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Kevin Krock, editor
DVD Review
Yellow Submarine - The Beatles
(1968) | Approx. 90 Minutes | G | Reviewed by Al Lutz
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
Advanced Home Theater - All you need is love!

The Movie...

Oh those colors - to think they are all now back in style again!

For you young un's - there used to be this band named "The Beatles." Yes there was music being made before Ricky, Madonna and those boy bands - and it didn't involve sampling, long winded raps, or endless drum loops. What that music had plenty of was melody, grace, increasing depth as their career developed and yes there was even the occasional listener epiphany thrown in for good effect.

Beatles songs are the kind that tells stories - and thanks to some very creative folks who strung a few of those ditties to make this animated eye candy - we got a film treat that works on all sorts of levels for all sorts of viewers, young and old. Needless to say this movie is a great way to introduce new listeners to the classic Beatles sound.

The story isn't all that important - although it still after all these years works surprisingly well. [Pepperland, a lovely place, gets taken over by the Blue Meanines, then thanks to the four lads from Liverpool, and thirteen songs and one yellow submarine later, everything is hunky dory again.] The real meat of this DVD is in the boundlessly creative visuals - cascading colors and images delight every few seconds and never get boring over the entire length of the show.

Although the Beatles didn't have much to do with the film - as it was an obligation they had to fill to complete a contract - the movie makers managed to capture their personalities and the vibrancy of their music on screen. The band was ultimately surprised at how well it all came off - and to this day the surviving members of the quartet are still amazed at what was accomplished.

After a long period of unavailability - MGM / UA embarked upon an extensive restoration of the movie - which had seen some considerable wear and tear since it first hit screens. Over half of the film had to be digitally restored - resulting in a new print that showcases those psychedelic colors probably even better than when it first came out. The soundtrack has also been remastered into 5.1 Dolby Digital sound - there is a section further on in this review about what exactly was done. Beatles fans should rejoice in being able to hear these new mixes of the songs.

The Goodies...

There's a lot of stuff on this disc - making it a real value. The documentary, "The Mod Odyssey" covers the history of the project, and is very well done. A full-length audio commentary by two of the people involved with the film [designer Heniz Edelmann and animator John Coates] is comprehensive and never flags for interest.

There are three storyboarded sequences, two of them not used in the film. I always enjoy looking at these kinds of projects since it allows one to spend a few more new moments with a familiar movie. Also there are photos of the production of the movie, pencil drawings from the archives, and interviews that supplement the documentary. The trailer is included, along with a fold out booklet that repeats much of the same information included elsewhere on the disc itself.

The major joy is the availability of a music only track - no dialog to get in the way of just enjoying this as prehistoric MTV if you really look at it.

The Video, Audio and Interface...

The video quality is super - although it would have benefited tremendously from an anamorphic transfer. The wild colors are rock solid - and they did master this title with a dual layer, making for that much more room for the data. [Having all that extra room means they don't have to compress the video stream so much, and it dramatically improves the quality of the picture.] The layer change is imperceptible.

The major story here is the remastering of the Beatles music for 5.1 multi- channel Dolby Digital sound. As you may remember, back when the Beatles were recording, they sometimes only had four tracks to work with - so they would layer them by dubbing down those four tracks to one channel - then they would transfer that channel to another four track again with other channels they had dubbed down so they could add even more layers of sound. It's amazing to think that the Sgt. Pepper album was done on four track when you think about it.

What all that dubbing did in that pre-Dolby era of course was reduce the quality of the sound each time they did it - but it was the only way to get multiple tracks combined to create their increasingly richer sonic tapestries.

Thankfully producer George Martin held on to all the different single tracks - which allowed MGM / UA to remix the music again onto new multi-track digital consoles. With the ability now to play each individual track at its highest fidelity, and the sophistication of the equipment used now for sound restoration and mixing, it allowed the engineers to literally strip away all the compression and distortion that the old layering added to the tracks as they re-combined them back together again and carefully matched the original master mix levels and dynamics.

Right away as you start this disc - with the song Yellow Submarine - you can hear the new clarity of the music, and the always tasteful and never gimmicky use of the full 5.1 channel soundstage. It's like you finally get to hear INSIDE the sound - as guitars are plucked and string rosin gets heard for the first time that used to be buried in hiss and noise back then. There is a clarity here now that is simply astounding for recordings of this age - and it is a testament to the virtues of multi-channel sound that the music sounds so new again. 

