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HISTORY

Between 1965 and 1969, the British rock and roll band, The Beatles, were featured in an animated television series produced by King Features, which aired on American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The originator of the show, producer Al Brodax, was then based at King Features. Inspired by the show’s popularity, Brodax brought the idea of an animated, feature-length motion picture to the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, according to a 24 Apr 1968 Var article and Brodax’s obituary in the 2 Dec 2016 NYT. Brodax was aware that the four members of the Beatles – Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr – were not fans of the Saturday cartoon, and thus pitched the movie idea as a way for the Beatles to fulfill an outstanding, multiple-picture contract with United Artists (UA), for which they had already appeared in 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night and 1965’s Help! (see entries). Knowing that the band had grown tired of acting, Brodax presented Yellow Submarine to Epstein as the perfect solution – the UA deal would be completed without requiring the band to do any work. The Beatles agreed, and a deal was struck between King Features and Epstein’s Subafilms. However, as the script was being developed, Brodax was reportedly met with resistance from Epstein, who rejected several drafts of the screenplay, including one by novelist Joseph Heller. In addition to the final credited screenwriters, Roger McGough was said to have worked on script revisions.
       While the Beatles’ characters were voiced by actors, the band members reportedly dubbed their own voices in a “gag fadeout” at the end of the picture, according ... More Less

Between 1965 and 1969, the British rock and roll band, The Beatles, were featured in an animated television series produced by King Features, which aired on American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The originator of the show, producer Al Brodax, was then based at King Features. Inspired by the show’s popularity, Brodax brought the idea of an animated, feature-length motion picture to the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, according to a 24 Apr 1968 Var article and Brodax’s obituary in the 2 Dec 2016 NYT. Brodax was aware that the four members of the Beatles – Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr – were not fans of the Saturday cartoon, and thus pitched the movie idea as a way for the Beatles to fulfill an outstanding, multiple-picture contract with United Artists (UA), for which they had already appeared in 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night and 1965’s Help! (see entries). Knowing that the band had grown tired of acting, Brodax presented Yellow Submarine to Epstein as the perfect solution – the UA deal would be completed without requiring the band to do any work. The Beatles agreed, and a deal was struck between King Features and Epstein’s Subafilms. However, as the script was being developed, Brodax was reportedly met with resistance from Epstein, who rejected several drafts of the screenplay, including one by novelist Joseph Heller. In addition to the final credited screenwriters, Roger McGough was said to have worked on script revisions.
       While the Beatles’ characters were voiced by actors, the band members reportedly dubbed their own voices in a “gag fadeout” at the end of the picture, according to the 23 Jul 1968 DV review.
       On 10 Jul 1967, LAT announced that the project was underway, describing it as a “Mod Fantasia” featuring the Beatles on a quest “for a mythical land of submarines.” Different figures for the budget were reported: while the 9 Jan 1974 Var and 30 Apr 2012 PR Newswire listed production costs as $1 million, the budget was estimated at $1.5 million in the 25 Jul 1968 DV and $1.7 million in the 1 Nov 1968 LAT, and the 24 Apr 1968 Var stated that it cost “several million dollars.” UA set a tight, one-year deadline so that the film could be released by Jul 1968. Mostly to save money, but also to attract international artists who were not mired in the style of Walt Disney Pictures’ animation, Brodax based production in London, England.
       The script reportedly went through fourteen drafts. The 2 Dec 2016 NYT suggested that animators and writers were in “constant friction and turmoil,” and noted that Brodax was unable to rein in the many visual artists who “took creative license, adding their own plot elements and more or less running amok.” The 1 Nov 1968 LAT described the animation process as “a gigantic undertaking” and stated that art director Heinz Edelmann, a well-respected Czech illustrator who had never before worked on a feature film, suffered a heart attack shortly after the project was completed. Edelmann, who drew the original designs for the picture and was generally credited with its overall aesthetic, was quoted in the 30 Apr 2012 PR Newswire saying that he had envisioned Yellow Submarine as a “series of interconnected shorts” with differing visual styles, that would change every five minutes or so to maintain interest. The styles were said to include live-action photography blended with animation, three-dimensional sequences, “and kaleidoscopic ‘rotoscoping’ where film is traced frame by frame into drawings.” For the “A Day in the Life” sequence, which showed real-life photographs flashing on the screen six frames at a time, images were chosen from copies of Holiday magazine, and also came from postcards Brodax hand-selected at a “rack in Soho,” according to the 1 Nov 1968 LAT. A three-dimensional effect was said to be achieved in a sunrise sequence set in Liverpool, although Brodax claimed the effect was a happy accident. He stated, “When we saw the sequence we were delighted – no animator has ever gotten a 3-D effect. The unhappy truth is that we never got it again, no matter how many times we tried.” Much emphasis was made on the film’s departure from Disney-style animation based on circular shapes that were easier to propel through a two-dimensional space. On the contrary, the characters in Yellow Submarine were more angular, like “extended rectangles,” based on Edelmann’s prototypes. Techniques to make the odd-shaped characters appear to move fluidly required several months to perfect. Brodax, who boasted in the 24 Apr 1968 Var that Yellow Submarine was “the first departure in animation since Disney,” was said to be so pleased with the final product that he gave more people onscreen credits than UA wanted. Brodax eventually wrote an account of the production, titled Up Periscope Yellow: The Making of the Beatles Yellow Submarine, that was published in 2004.
