If you can, scoot up to the Wilmette Theatre, which is showing “Yellow Submarine” at 7:45 p.m. today, July 25; and at 12:35, 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. Thursday, July 26.
Be sure to stick around for the closing credits as the real Beatles – not the cartoon versions – show up for a rousing rendition of “All Together Now.” It’ll make you smile to sing along as you see them so young, happy and full of life. Hey, who wouldn’t be after teaching a lesson to those dreaded Blue Meanies?