‘Yellow Submarine’: Blue Meanie Blu-ray

fab four in yellow submarine Blu-ray releaseThe Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” resurfaces in late May, making its debut in high definition and sporting an extensive hand-crafted restoration.

Apple Corps. is releasing the 1968 psychedelic animated film on Blu-ray and DVD, along with a new CD version of the soundtrack album.

Extra features include a feature-length commentary by producer John Coates with some input from art director Heinz Edelmann; an odd 7-minute introductory piece from 1968, “Mod Odyssey”; various drawings and photos; and a trailer. These bonus features are almost certainly the same as those found on the DVD release of 13 years ago.

Pixar’s John Lasseter wrote the new booklet essay, calling the film a “revolutionary work.” The discs come packaged with reproductions of animation cells.

Beloved by Boomers and widely considered the second best of the Beatles movies, “Yellow Submarine” has been allowed to rust over the years, with the previous DVD version currently out of print.

yellow submarine blu-ray blue meanieMGM released a single-disc “Yellow Submarine” DVD in 2009, with a 5.1 mix Dolby Digital soundtrack that was highly praised at the time (although it sounds a bit thin these days).

No major restoration of the film had been undertaken in well over a decade, despite the obvious need to update the images. As with all things Beatles, the finger probably points to legal complications.

The new “4K digital resolution” was done by Paul Rutan Jr. and his Triage Motion Picture Services. “Due to the delicate nature of the hand-drawn original artwork, no automated software was used in the digital clean-up of the film’s restored photochemical elements,” Apple said in confirming the rerelease. “This was all done by hand, frame by frame.”

Rutan’s restoration credits include two other Beatles films — “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help” — as well as “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

George Dunning, who worked on the Beatles’ Saturday morning cartoon series, directed the original film. It was released in 1968 to the delight of a stoned generation. Any top 10 of psychedelic movies would include the animated feature, which was surprisingly strange and included obvious drug references.

The Beatles had little involvement with the film, but agreed to appear at its end in a live-action sequence. They reportedly were fans of Edelmann’s psychedelic imagery.

“I thought from the very beginning that the film should be a series of interconnected shorts,” Edelmann says in the commentary. “The style should vary every five minutes or so to keep the interest going until the end.”

While Edelmann has some comments spliced into the feature-length commentary, it’s mostly producer Coates’ talk, and he does a terrific job, dishing up insider info on topics such as the (once-)deleted “Hey Bulldog” sequence. (Edelmann died several years ago.)

Apple did not offer details on the new soundtrack CD. Songs appearing in the movie and used on the previous soundtrack CD include the title track, “Eleanor Rigby,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “All You Need Is Love,” and “It’s All Too Much.”

The proper “Yellow Submarine” album has long been a love-hate item for Beatles fans, who got a half serving of Fabs songs (six) along with George Martin’s orchestral score. That original “Yellow Submarine” album was rereleased in September 2009 along with the rest of the Beatles catalog.

The “Yellow Submarine” Blu-ray, DVD and soundtrack CD will be released May 29 in the U.S. and a day earlier in Europe.

Walt Disney Pictures was listed as a co-producer of the “Yellow Submarine” remake attempted by director Robert Zemeckis. Disney pulled the plug on that project about a year ago, reportedly over concerns about its cost and planned used of 3D via motion-capture. Lasseter is chief creative officer at Disney Animation.

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