UK/1968/85mins. Dir. George Dunning
The Beatles are spirited away in the eponymous yellow submarine to save Pepperland from the dreaded Blue Meanies. Along the way, the singing saviors encounter a surreal feast for both the eyes and ears: phantasmagorical creatures, outrageous landscapes, and colors that throb and vibrate to each and every Beatles song on the soundtrack. It’s a drug-free, hallucinogenic journey for the armchair tripper, the peak of which is undoubtedly (and not surprisingly) the “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sequence. An incredible film experience at all levels, “Yellow Submarine” manages to capture exquisitely and in visual form the beauty and madness of the incomparable Beatles.
Independent producer-director George Dunning was given only 11 months to complete “Yellow Submarine”. (A typical Disney animated feature of the time took four years to make). Dunning had to quadruple his studio staff, fight off financial backers who wanted to change The Beatles’ Liverpool accents, and work with scant cooperation from The Beatles’ themselves, who wanted little to do with the project. (Voice actors were used to impersonate their characters’ spoken dialogue). Released in the Summer of 1968, “Yellow Submarine” was a smash hit, bringing Dunning immense prestige and a special award from the New York Film Critics. Even The Beatles were impressed, agreeing at the last minute to appear in a hastily filmed live-action epilogue.