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George Dunning
The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr), Paul Angelis, John Clive, Geoffrey Hughes, Dick Emery, Lance Percival
Writing Credits:
Lee Minoff (and story), Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, Erich Segal

Nothing Is Real.

Yellow Submarine, based upon a song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, is a fantastic tale brimming with peace, love, and hope, propelled by Beatles songs, including "Eleanor Rigby, "When I'm Sixty-Four, "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, "All You Need Is Love, and "It's All Too Much. When the film debuted in 1968, it was instantly recognized as a landmark achievement, revolutionizing a genre by integrating the freestyle approach of the era with innovative animation techniques ... Currently out of print, the film has been restored in 4K digital resolution for the first time by Paul Rutan Jr. and his team of specialists at Triage Motion Picture Services and Eque Inc. Due to the delicate nature of the hand-drawn original artwork, no automated software was used in the digital clean-up of the film's restored photochemical elements. This was all done by hand, frame by frame.

Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
English Monaural
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $21.98
Release Date: 6/5/2012

• Audio Commentary with Production Supervisor John Coates and Art Director Heinz Edelmann
• “Mod Odyssey” Making-Of Featurette
• Storyboard Sequences
• Original Pencil Drawings
• Behind the Scenes Photos
• Interviews
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Beatles: Yellow Submarine - 2012 Re-Issue (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 4, 2012)

Since I've been a Beatles fan for most of my life, most people who know me thought I'd be really excited about the release of Yellow Submarine on DVD back in 1999. After all, this film hadn't been available on home video in many years; I actually don't think I'd seen it at all since the early 1980s. One of my favorite bands, long out of print video - yes, I can see why others thought I'd be worked up over the DVD.

However, the truth was different. To be honest, my excitement level over Yellow Submarine was pretty low. In fact, if the DVD hadn't included a few nice extras and a then-new 5.1 remix, I probably would have passed on the title altogether.

But I didn't - I picked up a copy, and I felt glad I did, but not because I found the film to be particularly interesting.

When the hate-filled Blue Meanies attack the idyllic Pepperland, the Lord Mayor (voiced by Dick Emery) sends Young Fred (Lance Percival) to fetch help. Fred takes off in a small yellow submarine and finds himself in Liverpool, where he recruits the Beatles to assist. They accompany Fred to take on the Meanies, save Pepperland and spread love and happiness wherever they go.

As I mentioned, before I saw the flick in 1999, I hadn't seen Submarine in almost two decades but I remembered it surprisingly well. That's probably because there's not a whole lot to the thing. With the exceptions of the Beatles themselves - who are portrayed as vague stereotypes of themselves - the characterizations seem weak. All of the characters are either dull or annoying - especially the useless "Jeremy the Boob", who I kept hoping the Meanies would squash. Its plot barely exists – my synopsis makes it sound more narrative-driven than it is - and the film essentially skips from musical episode to musical episode.

Not that this is a terribly bad thing, as not every movie has to feature a brilliant storyline to succeed. Submarine makes inventive use of different visual styles within its animation and creates some interesting little clips to accompany the music. I don't know how many repeated viewings of it I’d like to endure, but I imagine it would be very well-received by kids, especially younger ones who would be entertained by the variety of colors and images.

Hmm... I must admit that last comment sounds suspiciously like a slam on Submarine, but I don’t mean it that way. Clearly, I'm not wild about the movie; in fact, the only Beatle feature I rank below it is Magical Mystery Tour, and the two are pretty closely ranked in my opinion. I'd much rather view A Hard Day’s Night, Help! or Let It Be than Submarine.

However, that doesn't mean it's a bad piece of work or of no interest to anyone other than toddlers who delight in bright colors. There's a fair amount of pretty clever dialogue throughout the picture, and most adults will also enjoy the music. Admittedly, I’m not wild about the title song – arguably one of the five weakest tunes ever recorded by the Beatles - but I'd forgotten how much I liked some of the music that appears exclusively in the film. Of the twelve included songs, only four - "It's All Too Much", "All Together Now", "Only a Northern Song" and "Hey Bulldog" – were exclusive to the film; all the others were taken from previous albums and singles. Of those four, only "All Together Now" stands as a mini-clunker; the other three are terrific, especially John's ripping "Hey Bulldog".

