By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
More than four decades after “Yellow Submarine” appeared in theaters, the surrealistic animated fantasy featuring the Beatles as pop-art cartoon characters surfaces again in a digitally restored DVD version June 5.
The groundbreaking feature’s colorfully psychedelic weirdness is likely to wow a new generation of viewers, while striking a sentimental chord with nostalgic baby boomers.
The fractured fairy tale that opens with “Once upon a time, or maybe twice” features an imaginative Pepperland comprised of kooky creatures and exotic landscapes, set to a soundtrack that includes more than a dozen Beatles songs. Animation director George Dunning helmed the film, which is based on a screenplay by Lee Minoff (who also wrote the story), Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn and Erich Segal (of “Love Story” fame).
All is paradise in Pepperland until the Blue Meanies attack, turning its peaceful inhabitants into stone. Befuddled Old Fred escapes to Liverpool in the yellow submarine to enlist the Beatles’ aid. Group members Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney are collected one by one. Armed with little more than pun-filled humor and songs, the Fab Four set forth on an exciting and sometimes perilous journey. Longtime Beatles record producer George Martin composed the movie’s magnificent orchestral score.
This new DVD (and Blu-Ray) version boasts a “lovingly restored” frame-by-frame restoration accomplished by hand, with a stereo and 5.1 soundtrack. This version is presented in what the packaging indicates is “the original aspect ratio of 1:66-1,” and looks much better than a 1999 DVD release that awkwardly fit the widescreen picture into a full-frame format. But keen-eyed Beatles aficionados will notice that the 1999 full-frame VHS version included more picture image at the top and bottom of the screen (while cutting off the sides).
Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes “The Mod Odyssey” featurette, original pencil drawings and brief interviews with some of the crew and vocal talents. All of the extras previously appeared on the 1999 DVD release. Oddly, this new version does not include the 1999 DVD’s option to play a music-only audio track.
Although actors provide the voices for the John, Paul, George and Ringo characters, the songs in the film are the original tracks sung by the band. Also, the real Beatles appear in a live-action scene at the end of the movie.
“Yellow Submarine” is a delightful animated feature that will take audiences on a tour that is still magical after all these years.