Cert: U Runtime: 90 mins Director: George Dunning Starring: The Beatles, Paul Angelis, John Clive, Dick Emery, Geoffrey Hughes and Lance Percival
It’s time… for time!
Looking back in time animation has taken lots of steps to become what it is today,when I think of Yellow Submarine I just think colour and creativity. Yellow Submarine is an animated musical fantasy film based on the music of The Beatles.The film was directed by animation producer George Dunning, and produced by United Artists and King Features Syndicate. Initial reports said that the Beatles themselves would provide their own character voices,however, aside from composing and performing the songs, the real Beatles participated only in the closing scene of the film, while their cartoon counterparts were voiced by other actors.So the plot is set in Pepperland is a happy and peaceful place. That is until the Blue Meanies, a gang of music hating monsters attack it. The Meanies turn all the citizens to stone. The only survivor is Old Fred (Lance Percival), Captain of the Yellow Submarine. Fred escapes to England in the submarine. While there, he enlists the help of the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr) to save Pepperland. The Beatles journey in the Yellow Submarine and on the way go through the Sea of Green, the Sea of Holes, and the Sea of Time, among other locations.
The Beatles don’t so much as provide the voices for their animated counterparts, but “Yellow Submarine,” like the music that inspired it, has not only endured but gained in stature. Why? The plot is a barely-there concoction of some mystical never-never land being taken over by goofy baddies and requiring the rescue of four well-known lads from Liverpool. Most of the songs we see performed don’t really advance the plot the way they should in musicals. The animation is often hectic or weird; Pixar-spoiled eyes may glaze over at much of what they see.Yet it all still packs a punch, because of its daft combination of surrealism and humor. Tone, too, like the early scene where we see the citizenry of an English city (London or Liverpool, not clear which) going through their gray daily rituals, mimicked absurdly, at times quite affectingly, in a series of set-piece animations performed with photographs of real people to the song “Eleanor Rigby,” a perfect marriage of sound and scene that sets the bar for the rest of the film. The submarine captain, sole escapee from the now-Blue-Meanie-overrun domain of Pepperland, located many leagues under the sea, has come to enlist the help of some folks who can provide the only weapon Blue Meanies can’t face: Music.Some say the film suffers from the fact the Beatles don’t do the voices. I used to think that, too. But the actual voice actors do an extremely good job, not so much approximating how each of the band members sounded but how they all sounded together, throwing up a veritable medley of puns and witticisms with breezy nonchalance.
By this point, the real Beatles were drifting away from the state of togetherness they presented so effortlessly in their earlier movies, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” Yes, this would have made more sense than shooting “Magical Mystery Tour” or following a bogus holy man to India, but would the real lads have put as much energy and passion to their performance as the voice actors did? I doubt it.What makes “Yellow Submarine” works is that it is a bit of a piffle, taking itself very lightly but invested with a certain deeper intelligence, in terms of its art scheme, composition, and dialogue, that reveals itself with multiple viewings. And there’s so much eye candy and overall fun that one readily goes back to watch it over and over again: “Look, a school of whales.” “They look a little old for school.”Yellow Submarine” represented a great advance on several fronts, particularly animation (finding something kids and adults could both admire was supposed to be impossible, even at Disney) and the art of the music video. The “Eleanor Rigby” sequence is arresting, but there’s other brilliant adaptations here showcasing “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (rotoscoped dancers that move hypnotically to the melody), “All Together Now,” and, most amusingly, “When I’m 64.” Though it has evolved from entertainment into a cultural touchstone today, “Yellow Submarine” remains an enjoyable, engaging, one-of-a-kind film. Sociologists will do well to study it, and after they’ve gone to bed, their children will probably sneak down to watch it for themselves. The Beatles’ self-perpetuating legacy lives on.