The Beatles Yellow Submarine restored
At last, the Blue Meanies on Blu-ray
Review Long absent from video stores, The Beatles' trippy 1968 animation Yellow Submarine  has been painstakingly restored for its Blu-ray debut. With the original elements in a perilous state of decay, the movie has been meticulously cleaned and repaired frame by frame. The soundtrack has also had a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio makeover.
Renovated for Blu-ray and remixed for surround playback: The Beatles' psychedelic feast, Yellow Submarine
A movie more of its time it’s difficult to imagine. Inspired by a 45rpm single, dutifully included on the Revolver album , Yellow Submarine has become a pop culture time capsule. Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter sums it up in a contribution to the 16-page booklet which accompanies the disc: “Visually speaking, Yellow Submarine perfectly captures the antiwar, counterculture, psychedelic spirit of the 1960s,” he writes, “It also embraced the exploratory spirit of the ‘60s in its use of experimental animation techniques.”
Certainly the economic animation style, pop art sensibility, photo-collage and cut-outs (more commonly associated with Terry Gilliam’s interludes from Monty Python’s Flying Circus ) make the movie fascinating modern-day viewing.
Clowning around with a Blue Meanie
You might have thought a film as seminal as this would have come lavished with extras, but the selection is surprisingly thin. There’s a delightfully pretentious period featurette, called Mod Odyssey , which includes footage of the animators painting away in small studio in London’s Soho Square during the height of the Swinging Sixties.
Also included are a handful of talking head interviews, including voice artists Paul Angelis and Geoff Hughes (the Beatles didn’t provide their voices). The problem with the latter is that they’re just too short, offering little more than fascinating soundbites. Frankly, we deserve more.
For a while back in the late 1960s a yellow submarine overtook the hovercraft as the preferred mode of transport
Thankfully, producer John Coates and art director Heinz Edelmann do get to natter on the commentary track. Coates contributes the most, offering some fascinating insights into the production. Apparently The Beatles were suspicious that the project was going to “Disney-fy them.” They needn’t have worried. Edelmann’s recollections only appear over the final few chapters of the movie; he sounds uncannily like Werner Herzog .
It's all too much..?
Other supplementals include pencil drawings, photos and storyboards. The Blu-ray slipcase itself comes with reproduction cells of the Fab Four, stickers and the aforementioned booklet. Still, while the bonus extras only warrant a B+, the restoration work is A-star. The film looks exceptionally fresh, with crisp colours and no visible print damage; Edelmann’s character designs have never looked better.
Environmental disaster of the day: 4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
The DTS HD Master Audio mix is also phenomenally fine. Often vintage mono soundtracks given a multichannel make-over sound painfully stretched, but this soundtrack is full-bodied and groovy. When the Blue Meanies attack in the pre-title sequence, arrows soar from back to front in a smooth panning ark. The original mono soundtrack is provided for purists, but it’s needle thin in comparison.
Naturally enough, the highlights of the package are the musical numbers. While Yellow Submarine features 12 songs, only two were composed specifically for the feature: All Together Now and Hey Bulldog. However, all lend themselves to multi-channel presentation, with a multiplicity of disparate elements placed in every corner.
As you can see from the pasty complexion and lack of facial hair, the message is clear that Paul is dead
The film was first remixed into surround for a theatrical re-release in 1999, so this doesn’t mark the first time it’s been heard in multichannel. What’s new here is the detail and musicality of the DTS HD MA encode. The result rivals the multichannel Beatles Love release , still one of my favourite DVD-Audio titles.
Overall, it’s good to see the Yellow Submarine back at sea. The digital clean-up is a huge success and the DTS remix peerless. Those with any level of interest in The Beatles, or Sixties pop art and psychedelia in general, should find this disc extremely appealing.
Incidentally, during his commentary John Coates talks about an American Beatles cartoon series  that his team also produced for King Features, of which I have zero recollection. Did it ever screen in the UK? Feel free to educate in the comments below. ®