It was 1968 and the cultural revolution was in full swing. There were marches on campuses. In Paris, the barricades were up. Bras were burned. Draft cards were burned, and sadly, some cities were burning. The sense of change was palpable. Music was leading the way. An unpopular war sparked protest. The emerging economic power of the baby boomers was exploding and The Beatles lead the march. It was the year that ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Sgt Pepper hit the movie theaters.

Blue Meanies, Pepperland and the Beatles music made ‘Yellow Submarine’ a cultural touchstone. Created by King Features for United Artists, it had a distinctly non-Disney animated look to it. Many folks incorrectly assumed that the visual aesthetic was done by or inspired by pop artist Peter Max. The opposite is true. Peter Max’s art was inspired by the animator of ‘Yellow Submarine’, Heinz Edelmann’s and Milton Glaser’s earlier works. Interestingly, the style of ‘Yellow Submarine’ inspired Terry Gilliam’s animation he used with Monty Python.

The success of the film followed by rights issues over the ensuing years has given it a certain cult status. The music is still popular. Even the surviving Beatles consider the film ‘classic’ although their participation was minimal.

There was a planned remake to be done by Robert Zemeckis and Disney. It was going to be done in the motion capture style of Zemeckis’ earlier films, ‘Polar Express’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, the whole project was scraped when Zemeckis’ “Mars Needs Moms” tanked so badly. Zemeckis has been banished.

Yet fear not, dear reader, ‘Yellow Submarine” will be released in a new carefully remastered DVD on May 28, 2012. It is 45 years after the fact and it still holds up.

And to be honest, every once in a while, I recall that there is a underlying philosophy that pervades this ground breaking film. And that is “All You Need is Love”. It is still true today.


3 thoughts on “

  1. Hi Garen- For me, at the point in time you mentioned, the only march the Beatles led in those volatile times was towards irrelevance. Kids heads are getting busted open in Chicago, Paris and Watts are in flames, and the Beatles are singing “We all live in a yellow submarine.”. They weren’t topical and didn’t comment so much on the turbulent political realities of the time. But the Stones had it right with “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man” on Beggars Banquet don’t you think? And while I would agree that “all you need is love, is perfect sentiment in the abstract, we’ve proven time and time again it’s an easier slog just to duke it out. Yellow Submarine was pop.

    • The Beatles were certainly not revolutionaries, but revolution was in the air. I was thinking of this in more of a macro sense. They managed to tap into the zeitgeist of the moment. I think we can draw a line from the music of the period, including The Beatles, to the cultural wars as exhibited today by reactionaries like the Tea Party, the Christian right, and the politicians who pander to a platitude hungry crowd. “Yellow Submarine”, “Easy Rider”, “Head” and other films of that sort, changed the culture for good or for bad. Pop went mainstream and has continued to dominate. It is one of the reasons why the discourse in this country has gotten so coarse. BTW: thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Actually a remake was a bad idea, a sequel where Pepperland was imperiled because of a loss of love MIGHT have worked.
    Most people, even fans seem to have forgotten there were two versions of the film with the American cut missing the ‘Hey Bulldog’ segment and other minor differences.

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