Yellow Submarine (1968) poster

Yellow Submarine (1968)


.UK. 1968.


Director – George Dunning, Screenplay – Al Brodax, Jack Mendelson, Leo Minoff & Eric Segal, Story – Leo Minoff, Producer – Brodax, Songs – The Beatles, Music Supervisor – George Martin, Special Effects – Charlie Jenkins, Production Design – John Cramer, Heinz Edelman & George Harrison. Production Company – King Features/Suba Films/Apple Films


Paul Angelius (Ringo/Blue Meanie Leader), John Clive (John), Geoffrey Hughes (Paul), Lance Percival (George), Dick Emery (The Nowhere Man, Jeremy Harriet Urgh)


Pepperland is invaded by the Blue Meanies, who imprison the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, petrify the population and suck all the colour out of the landscape. The last remaining inhabitant escapes in a yellow submarine. He eventually comes to England where he meets The Beatles. He recruits their help to come to Pepperland’s aid and they all set forth on a fabulous journey in the yellow submarine.

This unique and amazing animated film was made at the height of Beatlemania. The Beatles had made two previous live-action films, the trend-setting A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and the extremely silly Help! (1965). Unlike Elvis Presley around the same time, The Beatles wisely saw that film was not their natural medium and declined interested in making any further cinematic outings. They had, however, signed a contract for three films and agreed to complete obligations by instead allowing their likenesses to be used in an animated film based around their earlier hit single Yellow Submarine (1966).

The Beatles were entirely disinterested in the film itself – they were busy working on The White Album (1968). Even their voices are dubbed (not too convincingly) by other performers. However, when the group saw the results they were amazed and agreed to write three songs specifically for Yellow Submarine, as well as to briefly appear in the live-action epilogue. The band subsequently released an album Yellow Submarine (1969), which features six Beatles songs and a B side of soundtrack material taken from the film.

Animated likenesses of The Beatles in Pepperland in Yellow Submarine (1968)
Animated likenesses of The Beatles in Pepperland

Yellow Submarine is made with no intent other than tying a bewilderingly psychedelic array of stylised pop art visuals, loosely connected by a medley of the Fab Four’s songs. And the connections do become loose – the encounter with an intellectual troll in the midst of a white void is occasion to name him the Nowhere Man and segue into said song; on the more inventive side, there is a muddled suggestion of relativity as The Beatles pass their aging selves on the way to Pepperland, which becomes an opportunity to burst into When I’m Sixty-Four.

Yellow Submarine is filled with a delectable array of visual puns – “It’s a two-eyed cyclops,” says someone of a bizarre creature they encounter. “Must be a bicyclops,” is the natural rejoinder. The psychedelia is eye-popping and at all points the landscapes are populated with a bizarre menagerie of creatures – including an ice-cream blowing monster; a vacuum-cleaner creature that sucks everything off the screen, including the picture and then itself; an attack by a giant pair of feet, against which the submarine’s defence is to sprout its own pair of feet and stomp on them. The film climaxes on a battle with a giant glove, which Ringo defeats by knocking off the letter ‘g’ amid a rendition of All You Need is Love.

In 2009, Robert Zemeckis, most recently known for films animated in the motion-capture process such as The Polar Express (2004), Beowulf (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2009), announced plans to conduct a remake of Yellow Submarine is motion-captured animated 3D. This was however dropped in 2011 after a perceived box-office flop of motion-capture animation.

Trailer here

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