DVD Review: Yellow Submarine (Digitally Remastered)

I was raised by a huge Beatles fan - my mother. I actually didn't know there was any other music in the world other than the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and eventually Elvis, until I was about ten years old and got my first radio. This is the one band I can honestly say has been a part of my entire life.

Hearing that, you may find it off that I've never actually seen Yellow Submarine. Don't yell - it just managed to slip through the cracks. I'm making up for it now!

I started watching this with my mom on a weekend home, just to see how it compared with her memories. Immediately, she exclaimed "this looks great!" The digital restoration and stereo soundtrack enhanced this film more than I think she had ever expected. Clearly, we're from different times, because the drawings, at first, looked incredibly simple to me. As the film proceeds though, the colors and styles create this incredible visual masterpiece. I thought I would be bothered by the variation of styles throughout, but it just makes for a unique experience that I think about sums up my view of the late '60s/early '70s. Color, color, color - and never holding back on what it could be used for. Ten minutes in, and I was already more interested just with the intro and opening credits than any movie has in quite some time.

My biggest worry going into this was that it'd be too much like Nine Types Of Light from TV on the Radio, where every song is basically sectioned out into its own music video and it's difficult to track an actual story. This was squelched quickly though, if by nothing more than the submarine itself. As we moved from the opening title track into "Eleanor Rigby," the submarine continues to move through the skies and backgrounds, even when it has no clear reason to, leading us from Pepperland to the initial meeting of the Beatles. It is here that we begin the journey of good vs. evil - the Fab Four versus the Blue Meanies and the Flying Glove!

It's only appropriate that we spend at least a few sentences on the music in the film. Obviously, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has gone down as one of the, if not THE, best album of all time. It provided storytelling in itself. Every song lent itself to some sort of visual in our own heads, so putting those songs into a movie seems to only be challenging in narrowing down the choices of what should appear on screen. The job done here is incredible. Every song does have its own style, but everything ties together regardless. And the sound of that music throughout? Gorgeously remastered. I listened to this on two different speakers - in a decent stereo setup and then through computer speakers. Both were equally pleasing in their own rights, filling the room with a clear, crisp listening experience.

Basically, this movie is the epitome of visual and aural candy. You can certainly never get bored, because just when you get used to one type of image, another is filling the screen. The music is timeless and you still can't help but bop your head throughout, singing along to every word (that is, when you're not laughing at the hilarious antics of the Beatles). While I may not know what it was like before this remastered version, I can tell you one thing: this is more than a movie. Yellow Submarine is an experience, and this re-release is one not to be missed.

PLUS there are all of these Special Features:
  • Audio Commentary track by John Coates and Heinz Edemann.
  • Making of documentary "Mod Odyssey" (created 1968): an eight-minute featurette giving us a look into the process, this largely seems like a satire on the actual process. For instance, when talking on how the story came about, there is a line on the great literature used in research by the producers - then they're shown reading some old Marvel comics and the like. They do go farther in depth on the drawing styles used (everything) and the animation techniques employed (anything). There were candid moments caught off-camera, and is a delight to any Beatles fan looking for some background moments of the boys. It's a hard movie to sum up in this short of time, but a taste of the film is given, letting you crave more.
  • Original theatrical trailer: look, the movie was going to sell either way - it's the freaking Beatles! But for the artistic types, this trailer would have beyond sold it. With the Beatles promoted as "the forces of good," and a list of "forces of evil," there was even a story (in theory) to look forward to. At about four minutes long, I think they covered themselves on just about every audience. I would have been sold and, quite frankly, mesmerized by just this!
  • Storyboard sequences: something for the artistic and film geeks out there that like to see the original pieces that they filmmakers started out with, including Sea of Monsters, Battle of the Monsters, and Pepperland.
  • Original pencil drawings: largely concept drawings, in a flip-book fashion on screen.
  • Behind the scenes photos: photos taken in November of 1967 at the TVC animation studio in Soho, London. I have to say, I don't think I've ever seen any of these before. It's always fun to see your idols goofing off a little, being fun human beings.
  • Interviews with Paul Angelis (voice of Ringo and Chief Blue Meanie), John Clive (voice of John), David Licesey (key animator), Millicent McMillan (assistant to Heinz Edelmann), Jack Stokes (animation director), and Erich Sega (co-writer).

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