Friday, 10 August 2012

Yellow Submarine

"It's all in the mind y'know"

Yellow Submarine is a 1968 psychedelic animated musical fantasy featuring the songs of The Beatles. The music hating Blue Meanines attack Pepper Land, draining the countryside of colour and turning its inhabitants into immobile statues. Only one man, Old Fred (Lance Percival) manages to escape, doing so in a yellow submarine. He travels to Liverpool where he enlists the help of The Beatles to save Pepper Land from the Blue Meanie menace. On their journey to Pepper Land the five of them travel through several strange seas which include The Sea of Holes, The Sea of Green and The Sea of Nothing before making it to Pepper Land to take on the Meanies. All the way they are accompanied by a selection of Beatles songs which the plot ties into.

Although the film was based on the song of the same name by Lennon & McCartney, The Beatles actually had very little to do with the film with actors impersonating the Fab Four. The band only appears as themselves in the brief closing scene. The slightly off voice work adds to the cartoon feel of the film while their actual songs provide a fantastic accompanying soundtrack.

I first saw Yellow Submarine when I was very young but a lot of the imagery has stuck with me all these years. The animation is absolutely incredible and is contains some of the most imaginative and surreal images I’ve ever seen. The colours are vibrant and beautiful and the creatures that are found on the journey to Pepper Land are unbelievably weird and wonderful. It’s difficult to describe some of them but I’ll try. Blue Meanies for instance resemble large blue clouds with oversized hands and squat faces. They have yellow teeth, black goggles and black hats which cover long ears/antennas. They also answer no to every question, even when they mean yes. One of their chief weapons is ‘glove’, a giant blue glove with eyes whose index finger points forward while its other fingers curl into a fist. Glove flies around Pepper Land hunting down music and colour. There are hundreds of other surreal and freaky creatures, many of which have some resemblance to boots, socks or heads. Inanimate objects are also anthropomorphised and flamboyantly coloured. The whole film is a treat for the eyes.

The plot is as equally weird as the animation but is moulded around several Beatles songs. Travelling through The Sea of Time for instance gives rise to When I’m Sixty-Four while in The Sea of Nothing the band meet a Nowhere Man, which brings up the song of the same name. Many names, places and events also have Beatles references and these include the likes of Pepper Land being a reference to Sgt. Pepper’s and The Sea of Green taking its name from one of the band’s lyrics. The script is also littered with Beatles in jokes as well as actual jokes and loads of puns. I personally found the film quite funny and as well as laughing at puns also laughed at some of the animation itself for its sheer psychedelic audacity.

One of the highlights of the film is undoubtedly the music. I’m a big Beatles fan and often travel to Liverpool just for Beatles related activities. We have been to the museum a few times, enjoyed nights in The Cavern and even stayed in The Hard Day’s Night Hotel. Due to my love of the band the music only adds to the already fun story and unusually pleasing animation. Some of the songs featured in the film include Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, A Little Help From my Friends, All Together Now and one of my personal favourites Hey Bulldog along with fourteen more. There’s a nice mix of famous songs plus some lesser well known ones and a good mix of early and later music though it is the band’s psychedelic phase which is most prominent in keeping with the animation.

About an hour into the film I did start to feel like it was dragging on a little and although I was still enjoying the music, animation and jokes I was getting a bit bored. I became even more bored once the band reached Pepper Land for the final act and my girlfriend and I ended up having a conversation over the final few minutes. This isn’t the sort of film you need to play close attention to and is perhaps best enjoyed while inhaling/snorting/licking/injecting substances that you’ve always been told not to. I felt high watching it sober so goodness knows what it’s like while actually high. Overall the film is a treat for Beatles fans and people who enjoy unusual and visually arresting animation but it does begin to get a little tired by the end.               



  1. Very nice review. Since you thought the last parts of the movie was slow. Would kids enjoy this movie. I have a niece and nephews who liked "Spirited Away" and enjoy movies that are visual. Or is this strictly for just Beatles fans?

    1. I think the sort of kids who enjoy stuff that is visually exciting should enjoy this. Some stuff might go over their heads but the imagery alone should keep them intrested. Plus Ringo often does silly things which I think children would enjoy.

  2. I was captivated by this movie as a youth, but I agree that as an adult it feels very slow, and becomes harder to pay attention to. I revisited it a few months ago and was surprised at how bored I was getting. But it's all worth it for the joyful "All You Need Is Love"/"It's All Too Much" finale.

    1. I felt the same regarding my surprised boredom. I remembered it being much more exciting but maybe its age or just the lack of coherance.