Saturday, June 16, 2018

Yellow Submarine sing-along (2018 analogue restoration transferred to 4K)

Director: George Dunning
Country: United Kingdom, U.S.A.
Year: 1968
Production companies: Apple Films / King Features Production / TVC London
Music: The Beatles
Music producer: George Martin
Duration: 1.30
Languages: en
    50th anniversary, 2018 analogue restoration transferred in 4K.
    Sing-along with Olavi Uusivirta, Iida Simes et al.
    DCP from Apple Corps with sing-along subtitles viewed at the Big Top, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 16 June 2018.

"Yellow Submarine"
"Eleanor Rigby"
"All Together Now"
"When I'm Sixty-Four"
"Only a Northern Song" (Harrison)
"Nowhere Man"
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
"All You Need Is Love"
"Hey Bulldog"
"It's All Too Much"

MSFF: "Surely The Beatles alone did not invent psychedelia or the hippie movement, but through its strong culturohistorical phase the band brought the movement into the mainstream. As The Beatles had reached their popularity, being a hippie was a must. The turning point in their career was the album Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper (1967) finalized the saga."

"This breaking point in western culture was captured in film form by Canadian George Dunning (1920–1979), who had polished his skills as an animator with a pioneer of the field, Norman McLaren. Released in 1968, Yellow Submarine combines the best surrealist traditions of the field, the absurdity of children’s books and the psychedelia of the American west coast. Its abundant, nearly thickening world of colors is a part of fine arts’ history. The Beatles perform as animated characters but their authentic voices are heard only in the final scene."

"Yellow Submarine plummeted towards the end of the 60’s: it was impossible to be more colorful or delirious than this. Someone already heard the words “End of story”. This dialectic abolishment of the hippie movement was later carried out by Sergei Jutkevitsh and Anatoli Karanovitsh in the animation episodes of Mayakovski Laughs (Soviet Union, 1973) – but that’s a whole different story. If the magic of fairy tales ever lingered in the air it did so in Yellow Submarine." (VMH)

AA: I had not seen in 49 years Yellow Submarine, the Beatles animated fairytale for children. It was released theatrically in Finland in 1969 at Bio Bio and that's when I caught it for the first time. The Beatles had a strong visual presence. Besides album cover art there were five feature length movies, of which this was the fourth. There were also ten promotional films made in 1966-1969, works that would later be called music videos. Psychedelia was a main inspiration, also including the Magical Mystery Tour and Strawberry Fields Forever film projects.

At the time I found much of the Yellow Submarine a bit boring or just plain silly, but the music was great. Seen today the story still seems quite silly, but now I appreciate more the achievement in animation. Feature-length animations were very rare. Back then only Disney produced them regularly. Yellow Submarine was completely different, an irreverent and experimental project that, however, was family-friendly and suitable for children. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" of course is a celebration of LSD, but only if you already know about it. The fundamental message is "All You Need Is Love".

The status of Yellow Submarine keeps growing as a wonderful achievement in surreal animation. It has affinities with Harry Smith, Jan Lenica, Walerian Borowczyk, Len Lye, Norman McLaren and Terry Gilliam's work for Monty Python. Limited animation with explosive effects and a wide range of styles and techniques. The final brief live action moment with The Beatles is moving.

The photochemical frame-by-frame restoration has been conducted with loving care. The result is beautiful.

The spirits were high in the sing-along screening in Finland's biggest circus tent. A perfect setting for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. People were dancing in front of the screen. A happy celebration and revival of the summers of love 50 years ago.



Pepperland is a cheerful, music-loving paradise under the sea, protected by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The titular Yellow Submarine rests on an Aztec-like pyramid on a hill. At the edge of the land is a range of high blue mountains.

The land falls under a surprise attack from the music-hating Blue Meanies, who live beyond the blue mountains. The attack starts with a music-proof blue glass globe that imprisons the band. With the band sealed in the globe, the Blue Meanies fire magical projectiles from big artillery stationed in the blue mountains and render the Pepperlanders immobile as statues by shooting arrows or dropping giant green apples upon them (a reference to the Apple Records music label), and drain the entire countryside of colour.