       A London, England, premiere of the film, described in the 9 Jan 1974 Var as only the second feature-length animated motion picture to be produced in the U.K., was scheduled to take place on 18 Jul 1968, several months before the U.S. release, the 22 May 1968 Var reported. The release of the soundtrack album was held back until Nov 1968, however, to coincide with the U.S. release. In the meantime, an article in the 14 Aug 1968 Var stated that the picture was not performing as well as expected in London, where it had been dropped by several Rank Organization theaters due to poor ticket sales. One theater manager blamed the film’s lack of appeal for children, and claimed that he, as had several others, had replaced it with Peter Pan (1953, see entry). The Beatles’ company, Apple Records, was said to be “heavily involved” and bitterly disappointed by the diminished release.
       A premiere in Los Angeles, CA, took place on 12 Nov 1968 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), as noted in that day’s DV, marking the second time a film had debuted at LACMA, after 1965’s The Train (see entry), according to a 5 Oct 1968 LAT item. Regular screenings began on 13 Nov 1968 at the Village Theatre in Westwood, CA. Footage from the premiere event was set to be broadcast on KHJ-TV on 16 Nov 1968, the 15 Nov 1968 DV stated.
       Faring better in the U.S. than it had in England, the picture went on to gross $3 million in film rentals, as stated in a 7 Jan 1970 Var box-office chart. Moreoever, it was well received by critics, lauded in the 24 Nov 1968 LAT as a harbinger of a new, post-Disney era in feature film animation. The 9 Jan 1974 Var later credited the picture with bringing a “graphic revolution” to American advertising, as well. The picture received an award from the New York Critics Circle, and, over the years, has come to be known as a classic psychedelic film.
       The soundtrack marked the Beatles’ fourteenth album and received an award from the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), according to a 25 Feb 1969 DV item. Merchandising for the picture included “Blue Meanie” and “Boob” items, as stated in the 25 Jul 1968 DV, as well as a novelization from New American Library in the U.S., to be published by another company in England. British promotions also included a tie-in with Pepsi-Cola.
       Brodax and King Features arranged to make between one and three more animated motion pictures with Trickfilm Ltd., headed by Heinz Edelmann and special effects man Charles Jenkins, as stated in the 7 Aug 1968 DV. However, Yellow Submarine marked the sole feature film credit for Edelmann before his death in 2009. It was also the only theatrical motion picture credit for Al Brodax, and associate producer Mary Ellen Stewart, who died at age thirty-four while production was still underway.
       In 1987, MGM/UA released a home video version Yellow Submarine, a move that sparked a lawsuit brought by Subafilms and the Hearst Corp. (the parent company to King Features) against MGM/UA and Warner Bros. Pictures, according to the 10 Nov 1988 DV. Subafilms claimed that the ten-year agreement it had made with UA had expired; not only that, according to its 1966 contract, Subafilms had retained “nontheatrical rights” to Yellow Submarine, as noted in the 18 Sep 1990 DV. Ultimately, a federal judge ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, calling for an injunction against the release. Subafilms was awarded $2.28 million in damages (after a percentage paid to UA, which had retained a twenty-percent interest in the picture), in addition to attorney’s fees. Subafilm’s lawyer, Bert Fields, claimed the ruling was “significant” because “‘there is no other case on point’ regarding a definition of a producer’s non-theatrical contractual rights.” MGM/UA countersued over the decision, asserting that its overseas home video distribution efforts had not been in breach of contract. An item in the 16 May 1994 DV reported that the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals had ruled in MGM/UA’s favor, determining that U.S. copyright laws cited in the earlier lawsuit did not apply outside the country, therefore overturning half of the $2.28 million in damages previously awarded to Subafilms.
       A “digitally renovated” version, with a remixed soundtrack featuring DTS Digital Sound, was set to be released in theaters in early Sep 1999, and on home video (by MGM Home Entertainment) on 14 Sep 1999, according to a 24 Aug 1999 Business Wire article. The film was restored again in 2012, as noted in the 30 Apr 2012 PR Newswire. The second digital restoration by Paul Rutan, Jr., Triage Motion Picture Services, and Eque, Inc., was accomplished by hand, frame-by-frame, due to the “delicate nature of the hand-drawn original artwork.” A theatrical reissue of the restored film, beginning on 5 May 2012 at New York City’s Ziegfeld Theatre, was set to be followed by a home video release on 4 Jun 2012 overseas and the following day in the U.S. A revamped soundtrack was also slated to be released at the same time.
       In 2009, Robert Zemeckis and Walt Disney Pictures agreed to make a “3-D performance-capture animation” re-make of Yellow Submarine, as announced in the 26 Aug 2009 DV. Several months later, however, the 15 Mar 2010 DV stated that Disney planned to shut down Zemeckis’s ImageMovers Digital animation company, where the project had been set up. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Business Wire
24 Aug 1999
p. 1.
