The Beatles – Movie: Yellow Submarine
The beloved Beatles animated movie made its UK premiere on this day in 1968. The group arrived at the London Pavillion on Piccadilly Circus to a scene reminiscent of the “old days” just a few years earlier for the premiers of A Hard Day’s Night and Help! at the height of Beatlemania.
The film was directed by George Dunning, who supervised over 200 artists for 11 months, and was produced by United Artists and King Features Syndicate. However, aside from performing the songs used in the movie, the only involvement the Beatles themselves had in the film was their brief cameo at the end.
Other actors voiced the Beatles’ parts in the film, and oddly enough it worked out quite well even though they sound nothing like the Beatles. It must have seemed somewhat surreal for them, even with all their previous experiences, to witness their cartoon likenesses on-screen with other actors’ voices portraying them with exaggerated Liverpudlian accents, let alone in a large, packed theater for a gala event such as that. Whatever they may have thought of it at the time, I’ve yet to read or hear a subsequent interview with any of the four who said anything negative about the film.
So much had changed for the band during the previous 11 months: Brian Epstein had passed away the previous August, they (Paul, really) made their ill-fated directorial debut shortly afterward with Magical Mystery Tour, John began seeing Yoko and subsequently left Cynthia, the group became involved in Transcendental Meditation and visited the Maharishi in India, Apple Corps was launched, and recording had begun on a large batch of songs, many of which were written in India. Also, Paul (who attended the premiere alone) would officially be single a few days after the premiere when longtime girlfriend Jane Asher announced their breakup on the BBC.
Yet despite all the chaos and upheaval (or, perhaps because their involvement with the project was so limited), another Beatles product was being introduced to a public which couldn’t, and still can’t, get enough of the Fabs. The film influenced the animation art of Terry Gilliam (Monty Python), as well as children’s programs Sesame Street, the Electric Company, and Schoolhouse Rock. With its trippy, colorful animation, positive message, and of course wonderful music, Yellow Submarine continues to capture the imagination of young and old to this day.
Four of the numerous songs included in the movie were previously unreleased and had been considered not up to Beatles standard for a regular album release: Hey Bulldog, Only a Northern Song, All Together Now, and It’s All Too Much. I supposed we can attribute this to an embarrassment of riches. The latter song is one of my favorite Beatles tracks, and along with the Byrds’ Eight Miles High, it’s my favorite of the “psychedelic era.” Even what is widely considered the weakest of the bunch, Only a Northern Song, is worthy of inclusion (Harrison presented it for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper but was asked by George Martin to come up with something better, which he did with Within You Without You). The soundtrack’s orchestral score was arranged by George Martin.
A few stills: