Pop Goes The Movies: Yellow Submarine

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Chris Morley sailed up to the sun until he found the sea of green...


It seems anyone who's anyone has an animated vehicle for their talents these days - and five decades ago the Beatles were no different, though Yellow Submarine was initially conceived as a means of finalising their contract with United Artists following A Hard Day's Night & Help.



Getting around the obligation to appear in the film with a brief live action cameo at the end, just before heading off to India to study transcendental meditation & come up with The White Album, it was left to their animated selves to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies, music-hating monsters!



The giant green apples they drop on the terrified citizens of what had been something of a paradise are a reference to the Fabs' own Apple label, which saw its inception in the year of the film's release.

Yellow Submarine's chosen style of animation would later be hailed as pioneering. As Studio Daily reported back in 2012.......
"The film contains a wide variety of what were, at the time, experimental animation techniques, including free-form, hand-drawn rotoscoping, watercolor, animation of still photos and even use of an array of Scotch tape to produce a kaleidoscopic effect, along with traditional cell animation.

So tricky, then, was the matter of determining what items, if any, were true mistakes which needed to be corrected and which items might be mistakes, but were inherent in the original animation and needed to remain intact as part of the history of the film itself."
That was during the process of a remaster of the original on Blu-Ray. At the same time news broke that Disney were interested in a potential remake. Robert Zemeckis had been announced as the director, and the cast was suitably stellar - Rolling Stone announcing that...
"Dean Lennox Kelly will voice the John Lennon character, Peter Serafinowicz will play Paul McCartney and Adam Campbell will portray Ringo Starr."
In the original, the roles had been played by the lesser known John Clive, Geoff Hughes & Paul Angelis. Disney eventually got cold feet, but had they gone ahead they could've saved themselves some cash by having Serafinowicz play all the Fab Four...



Moving on to the music, a 1999 US theatrical return for Yellow Submarine included a reinstated Hey Bulldog...



Originally cut from the 1968 cinematic release for reasons of length, Paul McCartney would later speak highly of it!
"I remember (it) as being one of John's songs and I helped him finish it off in the studio, but it's mainly his vibe. There's a little rap at the end between John and I, we went into a crazy little thing at the end.

We always tried to make every song different because we figured, 'Why write something like the last one? We've done that.' We were on a ladder so there was never any sense of stepping down a rung, or even staying on the same rung, it was better to move one rung ahead."
Three other originals were composed to fulfil another obligation - to provide some new music. These were It's All Too MuchAll Together Now and Only A Northern Song.



George Harrison seemingly saw his Northern ode as a joke at the expense of Northern Songs Ltd, the company handling matters of copyright.
"[Only a Northern Song] was a joke relating to Liverpool, the Holy City in the North of England. In addition, the song was copyrighted Northern Songs Ltd., which I don't own, so: It doesn't really matter what chords I play … as it's only a Northern Song."
Northern Songs having been established in 1963 at the height of the Fab Four's early fame, before being floated on the Stock Exchange two years later to avoid capital gains tax.

The song list inevitably includes the title track of the film, taken from Revolver as sung by drummer Ringo Starr.



Though described by McCartney as a children's song, its had many differing interpretations, not least that attributed to Donovan, who was with Paul as he was writing it, as well as being among the party who headed to India with the Maharishi a few years later.
“It’s not really a submarine, it’s really about the life that they had been forced into living inside their own lives in the white tower called ‘Beatle fame’ and not really having any contact with reality out there anymore, and we all live in a yellow.. we are insulated from the outer world.”
All part of the helter skelter that was life as a Beatle at the time, as history records!

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