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1967
p. 12.
Daily Variety
31 Jan 1968
p. 18.
Daily Variety
23 Jul 1968
p. 3, 6.
Daily Variety
25 Jul 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
7 Aug 1968
p. 8.
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1968
p. 25.
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1969
p. 16.
Daily Variety
14 Aug 1987
p. 28, 32.
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1988
p. 23.
Daily Variety
18 Sep 1990
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 May 1994
p. 14.
Daily Variety
26 Aug 2009
p. 5.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 2010
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
25 Sep 1965
Section B, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
10 Jul 1967
Section C, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
5 Oct 1968
p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
1 Nov 1968
Section F, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
24 Nov 1968
Section Q, p. 1, 70.
New York Times
2 Dec 2016.
---
PR Newswire
30 Apr 2012.
---
Variety
3 Jan 1968
p. 73.
Variety
24 Apr 1968
p. 31.
Variety
22 May 1968
p. 3, 20.
Variety
14 Aug 1968
p. 31.
Variety
30 Apr 1969
p. 58.
Variety
7 Jan 1970
p. 15.
Variety
9 Jan 1974
p. 75.
Variety
9 Jan 1974
p. 77.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Anim dir
Anim dir
Live action seq dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst Production design
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Dub
Dub
Dub mix
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod coordinator
Prod asst
ANIMATION
Anim seq dir
Anim
Anim
Anim
Anim
Anim
Anim
Anim
Anim sp eff
Supervisor anim clean-up
Anim clean-up
Anim clean-up
Anim clean-up
Anim clean-up
Trace and paint supervisor
Trace and paint supervisor
Trace and paint supervisor
Trace and paint supervisor
Trace and paint supervisor
Trace and paint supervisor
Trace and paint supervisor
Background supervisor
Background supervisor
Dsgn
Layout
Layout
Layout
Layout
Layout
Background artists
Background artists
Background artists
Background artists
Background artists
Background artists
Background artists
Background artists
Background artists
Background artists
SOURCES
LITERARY
Inspired by the song "Yellow Submarine," words and music by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (1966).
SONGS
"Yellow Submarine," "When I'm Sixty-Four," "Nowhere Man," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Eleanor Rigby," "All You Need Is Love," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "A Day in the Life," "All Together Now" and "Hey Bulldog," words and music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
"It's All Too Much" and "Only a Northern Song," words and music by George Harrison, all songs sung by The Beatles.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 November 1968
Premiere Information:
London premiere: 18 Jul 1968; Los Angeles premiere: 12 Nov 1968; Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 Nov 1968
Copyright Claimant:
King Features
Copyright Date:
18 July 1968
Copyright Number:
LP36362
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
De Luxe
Animation
Duration(in mins):
85
MPAA Rating:
G
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
21861
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a peaceful day in the happy kingdom of Pepperland, a concert by Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is interrupted by an invasion of the Blue Meanies, a horde of music-hating ogres who drain their victims of color with Splotch Guns and render them immobile by pelting them on their heads with huge green apples. Old Fred, the conductor of the band, escapes to the Lord Mayor, who sends him for help in a yellow submarine. Upon arriving in Liverpool, Old Fred encounters Ringo and recruits the other Beatles -- John, Paul, and George -- to help save Pepperland. Setting off in the yellow submarine, the five adventurers embark on a "modyssey" that carries them through many strange realms: the sea of time, the sea of science, the sea of monsters, the sea of green, and the sea of holes. After picking up the little Nowhere Man, they are propelled by an enormous sneeze through the sea of holes into occupied Pepperland. Disguising themselves as one of the Meanies' giants, "Apple Bonkers," they infiltrate a compound where all the musical instruments have been stored. Now armed with songs and love, they rout the Blue Meanies in a battle royal and convert them into peaceful citizens, thereby restoring life, color, music, and love to ... +


On a peaceful day in the happy kingdom of Pepperland, a concert by Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is interrupted by an invasion of the Blue Meanies, a horde of music-hating ogres who drain their victims of color with Splotch Guns and render them immobile by pelting them on their heads with huge green apples. Old Fred, the conductor of the band, escapes to the Lord Mayor, who sends him for help in a yellow submarine. Upon arriving in Liverpool, Old Fred encounters Ringo and recruits the other Beatles -- John, Paul, and George -- to help save Pepperland. Setting off in the yellow submarine, the five adventurers embark on a "modyssey" that carries them through many strange realms: the sea of time, the sea of science, the sea of monsters, the sea of green, and the sea of holes. After picking up the little Nowhere Man, they are propelled by an enormous sneeze through the sea of holes into occupied Pepperland. Disguising themselves as one of the Meanies' giants, "Apple Bonkers," they infiltrate a compound where all the musical instruments have been stored. Now armed with songs and love, they rout the Blue Meanies in a battle royal and convert them into peaceful citizens, thereby restoring life, color, music, and love to Pepperland. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.