Ironically, that song didn't appear during the film's original release; the "Hey Bulldog" segment has been reinserted for the home video versions. The animated piece itself isn't anything special, but the song itself certainly is, so I'm glad it's in there.

To be honest, although many find the wide range of artistic styles to be spectacular, I have to say that much of it didn't impress me. This may stem from the weak quality of the animation itself; while the artwork may be fairly good, it moves in a choppy and unconvincing manner. Weak animation can be overcome within largely dialogue-driven productions like The Simpsons, but since Submarine relies so strongly on its visuals, I feel the stiffness of the movements negatively affects my impression of the film. No, it’s not Pokemon, but it’s a far cry from Pinocchio - or even the more mediocre Disney offerings.

Ultimately, Yellow Submarine lives and dies because of its Beatles connection. With weaker songs or a more obscure act at its core, I don't think many would remember it; my opinion may be contrary to many, but I just don't believe that it's a special piece of animation. The film has its moments but is interesting mainly as a Beatles curiosity.

Footnote: despite the beliefs of many, the Beatles did not play themselves in the film; voice actors performed the roles. And not very accurately, at that, as the animated "Beatles" sounded very little like the real thing.

According to John Clive - who played Lennon - this was a conscious choice because they thought that the Beatles' real voices were too similar for an audience to easily discern which was which. As such, they went more with what they interpreted as the spirit of each member's voice rather than the actual sound.

However, during his audio commentary, production supervisor John Coates states that they did try to replicate the actual sound of each Beatles' voice, and he thinks they did well. Whichever is correct, all I know is that the actors don't sound much like the real thing; no half-decent Beatles fan would ever be fooled by the work of the voice performers.

(For the record, the Fabs themselves only appear on screen during the live-action coda to the piece - which is actually my favorite part of the movie.)

The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Yellow Submarine appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, this was a terrific image.

In fact, Submarine looked so good that I often forgot I was watching SD-DVD. Sharpness worked well. Some wide shots showed a smidgen of softness, but that was inevitable given the format’s limitations. Definition seemed to be about as good as I could hope. I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to materialize. Print flaws also didn’t become a concern; I saw a little jitter in a couple of shots, but the film remained clean and free from defects,

Colors soared. The movie’s psychedelic palette delivered rich, vibrant hues at all times, and they seemed very well-reproduced. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows showed nice clarity and smoothness. I felt totally impressed by this strong presentation.

As for the film’s remixed DTS 5.1 soundtrack, it was also a winner. The music became the main beneficiary of this work. Songs actively used all five channels, which really allowed the various instruments and voices to spread out around the room. Effects also broadened well, as they received good placement and movement. Sounds panned across all five channels well, with examples such as the sub itself flitting from speaker to speaker as it puttered along. Throw in some localized speech and you found a soundscape that sounded quite modern.

The quality of the audio was also solid. Music remained the big winner, as the score and songs showed excellent vivacity and range. Speech was fairly natural and concise, and effects seemed more than satisfactory. A little distortion occasionally marred the louder moments, but those instances didn’t cause real concerns. Instead, the effects showed good reproduction and warm, rich low-end. I usually prefer original theatrical mixes – and the DVD included the 1968 mono track for good measure – but this 5.1 remix was so nice that it became my go-to audio.

How did the 2012 DVD compare to the original 1999 release? Unfortunately, I was unable to dig up my copy of that disc; I know it’s in my house somewhere, but I couldn’t locate it in time for this review. However, I’d bet that the two DVDs provide essentially identical audio. The 1999 release opted for Dolby Digital 5.1 whereas the 2012 version went for DTS 5.1, but I’d be surprised to note any real differences between the two.

