“Yellow Submarine” (1968; DVD release, 1999; Blu-ray release 2012). Cast: The Beatles/Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr), Paul Angelis, John Clive, Geoff Hughes, Peter Batten, Dick Emery, Lance Percival. Director: George Dunning. Screenplay: Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn and Erich Segal. Story: Lee Minoff. http://yellowsubmarine.com
I recently had the pleasure of attending a screening of a digitally remastered version of the Beatles’ animated classic, “Yellow Submarine.” It was one in a series of special showings currently going on in the run-up to the film’s Blu-ray Disc release on June 4. And what a treat it was!
It had been nearly 20 years since I last saw this groundbreaking picture, and the print tapped for that screening had definitely seen better days. So you can imagine how thoroughly enjoying it was to see this film so lovingly restored to a level of quality on par with its original release, if not better.
For those not familiar with this classic, “Yellow Submarine” tells the story of a mythical realm known as Pepperland, home of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the fictional ensemble featured on the Beatles’ album of the same name. Pepperland is a magical place, a utopia for art and music, populated by residents who embody the notions of love, acceptance and happiness. All is well in this idyllic land until it’s overrun by throngs of villainous evildoers known as the Blue Meanies, giggling, nefarious gnome-like beings who despise music and all that is beautiful. They quickly take over Pepperland, transforming its once-happy and vibrant residents into pale statutes standing stoically in a silent land.
Faced with a sorrowful future, Pepperland’s Lord Mayor (voiced by Dick Emery) dispatches one of the few unaffected residents, aging sea captain Old Fred (voiced by Lance Percival), to find others who can help liberate Pepperland. And so the lonely mariner sets off in his trusty yellow submarine to seek assistance. His journey eventually takes him to Liverpool, where he meets the Beatles (voiced by Paul Angelis, John Clive, Peter Batten and Geoff Hughes as Ringo, John, George and Paul, respectively), who join Old Fred in his quest to restore Pepperland to its previous glory. The unlikely quintet thus sets off on an epic, psychedelic odyssey to Pepperland, singing their way through a series of mysterious locales toward a fateful showdown with the Blue Meanies.
Just as the Beatles’ recordings were thoroughly overanalyzed at the time of their release, it would be easy to do the same with this film now, especially in hindsight. Suffice it to say, however, its overriding themes and fable-like narrative are fairly simple and straightforward, namely, that the world would be a much better place if it were like Pepperland, a realm that celebrates all the good things in life and that, conversely, becomes full of despair when corrupted by negative influences. Overthrowing those corrupting influences is clearly the way to set things right, yet the Beatles don’t go about it with violence or retribution, the conventional means typically employed by most liberating forces. Instead, they fight fire with fire, using their own talents and drawing upon the hallmark virtues of Pepperland, such as music, beauty and love, to convert the conquerors rather than grind them into humiliation and submission. This sheds light on the notion of loving, not hating, one’s enemies as a way to transform their thinking and the world in which we all dwell. And, given the state of our own world these days, we’d be wise to heed this advice as an alternative to the largely unsuccessful, resentment-spawning methods that have been, and continue to be, used as a way to settle disputes.
This notion is directly in line with law of attraction theory (also known as conscious creation), the philosophy that we draw to us what we concentrate upon. If we were to focus our thoughts, intents and beliefs on violence and hatred, it’s not hard to envision what we’d get in return. However, by contrast, when we place our emphasis on all things positive, we reap comparable qualities in abundance. Such a shift in our outlooks can indeed bring about a shift in our reality, and, to get there, as the Beatles sang in one of their signature songs from the film, “All you need is love.”
“Yellow Submarine” is truly a fun time at the movies, almost nostalgic in a way (somewhat ironic, given that this picture was radically cutting edge in many ways at the time of its original release). It’s arguably the best picture the band participated in making (the Beatles themselves appear in a short live action sequence at the end of the film). The picture’s innovative animation, with its stunningly vibrant colors and ethereal images, set it apart from anything that had been released at the time (and even from many of the animated offerings that have been put out since then). Its soundtrack, which includes an excellent selection of Beatles classics and several pieces written exclusively for the film, will be sure to get your toes tapping (this version, like the 1999 DVD release, includes the song Hey Bulldog, which was cut from the original theatrical version). The movie’s screenplay is an added bonus, punctuated by ample wit and loads of “in” jokes referencing the lyrics of Beatles songs, as well as the outside interests of the band members.
If you get the chance to see this picture on the big screen during its current series of special screenings, by all means go for it. If not, be sure to catch it on disc when it comes out. It may be just the ticket to put you in a great frame of mind, and, when it comes to creating the reality you experience around you, all you need is that!
Copyright © 2012, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.