Yellow Submarine has finally been released on Blu-ray! This classic animated film from 1968 may have a lacking story and can basically be watched as an hour and a half long Beatles music video, but the unique animation and superb music is more than enough proof of what a special film this is. While the film is not for everyone, especially one who’s expecting a conventional Pixar or Disney animated film, how can you not love its surreal animation that has inspired Terry Gilliam’s animation in Monty Python, MTV music videos, and even bizarre educational cartoons found in toddler programming such as Sesame Street?
Somewhere in this mishmash of psychedelic imagery, Yellow Submarine has a story – a simple one actually. The evil army of Blue Meanies decides to invade the peace-loving, bizarre, colorful, and musical world of Pepperland. These Meanies hate music, peace, and love so they swoop in and turn everyone to stone. Only one Pepperlandian, Fred the admiral, is able to escape and seek help from the Beatles. Like a wacky version of Blues Brothers, Fred travels in his Yellow Submarine throughout the film to get all the members of the band back together in order to stop the Meanies from their anti-love campaign of war. During the quest to find Beatles members Ringo, Paul, John, and George, the movie is filled with famous Beatles songs such as Yellow Submarine, Eleanor Rigby, All Together Now, When I’m Sixty-four, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and All You Need Is Love. The director tries to make some connection to the songs to the story but overall, the music scenes are basically just music videos. Maybe high on drugs, someone would think that everything is clearly connected but don’t go out of your way trying to interpret every word of the song to see how it connects to the story.
For an animated film that is 44 years old, Yellow Submarine’s restoration looks surprisingly beautiful. Sharpness and detail are perfectly good, as the image appears crisp and cleanly defined, showing off the film’s animation well, with the rare case of a blurry shot in the background. No edge enhancement or pixelation was spotted throughout. The picture was cleaned up quite nicely with no specks and marks on the elements, considering the age of the film. The animation is very colorful but it doesn’t mean that each color has been given some mega bright boost – there is a nice saturation which respects the age of the film. As you see in the screenshots, grey backgrounds weren’t artificially changed to be pure white as could have been done. This is a really sweet looking presentation that should please everyone.
The highlight of this Blu-ray is the soundtrack of course. Capitol Records/EMI took the English DTS-HD 5.1 to the next level and is more than perfect! The entire sound field has been used throughout the film with sound effects booming and spreading through different speakers. Not a problem of the Blu-ray but much of the dialogue is bizarre, soft spoken, and bordering on gibberish, so the English subtitles are a nice addition to have to know what exactly these characters are talking about during the non-musical scenes – especially with the thick British accents. I have owned some Beatles records and CDs over the years, but I have never heard them sound so good until listening to this Blu-ray. If you don’t like the movie, just buy the Blu-ray for the audio restoration – turn off the TV or close your eyes, and just listen to this movie!
English LPCM 2.0, English LPCM Mono, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, and German Dolby Digital 5.1 audio choices, as well as English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, and Swedish subtitles are also included.
Besides the fancy packaging and bonus printed items such as a 14-page glossy insert booklet with an introduction by Pixar’s John Lasseter, cels featuring the animated Beatles, and stickers, most of the extras on this Blu-ray are the same as on the old DVD. Not that disappointing because the commentary and interviews are quite interesting enough. One of the new extras is a short documentary called Mod Odyssey (filmed in 1968) which describes the film’s new animation style.
– Audio Commentary Track by John Coates and Heinz Edelmann
– Making of documentary
– Original Theatrical Trailer
– Storyboard Sequences
– Original Pencil Drawings
– Behind the Scenes Photos
– Interviews with Paul Angelis (voice of Ringo and Chief Blue Meanie), John Clive (voice of John), David Livesey (key animator), Millicent McMillan (assistant to Heinz Edelmann), Jack Stokes (animation director), Erich Segal (co-writer)
Since I never owned the original DVD of Yellow Submarine upon its initial release, I was annoyed to find out that it became out of print and too expensive on Ebay when I finally did want to own this movie on DVD. After holding off from buying the DVD for over two years, I was thrilled to stumble upon the out-of-print letterboxed DVD for 5 bucks at a garage sale. Now that the Blu-ray is available, I don’t think I can even get rid of the DVD after spending so much time hunting for it. But to everyone else, you can definitely chuck the DVD in the garbage, watch some animated lunacy in 1080p, and experience the genius songs of the Beatles in DTS-HD 5.1 sound on this superb Blu-ray!