“Once upon a time…or maybe twice…there was an unearthly paradise called Pepperland…”
The Beatles’ classic 1968 animated feature film, Yellow Submarine, has been restored in 4K digital resolution for the first time by Paul Rutan Jr. and his team at Triage Motion Picture Services. No automated software was used in the clean-up of the film’s restored photochemical elements. This was a job painstakingly done by hand, a single frame at a time. The absolutely stunning Yellow Submarine restoration premiered last weekend at the SXSW festival and will be coming on Blu-Ray DVD at the end of May with a new 5.1 multi-channel audio soundtrack. Seeing the film unspool on the big screen of Austin’s historic Paramount Theatre was like watching a series of moving stained glass windows.
Directed by George Dunning, and written by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn and future best-selling Love Story novelist Erich Segal, Yellow Submarine, based upon the song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, is a basically incomprehensible series of musical vignettes, groan-worthy puns and lysergically-inspired kaleidoscopic eye-candy that sees John, Paul, George and Ringo saving the world from the evil Blue Meanies.
When Yellow Submarine originally premiered in 1968, the film was regarded as an artistic marvel. With its innovative animation techniques, it represented the most technologically advanced animation work since Disney’s masterpiece, Fantasia. Inspired by the Pop Art of Andy Warhol, Peter Max and Peter Blake, art director Heinz Edelmann’s work on Yellow Submarine is now considered among the classics of animated cinema. Yellow Submarine also showcases the creative work of animation directors Robert Balser and Jack Stokes along with a team of the best animators and technical artists that money could hire. The ground-breaking animation styles included 3-D sequences and the highly detailed “rotoscoping” (tracing film frame by frame) of the celebrated “Eleanor Rigby” sequence. The production process took nearly two years and employed 40 animators and 140 technical artists.
I must say, though, as happy as I was to be one of the first people to see the restored Yellow Submarine, I couldn’t help be to think that—with all of its merits—the film is just a little bit boring. If you responded negatively to the news of the (now shelved) Yellow Submarine 3-D remake, consider that not only did the Fab Four have precious little to do with the actual making of the original film (it’s not even their own voices) but that today’s kids—your kids—won’t have the patience to sit through it. Nor will they even understand what’s being said onscreen. Yellow Submarine, I hate to say it, was ripe for a remake. Sacrilege, I know, but it’s not like I’m suggesting that they remake A Hard Day’s Night or anything!
Below, a decidedly low res version of Yellow Submarine in its entirety. This isn’t really the way to watch it, of course…