Thirteen years after its first DVD release, The Beatles’ animated film, Yellow Submarine, was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 5. Yellow Submarine captures the heart and spirit of The Beatles and has become a classic animation film. The current restoration of the film allows viewers to see the most vibrant colors intended to evoke the mood of the psychedelic 60s. The film was restored by hand, frame by frame, because of the delicate nature of the hand-drawn original artwork.
Hard to believe that a film which is so beloved by so many had such a rocky road to completion. Back in 1967 before his death, The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, convinced The Beatles to go along with the project to fulfill their film contract with United Artists. The Beatles hesitantly agreed even though they were fearful that the film may turn out like The Beatles ABC-TV cartoon series which they were not a fan of.
But as Production Executive John Coates describes in the bonus audio commentary, as the film began to take shape, The Beatles became more and more interested in the project. The Beatles’ suspicions that the filmmakers would “Disney-fy” them were put to rest when they attended advance screenings throughout the production process.
The film was completed under an ultra-tight schedule of 11 months. Designers and animators had to constantly work around the clock to complete the film in time for the July 1968 premiere date in London. Time was so precious that students from London art schools had to be brought in night after night to help with the coloring of the hand-drawn cells. Coates estimates that there were anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 animation cells that were used to create the film.
The film became an instant classic upon its release receiving rave reviews like this one from the Daily News: “Thunderous applause! I doubt that the Beatles themselves can top their ‘Yellow Submarine’!” The film even received a special honor in 1968 from The NY Film Critics Circle Awards.
The new DVD/Blu-ray release includes a 7-minute bonus behind-the-scenes documentary called the “Mod Odyssey” from 1968. Additional bonus features include the film’s original theatrical trailer, audio commentary by producer John Coates and art director Heinz Edelmann, several brief interview clips with others involved with the film, storyboard sequences, 29 original pencil drawings and 30 behind-the-scenes photos. Both Digipak packages include reproductions of animation cels from the film, collectible stickers, and a 16-page booklet.
Editor’s note: Daytrippin’ issue #8 features a special behind-the-scenes look at Yellow Submarine