The 2012 restoration of YELLOW SUBMARINE clarifies & intensifies the whole look of this famous animated BEATLES song-fest; it’s now more hideous than ever. There’s always been a lot of affection toward this film, and with all those great Beatles songs, why not? But does anyone actually like it? It’s the sort of Magical Mystery Mystical Mush that played into the idea of the Fab Four as wholesomely dopey; G-Rated fare that drove many a British Invasion groupie into camp Rolling Stones. The garish Peter Max color palette and limited animation techniques work better in short form (the two-minute trailer satiates) and when the Blue Meanies turn PepperLand into a monochromatic still-life, it’s an æsthetic improvement. (Looking on the brighter side, the photo-montage 'Eleanor Rigby' piece has a handsomely distressed appeal, and a couple of gags - Ringo’s ‘hole in his pocket;’ John’s ‘G-L-O-V-E’ ciggie - hit home.) But when The Beatles sing the world back to a full pigmentation, you’re still stuck with a couple of uninspired new tunes and too much verbal whimsy with that doppelgänger band. Best skip to the end to watch the boys goof about as themselves in non-animated form.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: At it’s core, YELLOW SUBMARINE is awfully SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. If, like many a mainstream critic, you find PEPPER the Greatest of all Rock & Roll Albums, this pic’s for you. But if, off the top of your head, you’d pull out five or six other BEATLES LPs to put on the turntable first, you may be less taken.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: An old animated short by Rudolf Isling & Hugh Harman tells a decidedly similar tale, right down to the color desaturation bit. Damned if I can think of the title. Meantime, Dave Fleischer’s MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN/’41 (aka HOPPITY GOES TO TOWN) also has a lot in common; is sadly underappreciated; and is a huge improvement over Fleischer’s far better known GULLIVER’S TRAVELS/’39. Just beware of the many lousy Public Domain editions, look for the ‘official’ DVD from Republic Pictures.