On the other hand, I’d bet a month’s pay that the 2012 DVD blew away the visuals of the 1999 disc. The latter lacked anamorphic enhancement, so that would severely restrict it on large widescreen TVs. It also appeared to have some edge enhancement issues as well as some flickering and print flaws. If I can find that old disc, I’ll update my review so be more specific, but even without a direct comparison, I feel certain that the 1999 version would be a much weaker visual experience; the 2012 DVD looked awfully good.

Most of the 1999 DVD’s extras repeat here. We open with an audio commentary from production supervisor John Coates and art director Heinz Edelmann. For all intents and purposes, this is Coates’ piece; he delivers a running, screen-specific chat that continues up through the 82-minute mark. Edelmann then appears and talks for about seven minutes before Coates reappears to thank us for listening.

The track looks at the project’s origins and development, problems related to its rushed production and incomplete script, cast, characters and performances, visual design and animation, songs and score, working with the Beatles, aspects of the era, the movie’s release and legacy, and a few other areas.

Except for an occasional dead spot, Coates delivers a thoroughly engaging and informative commentary. He provides some dry wit and fun memories of his work on the film as well as thoughts about its period. Edelmann tosses in a few good notes at the end and this becomes a fine discussion.

Note that this is the same commentary that appeared on the 1999 DVD with one twist: Edelmann. Though the DVD’s packaging claimed he was a participant, he wasn’t; the DVD commentary included only Coates. In the US, that is; I was told other regions got the Edelmann notes as well. For some glitchy reason, the US DVD lacked his participation. At least they finally fixed this goof.

We find a period featurette called Mod Odyssey. It runs seven minutes, 41 seconds and mostly delivers details from an unnamed narrator, but we get a couple of soundbites from Edelmann and supervising director George Dunning. The piece takes us through aspects of the production and offers many behind the scenes visuals. We also get nice insights about various components; in particular, I like the thoughts about the development of the animated Beatles. Throw in a few shots of the real Fabs and “Odyssey” proves to be surprisingly useful despite its brevity and promotional nature.

Under Interviews, we discover six clips. These involve actors Paul Angelis (1:41) and John Clive (2:07), key animator David Livesey (1:13), Edelmann’s assistant Millicent McMillan (1:14), animation director Jack Stokes (3:44) and co-writer Erich Segal (1:38). Across these, we get thoughts about characters and performances, animation and visual design, working with the Beatles, and some other topics. The clips are too brief – clearly they come from longer interview sessions – but they add some worthwhile notes. Even without a helpful “Play All” function, they’re worth a look.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a mix of behind the scenes elements. Under Storyboard Sequences, we look at three scenes: “Sea of Monsters” (4:30), “Battle of the Monsters” (118 screens) and “Pepperland” (62). “Sea” shows splitscreen comparison of the art and the final film, while the other two display stills with elements that didn’t make the movie. All are fairly interesting to see.

Original Pencil Drawings provides more art. We see 26 frames with basic elements used for the film. These also deliver some reasonably intriguing pieces.

Within Behind the Scenes Photos, we get another 29 stills. These come from the Beatles’ November 1967 visit to the animation studio. That makes them a treat to see, though I wish they were bigger; they’re contained in a frame that doesn’t allow them to take full advantage of the screen.

Does the 2012 DVD lose anything from the 1999 release? Yes, and it’s a big omission: the new DVD drops the isolated score from the old disc. It was great to hear the music on its own, so it’s a disappointment that the 2012 DVD fails to include this feature.

Would anyone care about Yellow Submarine without its connection to the Beatles? Probably not. While it’s not a bad animated flick, it’s not a particularly good one, either; the music and the Fabs’ mystique makes this one more memorable than it otherwise would be. The DVD boasts excellent picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements that disappoints only due to the absence of a previously-available isolated music track. That loss means fans will need to hold onto the 1999 DVD, but for movie-viewing purposes, the 2012 disc offers the stronger experience by far.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7 Stars Number of Votes: 10
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