To celebrate its 50th anniversary, The Beatles’ classic animation, Yellow Submarine, is being re-released, in all its digitally restored, psychedelic glory.

Remastered to 4K resolution and with a surround sound make-over, fittingly at Abbey Studios, audiences today can enjoy a similar vibrant experience as they did back in 1968.

Lee Minoff came up with the story based upon the Lennon and McCartney song of the same name, and the screenplay was co-written between, himself, Jack Mendelsohn, Erich Segal, and the film’s Producer, Al Brodax.

The plot is an archetypal, good versus evil narrative, but with random acts of eccentricity sandwiched between the inciting incident of wickedness and the righting of the wrong at the end.

Set in the paradise of Pepperland, its musical protectors, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band are imprisoned in a glass dome by their music-hating neighbours, the Blue Meanies. These cobalt baddies rampage through the once harmonious state, lobbing missiles and green apples at fleeing islanders, turning them into statues.

Old Fred, the sole survivor, is tasked with saving the happy-go-lucky place, and boards the yellow submarine before he too is attacked. The multi-coloured vessel ends up in Liverpool where Old Fred enlists the help of Ringo, John, Paul and George. After many adventures, and set-backs, they are victorious and set-free Sgt Pepper and his ensemble and return Pepperland to its former technicolour and tuneful self.

Bursting with creative juice from the off, the feature showcases iconic tunes from the Beatles songbook including; ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,’ ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ and ‘When I’m Sixty Four.’ The band also produced four original tracks for the film; ‘Hey Bulldog,’ ‘Only a Northern Song,’ ‘It’s All Too Much’ and ‘All Together Now.’

Film-maker and Animator, George Dunning, directed the fantasy-adventure but it is Art Director, Heinz Edelmann, whose talents are celebrated the most in respect of the visual production.

Edelmann, a poster artist from Germany, had no previous experience working on film, but he was hired on the strength of his distinctive style of drawing. Elongated, rectangular designs for the Beatles’ characters, projects a more mature image, and a shift away from traditional rounded cartoon shapes. Their faces are distinctively, John, Paul, George and Ringo but they also have classical aspect to them. Other characters and images are the stuff of dreams and nightmares, daubed from a paint box of primary colours, all of which demand attention – and get it.

When the idea was conceived, the aim was to produce a landmark animation feature which would be suitable for adults and children. This is largely achieved through grown-up gags and humour and Edelmann’s vision for the film to be a series of interconnected shorts, to keep the audiences’ interest.

Technically the film was ground-breaking on many levels, but most notably for blending live action photography with fictional artwork, which is poignantly evident in the ‘Eleanor Rigby’ scenes.

Mixed media and abstract ideas gives the film a contemporary edge, and many of the images wouldn’t look out of place in a Monty Python sketch, a Salvador Dalí sculpture park or, as with the treated photos, posing as a backstreet Banksy mural.

Whilst the innovative artwork is bolstered by a script splattered with clever wordplay and jokes, it does nevertheless feel dated, but in a gentle, nostalgic way. Uncredited at the time, Liverpudlian poet, Roger McGough, was drafted in to “Scouse it up”, which works well in anchoring the Beatles’ characters to their northern roots.

Yellow Submarine is the sublime and quirky marriage of music and pop art, a kaleidoscopic treat that audiences – young and not so young – will admire and enjoy, for decades to come.

LATEST REVIEWS