Written by Kirk Baird, film critic and Detroit Film Critics Society member
The Beatles changed music. And in a small way they also helped change movie animation with Yellow Submarine.
Directed by George Dunning, a Canadian illustrator who had also worked on The Beatles’ Saturday morning cartoon series for ABC, Yellow Submarine presented film animation as art—a mature expression of the popular children’s cartoons of the time, all grown-up and slightly surreal.
Its mix of acid-fueled psychedelia—a Peter Max stream-of-consciousness put to film—and Beatles songs made Yellow Submarine a critic and audience favorite when it released in 1968. After rights to the band’s music were cleared, Yellow Submarine came out on VHS nearly two decades later in 1987, but then went out of print. In 1999, Yellow Submarine made its DVD debut in a cleaned-up presentation that included the “Hey Bulldog” song segment from the European version of the film. The audio track was also remixed to Dolby 5.1, making it the best-sounding Yellow Submarine yet. The DVD then, too, went out of print.
With the rights to the movie having reverted to The Beatles and its Apple Corps label, Yellow Submarine now returns May 29 to DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray, looking and sounding better than ever before. The CD soundtrack is also reissuing on the same date.
As part of the restoration, Yellow Submarine was cleaned up by hand, frame by frame, for several months. A computer wasn’t used in the remastering process for fear it would alter the film’s rich and delicate hand-drawn art work. Additionally, the film was restored in 4K digital resolution, meaning it’s of the highest-quality resolution possible—even better than a high-definition television—for now and for years to come.
When released, the new DVD and Blu-ray version of Yellow Submarine will be the definitive version of the film, and the best way to experience this ground-breaking and trippy aural and visual feast.
As the Beatles might say, “All you need is love…and our newly remastered Yellow Submarine.”