PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
At the beginning of the story, Pepperland is introduced by a narrator as a cheerful music-loving paradise under the sea, protected by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A yellow submarine rests on a somewhat Aztec-like pyramid on a hill. At the edge of the land is a range of high blue mountains.
The land falls under a surprise attack by the music-hating Blue Meanies (who live in or beyond the blue mountains), who seal the band inside a music-proof bubble, make the Pepperlanders immobile as statues by throwing loads of big green apples upon them (a curious reference to the Apple Records music label), and drain the countryside of colour. The attack starts with magical projectiles fired from big artillery stationed in the blue mountains.
In the last minute before his own capture, Pepperland’s elderly Lord Mayor sends Old Fred, a sailor (whom the mayor calls “Young Fred”), to get help; he runs to the Yellow Submarine and takes off in it. Old Fred travels to Liverpool (whose scene is set by “Eleanor Rigby”), where he follows the depressed and aimless Ringo and persuades him to return to Pepperland with him. Ringo collects his “mates” John, George, and finally Paul. According to the director, the four are introduced with accompanying characterisation: Ringo wanders aimlessly around Liverpool, at one point claiming that he has no imagination; John appears with literary fanfare, as Frankenstein’s monster who drinks a potion and turns into himself; George appears in a surreal, Sitar-themed area that plays on his championing of transcendental meditation; and Paul appears as a “modern Mozart”. The five journey back to Pepperland in the yellow submarine. As they start learning to operate the submarine, they sing “All Together Now”, after which they pass through several regions on their way to Pepperland:
Sea of Time – where time flows both forwards and backwards to the tune of “When I’m Sixty-Four”,
Sea of Science – where they sing “Only a Northern Song”,
Sea of Monsters – where a monstrous “vacuum cleaner beast” sucks up all loose objects and people and then the entire landscape and finally itself, freeing them. It is there that Ringo presses the forbidden button on the submarine, sending him out of the submarine, where he is riding one of the monsters, who toss him around, and with the threat of the Native Americans, resulting in George, pressing another button on the submarine, sending the U.S. Cavalry to successfully defeat the Indians, thus rescuing Ringo back into the submarine.
Sea of Nothing – where they meet a rather helpful “nowhere man” named Jeremy Hillary Boob PhD, and sing the song “Nowhere Man” in reference to him. As they leave, however, Jeremy starts crying and Ringo takes pity on Jeremy and lets him join them aboard the submarine.
Foothills of the Headlands (or Sea of Heads) – where they are separated from the submarine and John sings “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”,
Finally, the Sea of Holes – where Jeremy is kidnapped by one of the Blue Meanies patrolling the outskirts of Pepperland. Here Ringo thoroughly investigates a hole and puts it into his pocket, a move that will be significant in the final stage of the story. When Ringo jumps on to a green hole, it turns into the Sea of Green and they arrive in Pepperland.
Reunited with Old Fred and the submarine, they look upon the landscape: a sorry sight. The beautiful flowers have become thorns, the once happy landscape now a barren wasteland. Everyone is immobilised and made miserable by the evil Blue Meanies, only able to move when permitted (such as when the Meanies feel like bullying them). The Beatles, after defeating some “Apple Bonker” Meanies, dress as Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and steal some instruments (their own instruments were lost in the Sea of Monsters) from the tall tower where the Meanies impounded them. The four are discovered at the last second (Ringo accidentally steps on a bagpipe) and a clown Meanie sounds the alarm, causing the Beatles to flee hastily from the Meanies’ vicious multi-headed (and multi-bodied) dog. Once in the clear, the four “rally the land to rebellion”, singing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, forcing the Blue Meanies to retreat. The Chief Blue Meanie retaliates, sending out the Meanies’ Glove, but John defeats it by singing “All You Need is Love”. Pepperland is restored to colour and its flowers re-bloom, as the residents, brought new life by the Beatles’ music, rise up and take up arms against the Meanies, who are fleeing headlong back to the blue border mountains where they came from. The original Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are released (thanks to the hole carried in Ringo’s pocket from the Sea of Holes) and Ringo rescues Jeremy. The Beatles then have a rematch with the multi-headed Meanie dog, singing “Hey Bulldog”, with the Beatles victorious once again (This scene was in the UK version). The Blue Meanies are forced to retreat, and the Chief Blue Meanie tries to save face by killing Jeremy, but Jeremy performs some “transformation magic” on him causing the Meanie to sadly concede defeat. John extends an offer of friendship, and the Chief Blue Meanie has a change of heart (partly due to the “transformation magic” performed by Jeremy) and accepts. An enormous party ensues, where everyone sings “It’s All Too Much” with everyone living happily ever after.
