Movie Review: All you need is love
Restored version of “Yellow Submarine” rereleased for film’s 50th anniversary.
By Paul Willistein
The feature animated film, “Yellow Submarine,” was produced to fulfill a three feature movie contract for The Beatles, the 1960s rock band that enraptured the world.
Fifty years after its release in 1968, in a newly restored print and soundtrack, “Yellow Submarine” has traveled well and even grows in stature for its inventive animation, dialogue of mordant wit and, of course, its soundtrack of Beatles’ songs, including the title song that inspired the movie.
While the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr) apparently were not directly involved in the making of “Yellow Submarine” (They were said to be relieved to not have to do another “A Hard Day’s Night,” 1964, or “Help!” 1965, feature film), they approved its release even though, at the time, they disliked the ABC-TV Saturday morning cartoon series, “The Beatles” (1965-69).
Director George Dunning, a producer of “The Beatles” cartoon series, supervised 200 artists in the 11 months it took to complete “Yellow Submarine.”
Dunning, whose other credits including directing several animation short films, was a specialist in using painted glass in animation, a technique seen in the “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” scene in “Yellow Submarine.” Rotoscoping, where live-action sequences are traced onto animation cells, is also seen in “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” with dance scenes from “Dancing Lady” (1933), starring Fred Astaire and Joan Crawford.
“Yellow Submarine” has many other animation techniques that seem quaint by 2018 feature animated film CGI and 3D standards. Even so, many scenes are vivid, with colors vibrating in an alternating palette. Most of the film is in the style of limited animation, where the characters are cutouts moved across a scene.
German artist Heinz Edelmann, credited as “Yellow Submarine” production designer, influenced pop artist Peter Max, whose psychedelic art much of “Yellow Submarine” resembles.
In “Yellow Submarine,” there are influences of art nouveau, Andy Warhol silk-screen prints, pop-art, op-art, day-glow, and the Fluxus movement. Think “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” (1969-74) to get an idea of the type of surrealism, sight gags and punchlines in “Yellow Submarine.”
The 2018 “Yellow Submarine” rerelease is restored in 4K digital resolution by Paul Rutan Jr. and experts at Triage Motion Picture Services and Eque Inc. The restoration was done by hand to preserve the original hand-drawn animation.
What is most entertaining about “Yellow Submarine” is how funny the dialogue is, much of it playing off the Beatles’ legendary Liverpudlian wit.
The screenplay by Lee Minoff (“Yellow Submarine” is apparently his only feature film screenplay credit), Al Brodax (creator, “The Beatles” TV cartoon series), Jack Mendelsohn (Emmy nominations, TV’s “Van Dyke and Company,” 1975; “The Carol Burnett Show,” 1967; “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” 1967), Erich Segal (Oscar nominee, original screenplay, “Love Story,” 1970) and Roger McGough (uncredited) is from a story by Minoff and based on the song by Lennon and McCartney.
There are many in-joke references to Beatles’ song lyrics that will tickle Beatles’ fans, and many references to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967), the landmark Beatles’ album. Not all of the corny puns (is that redundant?) require a Beatles song concordance.
For example, when there’s a remark about a sphere of blue glass, the response is, “Must be from Kentucky,” which references the state’s bluegrass music tradition and the grass that grows there.
Or this: “Look, it’s a school of whales.” “They look a little bit old for school.” “University then.” “University of Wales.”
And: “Well, in my humble opinion, we’ve become involved in Einstein’s time space continuum theory.” “Oh, right.” “Relatively speaking, that is.”
In “Yellow Submarine,” the four Lads from Liverpool, led by Captain Fred in his Yellow Submarine, travel to Pepperland, which The Blue Meanies have turned into a world of gray characters frozen in place. The Yellow Submarine travels through the Sea of Time, Sea of Nothing, Sea of Holes, and the Sea of Green. In Pepperland, they dodge the Chief Blue Meanie, Apple-Bonkers, giant blue arrows fired at them, the four-headed Meanie dog, and the huge jet-powered Dreadful Flying Glove.
Along the way, The Beatles encounter Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D. (voiced by Dick Emery), who, with Beatlemania a distant echo decades later, turns out to be the film’s most fascinating character. Jeremy spouts sparkling stream-of-consciousness wordplay (“Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time! So much to know!”) that references philosophical, historical and cultural figures and topics. There are influences of Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss.
While the plot may be thin, “Yellow Submarine” has an astonishing depth in concept, sequences and integration of Beatles’ songs.
The songs and score (by Beatles’ producer George Martin) for the rerelease were remixed at Abbey Road Studios by engineer Peter Cobbin. The rerelease has “Hey Bulldog,” which wasn’t in the 1968 original film. Songs include “Only a Northern Song,” “It’s All Too Much,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” and “All You Need Is Love.”
The Beatles appear in a cameo at the end of the film to lead the audience in singing “All Together Now.”
If you have the opportunity to see “Yellow Submarine,” a classic of animated films, especially in a movie theater on a big screen, don’t miss it.
Remember, all you need is glove, er, love.
“Yellow Submarine,” MPAA Rated G (General Audiences All ages admitted. Nothing that would offend parents for viewing by children.); Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Musical; Run time: 1 hr., 25 mins. Distributed by Abramorama.
Credit Readers Anonymous: The “All Together Now” sing-along at the end of “Yellow Submarine” is in subtitles of the song title in 16 languages.
Box Office, July 20: Denzel Washington proved his sequel was better than their sequel at the box office, as “Equalizer 2” opened at No. 1 with $36 million, keeping “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opening at No. 2, with $34.9 million, moving “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” down two places to No. 3 with $23.7 million, $91.7 million, two weeks.
4. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” crawled down two places, with $16.5 million, $165 million, three weeks. 5. “Incredibles 2” dropped one slot, $11.8 million, $557.7 million, six weeks. 6. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” dropped one slot with $11.3 million, $383.9 million, five weeks. 7. “Skyscraper” toppled four floors, $10.9 million, $47.1 million. 8. “The First Purge” again purged two slots, $5.1 million, $60.3 million, three weeks. 9. “Unfriended: Dark Web,” $3.6 million, opening. 10. “Sorry to Bother You” exhaled down three spots. $2.8 million, $10.2 million, three weeks.
Unreel, July 27:
“Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” PG-13: Christopher McQuarrie directs Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, and Simon Pegg in the action thriller. Another mission. Another mission gone wrong for Ethan Hunt.
“Teen Titans Go! To the Movies,” PG: Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail direct the voice talents of Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Will Arnett, and Tara Strong in the animated comedy. The five teenage superheroes fight a villain.
“Puzzle,” R: Marc Turtletaub directs Austin Abrams, Mandela Bellamy, Myrna Cabello, and Sebastian Chacon in the drama. A suburban mother has a passion not only for solving jigsaw puzzles.
“Hot Summer Nights,” R: Elijah Bynum directs Timothée Chalamet, Maika Monroe, Alex Roe, and Emory Cohen in the drama. A young man comes of age during a summer on old Cape Cod.
Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes