Yellow Submarine, the 1968 animated film starring The Beatles which almost singlehandedly changed the landscape of animation, has recently gotten a release on Blu-Ray and it is nothing short of absolutely incredible.
The film, which was based on the 1966 number one hit by the quartet and also took its narrative cues from albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Rubber Soul, and Revolver, is considered a landmark in animated cinema. Preceded by the very assembly line styles by way of Walt Disney’s factory, Yellow Submarine presented hand-drawn cells and backgrounds in a very different and stunning manner. Utilizing pop art and psychedelic imagery, along with a panache and artistic confidence in which all conventions were splintered, the film has a look of color and style so vivid, it almost makes one forget about the story.
That story consists of The Beatles, in their mustachioed period (save for Paul McCartney) being commissioned by an old salty sea captain, who is helming the Yellow Submarine, to help liberate the people of Pepperland, who were put in bondage by the “Blue Meanies.” Their adventure has run-ins with wild, colorful, eclectic, and surreal characters along the way, all to the electrifying soundtrack of well known and new Beatles songs composed for the film. The Beatles themselves did not have much involvement in the production, save for the music, (even their voices for their animated counterparts were done by voice actors), although they do make a brief but memorable live-action appearance at the end of the film.
After the theatrical release, which was a critical and financial success for United Artists, Yellow Submarine was shown on television a few times and had a few releases to the home market, but the prints showcased in those aforementioned mediums were of the poor variety – scratchy, grainy 35mm prints coupled with tinny soundtracks. The film was released briefly in the early 2000s on Standard Def DVD form, and was a major improvement, but quickly went out of print.
Now, however, on Blu-Ray, Yellow Submarine, looks as majestic and gorgeous as a print fresh out of the studio. The technology has really been able to showcase such visual eye candy as every frame of the film looks unbelievably eye popping. Colors are immensely rich, details are razor sharp, each frame has nary a speck of grain or any 35mm artifacts on it whatsoever. It’s even more amazing when you realize that the film was cleaned up by HAND, frame by frame, something that I reported a few months ago here, before the release of the Blu-Ray. The team assembled to do this restoration job have done knock-out work, just knock out, and hopefully it paves the way for many other classic animated films to get the same cleaning treatment, done as organically as Yellow Submarine was.
In addition to the film, the Blu-Ray also comes with a load of extras on it, like featurettes about the making of the production, storyboards and original pencil drawings, interviews with the crew and voice talents, commentary by line producer John Coates with additional commentary by the art designer Heinz Edelmann, who was largely responsible for the film’s stunning look, and a collectable booklet and even stickers and reproductions of film stills showcasing each Beatle.
For those who’ve seen it and remember and cherish it, Yellow Submarine will re-dazzle you all over again with its new restored coat of paint so to speak. For those who haven’t seen it, get ready to go (as the tagline of the Blu-Ray goes) “All aboard for the trip of your life.” Yellow Submarine is and remains a kaleidoscopic, trippy, wild sprawing feast for the eyes and ears, all the senses actually, fun for all ages and memorable for all time.