At the end, the animation is replaced by live-action with the real Beatles, having returned home, playfully showing off their souvenirs: George has the submarine’s motor, Paul has “a little ‘LOVE’” and Ringo still has half a hole in his pocket (having supposedly given the other half to Jeremy, “to keep his mind from wandering”, a reference to “Fixing a Hole”). Looking through a telescope, John announces that “newer and bluer Meanies have been sighted within the vicinity of this theatre” and claims there is only one way to go out: “Singing!”. The quartet obliges with a short reprise of “All Together Now”, which ends with translations of the song’s title into various languages appearing in sequence on the screen
I’m not a huge fan of the Beatles, bur I do enjoy their music very much, and will not pass on an opportunity to enjoy seeing them on screen. To my knowledge, their film career has been, shall we say, less that stellar. Yellow Submarine was actually a way for them to honor their contract while not making what they thought would sure be another flop. As it turns out, their cameo appearance at the end wasn’t enough, and they still had to make a couple of other films, but I do believe this was the most successful.
What is this about?
The Fab Four’s first and only animated feature — a psychedelic must-see for Beatles fans — finds the boys trying to save Pepperland from the scourge of the Blue Meanies amid a sea of puns, non sequiturs and surrealistic flights of fancy.
What did I like?
Music. How can you have a film starring one of the greatest groups of all time and not have some great music, right? Each of the songs that were chosen for this film are those that evoke images in one’s mind of a story, hence the animation. I’ve heard a few reviews compare this favorably to Fantasia. I won’t put it in that category, but I can see the comparison.
Animation and influence. This film can be seen as one big acid trip, if you ask me. The images are so out there that they make you automatically assume these artists were on something when they came up with it. There is also the fact that this was released in the 60s. Aside from that, this film has set quite the legacy for itself. Many things have been influences by it, but the two things that stick out to me are various sketches on Sesame Street and then, of course, the Saturday morning cartoon from the 80s, Kidd Video. Both of these obviously used this film as a basis for their medium, and it works, very well, I might add.
Antagonist. The Blue Meanies are far from being the scariest or most competent villains you’ll come across, but they are entertaining. There is also this pointing finger thing they have that does all the work and is pretty cool when you think about. It was like if Thing from The Addams Family developed a bad attitude.
What didn’t I like?
Voices. The first time I saw the vultures in The Jungle Book, I thought the Beatles actually voiced them, but I turned out to be wrong. I could be wrong, but I think the same guys voice the animated versions of the Fab Four in this incarnation. If this was just a random TV movie or Saturday morning cartoon, I would care less, but the fact that this is an actual Beatles project and doesn’t have them providing their own voices in a bit disconcerting. Yeah, you can make the case about their schedules and whatnot, but to me, it just seems as if this shouldn’t have gone any further without making sure they could provide their own voices, especially since these guys doing the voices all sound alike.
Sgt. Pepper. From what I could gather, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is basically like the musical force in Pepperland. Their music has magical powers it seems, and yet they are defeated in the film’s opening scene by a simple bubble gun, of sorts. I’m not saying there needed to be some kind of epic battle, but it just seems that something more would have been needed to take out the heroes of Pepperland.
Yellow Submarine is a film that I’ve long been curious about but have never had the chance to see. When I originally put it in my Netflix queue, the DVD wasn’t available. When it did become to available, it spent a year in the very long wait category until this week, when it just so happened to become available. I’m ever so happy it did. This was a throughly enjoyable film that had me from start to finish. While this film does have a couple of issue, they are so minor that they don’t really warrant a mention. I highly recommend this film, especially to fans of animation and the Beatles. It is a must-see!!!
4 1/2 out of 5 stars