Yellow Submarine – A Beatles Movie | Animated and Underrated

Today we’re going to talk about one of the most unique and original animated features in history. The 1968 animated feature about the magical adventures of The Beatles, known as “The Yellow Submarine.”

This film is the story of how The Beatles, comprised of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Star; get picked up by a sailor man referred to simply as Young Fred; to help him in stopping the terrible menace known as the Blue Meanies, from taking over Pepperland. So they take off in their giant flying bath toy and travel through many strange and confusing lands filled with creatures beyond description, to eventually make it to Pepperland; where the Beatles must impersonate the Sgt. Pepper band in the hopes of driving off the Blue Meanies with their musical jams.

For a guy who loves crazy over-the-top movies that make no sense, I thoroughly enjoyed this!

It’s pretty much an hour and a half string of animated music videos through Dr. Seuss’ nightmares; with hidden messages of peace on earth, love conquers all, and kindergarten lessons on how to count and say your alphabet. Everything I just said is completely true. I’m not entirely sure if the people who made this film went on to do some work for the short cartoons on Sesame Street, but they would be the perfect people to do so; because I have never seen so many wacky designs for how to show the number 5 and the letter L, or any other letter or number for that matter.

I think I love this movie so much because of its near dead pan response to everything you see. The Beatles just fly by all of this crazy crap in there giant flying sub, and when they see a one-footed 2 story hairy monster with a sucker mouth, they just act like it’s nothing new. It’s almost like they’ve seen all this already after some of their drug trips. In fact, that’s likely where most of this came from.

A very interesting thing to note is if you have ever watched episodes of the “Muppet Babies” back in the 80s, you likely saw some pretty over the top and crazy stuff happen. Often Gonzo would go over to the closet door and open it, and some large object or monster would be barreling towards him. A few times it was a train. In another episode, entitled “Is There a Muppet in the House?” Gonzo takes Skeeter (Scooter’s Sister) into Nanny’s closet to find where Animal went off to. Gonzo explains that this closet is a portal to the 5th Dimension. Once there, we see it’s a long series of hallways with no ceiling, and endless rows of doors surrounded by walls covered in sheet music. And when-ever Gonzo and Skeeter turn around, the doors open up and strange random stuff flies by from one door into the adjacent one.

So, when I saw the “Yellow Submarine” here, it got to the scene inside Ringo’s mansion, and there was one shot of a long endless hallways full of doors. And the shot of those doors held for a few seconds. Without missing a beat I told myself, “wait, whoa! I just know that in a few seconds a bunch of random crap is gonna to fly by, right?” And sure enough, it did. Lol! I was so freaking excited, because now I knew where that whole idea came from. Clearly the people working on “Muppet Babies” were Yellow Submarine fans.

The designs for the submarine itself are quite interesting. I have never quite seen such clever layouts and computer screens before. Very inspirational to ship Bridges in later sci-fi flicks and animes from the 70s and 80s.

I was a little surprised to learn that the Beatles, while appearing for a brief moment at the end of the film, and the whole movie being about their adventures; did not actually perform their own voices. I mean I understand that they were the biggest thing since Elvis in their day, but if a whole movie is going to be about them; like their three other live-action films; then why wouldn’t they play themselves? Instead the filmmakers hired impersonators; who did honestly do a very good job giving each of the Beatles a distinct sound, maybe even more-so than between the actual Beatles themselves.

Before seeing this movie, I had never listened to a single Beatles album. I have of course heard some of their songs played by cover bands here and there in different movies, but I never really heard all of their staple hits. Just before seeing this movie, however, I did watch “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with my mother, starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton as the descendent of the Sgt. Pepper character. I’ll get to that movie at a later date. But up until this, that was the only other thing I had seen with many of the staple Beatles hits, which more than half appear in this movie as well. I can honestly say, I now like some of their songs.

I have enjoyed “Here Comes the Sun,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” and “All You Need is Love.” But I think my new favorites now are “Sgt. Pepper…” “Yellow Submarine,” and especially “All Together Now;” the song that plays again at the end of the film.

Once again, if you are an animation student, or a pursuer of unique and original films, then you must see this wonderful piece of work when you can. If you can get past the utter British randomness and the total dead-pan humor; or better yet, learn to enjoy it like I have; then you will get a kick out of this 1960s classic. Even John Lasseter, creator and chief executive of Pixar Animation is a big fan of this movie. He has even written an essay to go along with the recent Blu-ray release of the film. And I am soon to pick that up when I have the cash.

Next up, we’re gonna talk about Steven Lisberger’s “Animalympics” from 1980.