In the last minutes before his capture, Pepperland's elderly Lord Mayor sends Old Fred, an aging sailor (whom the even more elderly mayor calls "Young Fred"), to get help. Fred activates the Yellow Submarine and takes off in it ("Yellow Submarine"). Old Fred travels to Liverpool ("Eleanor Rigby"), where he follows a depressed Ringo and persuades him to return to Pepperland with him. Ringo collects his "mates" John, George, and finally Paul in The Pier, a house-like building on the top of a hill. The five journey back to Pepperland in the yellow submarine. As they start learning to operate the submarine, they sing "All Together Now", after which they pass through several regions on their way to Pepperland:

    Sea of Time – where time flows both forwards and backwards to the tune of "When I'm Sixty-Four". At one point, the submarine passes itself as it loops through time.
    Sea of Science – where they sing "Only a Northern Song". Just before the song finishes, they pick up a monster.
    Sea of Monsters – The monster is ejected into a sea inhabited by other weird monsters. Ringo presses the panic button on the submarine, ejecting him from the submarine and into the sea. He is seen riding one of the monsters, who tosses him around, and with the threat of Native American-like creatures, resulting in John pressing another button on the submarine, sending the US Cavalry to successfully defeat the creatures and rescue Ringo. It is also where a monstrous "vacuum cleaner beast" sucks up all loose objects, creatures, the entire landscape, and finally itself, popping the submarine into a strange empty void.
    Sea of Nothing – This blank region is where they meet Jeremy Hillary Boob Ph.D. ("Phud"), a short pudgy creature with a painted clown face and cotton tail, but a highly studious and helpful ally to the Beatles, who sing "Nowhere Man" in reference to him. As they leave, Ringo feels sorry for the "Nowhere Man" and invites him to join them aboard the submarine.
    Foothills of the Headlands – Thanks to Jeremy, this is where he and the Beatles are separated from both the Submarine (and Old Fred) and where John sings "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Pepper (foreshadowing that Pepperland is yet to come) causes the beings in the Headlands to sneeze, blowing the Beatles and Jeremy into the Sea of Holes.
    Sea of Holes – Here, Jeremy is kidnapped by one of the Blue Meanies patrolling the outskirts of Pepperland. Ringo thoroughly investigates one of the endless number of holes and puts it into his pocket. While searching for Jeremy, Ringo jumps onto a green hole which turns the Sea of Holes into a Sea of Green. From here, the group arrives in Pepperland, followed by Old Fred and his Submarine.

Reunited with Old Fred and the submarine, they look upon the landscape: a sorry sight. The beautiful flowers have become thorns, and the once-happy landscape now a barren wasteland. Everyone is immobilized and made miserable by the evil Blue Meanies, only able to move when permitted (such as when the Meanies feel like bullying them). The Beatles, camouflaged as Pepperlandian cutouts, dress up as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and steal some instruments (their own instruments were lost in the Sea of Monsters) from the warehouse where the Meanies impounded "all things that make music". The four are discovered at the last second (Ringo accidentally steps on a bagpipe) and a clown Meanie sounds the alarm, causing the Beatles to flee hastily from the Meanies' vicious multi-headed (and multi-bodied) dog. Once in the clear, after defeating some apple-bonkers, the four rally the land to rebellion, singing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", eventually forcing the Blue Meanies to retreat. The Chief Blue Meanie retaliates, sending out his main enforcer, the Dreadful Flying Glove, but John easily defeats it by singing "All You Need is Love". Pepperland is restored to colour and its flowers re-bloom, as the residents, empowered by the Beatles' music, rise up and take up arms (flowers) against the Meanies, who are fleeing headlong back to the blue border mountains where they came from. The original Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are released (thanks to the hole carried in Ringo's pocket from the Sea of Holes) and Ringo rescues Jeremy. The Beatles then have a rematch with the four-headed Meanie dog, singing "Hey Bulldog", with the Beatles victorious once again (This scene was in the UK version). The Blue Meanies are forced to retreat, and the Chief Blue Meanie tries to save face by killing Jeremy, but Jeremy performs some "transformation magic" on him causing the Meanie to sadly concede defeat. John extends an offer of friendship, and the Chief Blue Meanie has a change of heart (partly due to the "transformation magic" performed by Jeremy) and accepts. An enormous party ensues, where everyone sings "It's All Too Much" with everyone living happily ever after.

At the end, we see the real Beatles in live-action, having returned home, playfully showing off their souvenirs: George has the submarine's motor, Paul has "a little 'LOVE'" and Ringo still has half a hole in his pocket (having supposedly given the other half to Jeremy, which Paul offers to fix "to keep his mind from wandering", a reference to "Fixing a Hole"). Looking through a telescope, John announces that "newer and bluer Meanies have been sighted within the vicinity of this theatre" and claims there is only one way to go out: "Singing!" The quartet obliges with a short reprise of "All Together Now", which ends with translations of the song's title in various languages appearing in sequence on the screen, which concludes with the words "Released through United Artists" on the bottom-right-hand-corner of the screen.


