“Yellow Submarine”: the secrets of the Beatles cartoon

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On November 13, 1968, Yellow Submarine was released in the United States. The Beatles created a little masterpiece there. Return to a myth that has become timeless.

No clumsy cavalcade through the streets of London. Nor any charming act in front of Ed Sullivan and the American press. Or a coordinated fall in the Austrian powder. The past is the past. As for shaking up the most famous rooftop in music history, that will have to wait. For now, the Beatles are dealing with infernal creatures called Blue Meanies.

1968. Brian Epstein having signed a three-film contract with United Artists, the Beatles were forced to make a sequel to Help! (1965). Yet they have no desire to do so. Epstein therefore asked Al Brodax – one of the producers of the animated series dedicated to the group – if a feature-length animated film could do the trick. Considering the quality of the series, the four musicians are not thrilled. Still, they don’t need to be involved. If it allows them to fulfill their contract, it suits them.

Brodax therefore began to assemble a team of creatives, including Canadian cartoonist George Dunning, director Charles Jenkins and several screenwriters, including Erich Segal, the future author of love story and Latin teacher. It was Jenkins who suggested hiring Heinz Edelmann, a Czech-German graphic designer best known for his work for the magazine Twenty. It was he who brought up the idea of ​​the story as a series of short films, “ so the style of the film varies every five minutes or so, to pique interest. » It is said that all these beautiful people were having difficulty deciding on a direction when Sir George Martin brought them together in 1967 and played them the new Beatles album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They can finally start sailing.

The result will ultimately be to the Beatles’ taste – although Paul may have wanted it to be a classic cartoon…” the greatest Disney film ever made » ! They loved it so much that they agreed to take part in its creation before going to India to study transcendental meditation. Its soundtrack includes many instrumental pieces composed by George Martin, as well as four previously unreleased songs recorded somewhat under duress. It’s no coincidence that George Harrison’s “It’s Only a Northern Song” is more of a demo than a song. The same goes for “All Together Now.” Although catchy, the song is not among the greatest outbursts of McCartney. Only the contribution of John Lennon, “Hey Bulldog,” comes off. Foreshadowing the White Albumthe song gives pride of place to disillusionment.

All of this, combined with ten older songs and a dissolute storyline featuring the town of Pepperland under siege by blue-skinned opponents, made for Yellow Submarine a singular film all its own – a disparate musical comedy that literally transformed popstars into works of art. Goodbye Yellow Submarine today it’s diving into the deep waters of the 60s. Yes, it’s a visual marvel. No matter how many times you watch it, you will be impressed. The sequence devoted to “Eleanor Rigby,” a graying symphony depicting a bleak England, is worth the detour alone. And although the Beatles’ involvement was minimal, their avatars wonderfully embody their different sensibilities and Carnaby Street’s signature explosions of color.

Just look at how the Fab Four are represented. Ringo is his usual self. Just as lost as his character in A Hard Day’s Night, he is subscribed to the roles of foil. As for Lennon, he has something of a Frankenstein’s monster, a tortured creature created here by fame. Comes George Harrison. Cosmic mystic, her hair flutters in the wind. Oriental music is heard. According to Ringo, it’s “Sitarday”! The three boys open a door. A fanfare is heard and Paul enters to raucous cheers. He straightens his tie, grabs a bouquet of flowers and asks happily: “ What is it guys? » Everything from a group leader. Finally, did we mention that their antagonists drop their record company logo on people’s heads? Even without the participation of the Four Boys, one gets the impression that, even in this fairy tale, the dream is somewhat shattered.

Broadcast for the first time on a Sunday afternoon, Yellow Submarine was for many the gateway to the world of the Fab Four. Superheroes in crazy costumes, they slay nasty creatures and save the world… these are unusual musicians. I remember listening to “Nowhere Man”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “When I’m Sixty-Four” long before “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. I was familiar with these animated Beatles long before the hairy A Hard Day’s Night And Help! “ This film speaks to all generations,” George Harrison once said. All children aged three or four are one day confronted with Yellow Submarine. It is therefore surprising to think that, ultimately, it was only a contractual obligation. When you see the quartet frolicking in this rainbow-colored dreamland, you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped through the looking glass. Suddenly, the Beatles appear in the flesh. Dressed in drab shirts, they have little in common with their alter egos. They exchange a few jokes, before singing “All Together Now” in unison. “ All together now. » Rarely has this message been so topical. What are we waiting for?


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.