Reviewed November 25th, 1999 by Staff
The Beatles had a film contract to get out of. The Beatles also had a rather poor Saturday morning animated series. Someone decided that an animated film, based on their songs, and created by the cartoon people, might just get them out of their film contract. Yellow Submarine was born, and it didn't get them out of their contract. Viewing the film leads one to conclude that a group of creative people chose a number of songs from the Beatles best period (Rubber Soul-Magical Mystery), derived a narrative flow based on the songs, smoked something, and made a movie. Yellow Submarine looks stunning, but doesn't make one bit of sense. The 1968 film contains references to jokes and film techniques which will leave the modern viewer scratching his or her head. We are told that Yellow Submarine raised the bar in terms of animation (chicken and egg argument with Terry Gilliam's cartoons), but it's difficult to sit through.
However, viewed as a series of clips to Beatles songs, the Yellow Submarine DVD really shines. There are really weird montages thrown together for the Beatles songs. If you're a Beatles fan, this is a real trip.
The DVD is interesting not for the film itself, but for the care that went into its restoration. Perhaps this reviewer's bias was born of the horrible transfers of the film which have been broadcast or released on video. The film was faded and somewhat unintentionally yellow throughout. The quality of the new transfer precludes any excuse for poor releases of older animation (see the Grinch review). The fact that this transfer is better than the version released in the 60's trumpets the possibilities for restoration. The colors are unbelievable, and the “Hey Bulldog” sequence has been put back into the film. The image is 1.66:1 anamorphic.
The most interesting part of this release is the sound reproduction. The original, crappy mono mix has been remixed into glorious 5.1. This 5.1 mix is one of the best EVER. The DVD producers had access to the sound effects and music recordings for the film. Beatles songs were remastered at higher bit-rates, and mixed into 5.1. The surviving Beatles signed off on the mix. In Eleanor Rigby, the strings surround the viewer. In Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, John's voice comes from the center channel, while the keyboards come from the surrounds! While the DVD producers maintain that they adhered to the spirit of the original mixes, their result is sometimes over the top. It doesn't matter; if you're a Beatles fan, hearing the songs this way if far to cool for words.
The Yellow Submarine DVD also includes commentary on the restoration, documentaries, story board stuff, an original trailer, etc. There are ample features to keep the consumer entertained.
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