The most astounding acoustical treat is actually the simplest recording technically - Eleanor Rigby. The string quartet multi-track has been mixed with a slight spread around the 5.1 channels - it's like you are sitting right in the middle of the players and the clarity is breathtaking. I played this one track at least five times through when I first got this disc.

[Capitol Records did release a CD soundtrack of these re-mixes at the time of the DVD release - and they sound OK in stereo (much cleaner than the regular CD masters now out) - but to really enjoy what has been done here you do need this DVD and a Dolby Digital home theater set-up.]

The menus are all lots of fun, usually animated, and thoughtfully designed to help you get around the disc quickly enough. DVD menu organization has come a long way in just a few years - I can still remember getting baffled at some titles and not understanding just how to get where i needed to go on the discs.

The Advanced Home Theater...

This could have been the perfect demo disc, except for one thing, the lack of an anamorphic transfer. The video is terrific though, and the colors and quality of the normal video are reference quality.

But the real treat here [as I went on and on about it above] is the re-mixed 5.1 music. If you have taken care to install a home theater sound system that can do as much justice to music as it can for movie sound, you may find yourself listening to just the "music only" track on a regular basis whenever you get a hankering for some Beatles music.

I'd said "All You Need is Love" to enjoy this disc - a set of fellow Beatles fans wouldn't hurt either. :)

The Final Evaluation...

You'd really have to trump up an excuse to not buy this disc - they have done a great job with it and the added bonus of the new clarity the remixes add to the music makes this a worthwhile addition to anyone's collection.

The music enthralls the adults, the kids [who won't really grasp some of the, shall we say adult, areas explored] love the colors. It's never boring, and always creative - plus on top of all that, the disc is chock full of bonus material. This is an exemplary DVD presentation of a movie that holds up rather well I think over thirty years later. 

DVD FEATURES

Goodies

Commentary by the Film's Animator John Coates, and Designer Heinz Edelmann
Theatrical trailer(s)
Behind The Scenes Featurette, Interviews
Original Pencil Drawings
Photo Gallery
Isolated Music Track
Included Trivia Booklet

Technical Specifications

Region 1 encoding 
 Color, Animated, Closed-captioned
Widescreen Letterboxed - 1.85:1


More complete information on the special features the press release:

Available in the original widescreen format, the Yellow Submarine DVD is packed with never-before-available features including the fully-animated sequence, "Hey Bulldog," and the following added-value elements.

The Mod Odyssey

A behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of Yellow Submarine, The Mod Odyssey features interviews with Director George Dunning and Designer Heinz Edelmann. The featurette provides insight into the story's origin, as well as the intriguing process the designers undertook in transforming the Beatles into animated characters. The development of Yellow Submarine's odd and outrageous creatures is revealed, as well as some of the characters' satirical origins. Additionally, the featurette demonstrates why Yellow Submarine's unique style set a new standard for animation.

Audio Commentary Track

A feature- length commentary about the film's production is provided by John Coates, one of the film's animators, and Heinz Edelmann, Yellow Submarine's designer, also provides a commentary.

Music-Only Track

A music- only track runs in synch with the film allowing viewers to enjoy the Beatles soundtrack without dialogue or added sound effects. The following Beatles' songs are included on the music- only track:

"Yellow Submarine"
"Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"
"Eleanor Rigby"
"Nowhere Man"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
"Only A Northern Song"
"All Together Now"
"Hey Bulldog"
"It's All Too Much"
"All You Need Is Love"

Video And Audio Interviews

Providing a behind- the- scenes look at the making of Yellow Submarine, several video and audio interviews are also showcased including:

Paul Angelis -- the voice actor for Ringo Starr
John Clive -- the voice actor for John Lennon
David Livesey -- one of the film's animators
Erich Segal -- the film's co-writer
Jack Stokes -- the animation director
Heinz Edelmann -- the designer
Millicent McMillan -- Heinz Edelmann's assistant

Storyboard Sequences
Three storyboard sequences are featured on the DVD including two from footage that was not featured in the final film. These sequences are:

"Battle Of The Monsters" comprised of stills that were not used in the final film
"Pepperland" which is also a series of stills that were not used in the final film
The "Sea Of Monsters" stills were incorporated into the film

Additional DVD Features
Behind-the-scenes photos taken from the making of the film
The original theatrical trailer
An eight-page booklet packed with "inside information" on Yellow Submarine

Official Album Website (this is a real treat, make sure to visit it - click on the Beatles logo on the upper left corner to get around after watching some of the flash animation)

VHS FEATURES

Goodies

  • None
Technical Specifications
  • English Dolby Stereo Surround
  • Full-frame (1.33:1)
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