Sunday, 8 April 2012

George Dunning's 'Yellow Submarine', 1968...

Fig. 1 Yellow Submarine poster.


Yellow Submarine was a surprising joy to watch and as charming as it is whacky, in visual style and narrative.

Fig. 2 Colours of Pepperland.

During the 1960's, when The Beatles were hugely popular in Britain, they had their own animated TV show. Sadly, it was not particularly endorsed by the band and because of that, they had little belief in the feature film that was to follow.  However, it was important to the film's production team that it was much more visually appropriate to their new style of music. This was all thanks to the discovery of German-born, Heinz Edelmann  Jerry Beck explains that "His flat, illustrative style that he utilized to design the characters of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, as well as all of the other creatures and locations in the film, was the perfect visual counterpart to the Beatles’ psychedelic music." (Beck, 2007: 321) The Beatles were just producing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, their first album influenced by the psychedelia of the sixties and the producers of Yellow submarine had access to it before it had been relseased.  This allowed them to create a film that really is 'the perfect visual counterpart'.

Fig. 3  Abstraction.

The visual style of the film is very flat and illustrative, but this allows it to become something very psychedelic and transformative. Due to its psychedelic nature, the imagery used is completely unpredictable and seemingly random, but very charming in all its multi-coloured silliness. Caroline Westbrook believes that "Yellow Submarine’s deliriously silly humour, off the wall charm and wildly imaginative imagery (it might be billed as a family film, but there’s some seriously scary stuff here) paper[s] over any cracks in the storyline and most of the occasionally wayward vocal impersonations."  (Westbrook, 2006)  Yellow Submarine is wildly imaginative, it channels the same kind of unpredictable silliness that Terry Gilliam later used for the Monty Python animated sequences.  However, there are some particularly disturbing images, such as strange imaginary creatures eating each other and monsters with teeth in their bellies. Despite the few unsettling creations, this was made essentially for family viewing which is perhaps why it was so charming to watch.  Michael R. Frontani expressed that "the film is an inspired amalgam of animation styles that...provides the audience with a rich audio and visual experience while promoting the Beatles’ connections to a family-friendly counter-cultural ideal (lots of love; no drugs." (Frontani, 2007: 174) Due to The Beatles current success, it was important that the film contain all 'family'friendly' themes and images. The themes running through the film are ones of love and caring to others, leaving the only reference to any kind of drug in the psychedelic and kaleidescopic imagery.

Yellow Submarine is a great example of what can be achieved by a small animation team in Britain, that only has 11 months to produce a feature film in.  The constant morphing from one colourful creation to the next leaves the audience enthralled, confused but charmed and intrigued at the same time.

List of Illustrations.

Figure 1. Yellow Submarine (1968) Yellow Submarine poster. At: (Accessed on: 08.04.12)

Figure 2. Yellow Submarine (1968) People. AT: (Accessed on: 08.04.12)

Figure 3. Yellow Submarine (1968) Funk room. At: (Accessed on: 08.04.12)


Beck, Jerry. (2007) Animated Movie Guide : The Ultimate Illustrated Reference to Cartoon, Stop-Motion and Computer-Generated Feature Films. USA: Chicago Review Press.

Frontani, Michael R. (2007) Beatles : Image and the Media. USA: University Press of Mississippi.

Westbrook, Caroline (2006)  Yellow Submarine. In: Empire 03.02.2006 [online] At: (Accessed on: 08.04.12)

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