National and foreign animators were assembled by TVC. American animator Robert Balser and Jack Stokes were hired as the film's animation directors. Charlie Jenkins, one of the film's key creative directors, was responsible for the entire "Eleanor Rigby" sequence, as well as the submarine travel from Liverpool, through London, to splashdown. Jenkins also was responsible for "Only a Northern Song" in the Sea of Science, plus much of the multi-image sequences. A large crew of skilled animators, including (in alphabetical order) Alan Ball, Ron Campbell, John Challis, Hester Coblentz, Geoff Collins, Rich Cox, Duane Crowther, Tony Cuthbert, Malcolm Draper, Paul Driessen, Cam Ford, Norm Drew, Tom Halley, Dick Horne, Arthur Humberstone, Dennis Hunt, Greg Irons, Dianne Jackson, Anne Jolliffe, Dave Livesey, Reg Lodge, Geoff Loynes, Lawrence Moorcroft, Ted Percival, Mike Pocock and Gerald Potterton, were responsible for bringing the animated Beatles to life. The background work was executed by artists under the direction of Alison de Vere and Millicent McMillan who were both background supervisors. Ted Lewis and Chris Miles were responsible for animation cleanup.

George Dunning, who also worked on the Beatles cartoon series, was the overall director for the film, supervising over 200 artists for 11 months. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was Dunning's idea, which he turned over to Bill Sewell, who delivered more than thirty minutes of rotoscoped images. By that time, Dunning was unavailable, and Bob Balser, with the help of Arne Gustafson, edited the material to its sequence length in the film.

The animation design of Yellow Submarine has sometimes been incorrectly attributed to famous psychedelic pop art artist of the era Peter Max, but the film's art director was Heinz Edelmann. Edelmann, along with his contemporary Milton Glaser, pioneered the psychedelic style for which Max would later become famous, but according to Edelmann and producer Al Brodax, as quoted in the book Inside the Yellow Submarine by Hieronimus and Cortner, Max had nothing to do with the production of Yellow Submarine.

The film's surreal visual style, created by creative director Heinz Edelmann, contrasts greatly with the efforts of Disney Feature Animation and other animated films previously released by Hollywood up until the time. The film uses a style of limited animation. It also paved the way for Terry Gilliam's animations for Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python's Flying Circus (particularly the Eleanor Rigby sequence), as well as the Schoolhouse Rock vignettes for ABC and similar-looking animation in early seasons of Sesame Street and The Electric Company. (As such, only one of the animation staff of Yellow Submarine did indeed contribute subsequent animation to Children's Television Workshop: Ron Campbell.)


    0.00.21–0.02.15: "Introduction Story" music by George Martin
    0.07.55–0.10.40: "Yellow Submarine"
    0.10.40–0.13.30: "Eleanor Rigby"
    0.19.00–0.19.55: "Love You To" (George Harrison) (excerpt, played during George's entrance)
    0.22.30–0.23.05: "A Day in the Life" (excerpt, orchestral swell, starting as the Submarine takes off)
    0.23.25–0.25.55: "All Together Now"
    0.28.20–0.31.15: "When I'm Sixty-Four"
    0.31.30–0.34.30: "Only a Northern Song" (Harrison)
    0.43.15–0.46.15: "Nowhere Man"
    0.48.00–0.51.30: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
    0.54.30–0.54.50: "Sea of Green" (a short vocal excerpt when Ringo finds the green hole that leads to Pepperland)
    0.56.15–0.56.25: "Think for Yourself" (Harrison) (short excerpt, a line is sung a cappella to revive the Lord Mayor)
    1.06.35–1.08.50: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
    1.08.50–1.09.05: "With a Little Help from My Friends" (short excerpt, directly following "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" without interruption, just as on the 1967 album of the same name)
    1.11.45–1.15.05: "All You Need Is Love"
    1.16.30–1.16.40: "Baby, You're a Rich Man" (excerpt, played as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are, thanks to Ringo's "hole in his pocket", set free from the anti-music bubble; the recording of the song is expanded for the American-released version, and the scene with the expansion of the recording of the song leads to a scene that replaces the "Hey Bulldog" sequence due to the latter sequence being "anti-climactic".)[citation needed]
    1.17.25–1.21.00: "Hey Bulldog" Originally shown only in Europe before the film's 1999 restoration.
    1.24.15–1.27.15: "It's All Too Much" (Harrison)
    1.27.15–1.29.00: "All Together Now" (accompanied by images of the real Beatles singing, numbers and letters, and "all together now" translated in various languages)

No comments: