When I first saw the Beatles Yellow Submarine
film in November of 1968 I was immediately struck not only by the vibrant psychedelic
colors and powerful innovations in animation, but also by its multiple levels
of symbolic interpretations that make this film a blueprint for
the human condition. I was moved to understand both why it has such a compelling
effect on my consciousness and who were the creators of this animated masterpiece.
Thirty years later I am just beginning to realize this goal.
The last ten years have been especially fruitful in my collection of interviews with the artists. From my first-hand discussions with them, I have discovered that most of the information currently in print regarding this film is pure fantasy. We just completed the final Core-co-creator interview when last month we located the long elusive Charlie Jenkins, the genius behind the films innovative special effects. We had been searching for him for seven years, and a future article in this newsletter will reveal some of his startling revelations.
DOZENS OF TALENTED PEOPLE
The first thing to understand about Yellow Submarine is that it was not created from beginning to end following a script or even an outline. Instead it evolved as it was created and is the result of the considerable input of dozens of talented people. The Beatles served as both inspiration and example to these artists, who numbered over 200 and completed the film in a record 11 months. Throughout the studio was a 100% commitment to develop a production equal of the Beatles stature, longevity, and quality. They took on a impossible task which would have been doomed to failure if it had not been for the motivation of The Beatles. Despite some of the most difficult and trying circumstances ever experienced in an animated film production, they birthed a lasting tribute to the essential message of The Beatles: we are one people on one planet, let's get along.
In recent weeks we were contacted by The Beatles company, Apple Corps. for help with contacting the Yellow Submarines Artistic Director, Heinz Edelmann. Although Edelmann was the key to the success of the film according to over 20 of the other co-creators, he does not consider the Yellow Submarine as his finest hour. In fact Edelmann usually refuses to discuss the Yellow Submarine, as he said in our first interview over five years ago, it has become like an albatross around his neck. Heinz Edelmann is rightly regarded as one of the worlds major contemporary graphic artists. His characteristic visual language sets him above transient trends and fashions. He is internationally renowned for his posters and illustrations, his book design and typography, his comic strips and cartoon animations.
Heinz was originally hired to design The Yellow Submarine for a two month period. Because of lack of direction, however, those two months turned into an 11 month ordeal during which he got four hours sleep every two days! His health took a terrible beating, and it took him about two years to recover from the project, understandably leaving a very bad taste in his mouth. In a chronicle Heinz wrote for us recently, he concluded:
Let anyone who mentions Yellow Submarine in my hearing after this be flattened into a carpet by a bolt of lightening and eaten by moths.
MOST CHAOTIC FILM IN HISTORY
In 1993 Edelmann granted us an exclusive interview in which he remembered, You know the production was one of the most chaotic in the entire history of film. And the sequence of work was not as in live action movies. Also, this was not starting on scene one and working all the way through the film. What we had, we did start with a test which was later included in the film at the very end, this tiny piece with George Harrison. This was a preliminary test and then we started improvising. We started improvising the travel sequence from after the main title, going on to Pepperland without [a script] really at that time. Still the script was written and the outline was fleshed out as we went along. So the film, at least twenty minutes of the film, were finished in rough form, before we knew what the plot was going to be exactly. And revisions were still made, right up to the end, with some part of the original Sgt. Peppers Land which came in very later in the movie. Which sort of, to my mind, does not sit very well with the rest of the story.
TRIP TO PEPPERLAND IMPROVISED
...The trip to Pepperland was more or less improvised on the basis of the characters. I did without any script also the Sea of Monsters. And Charlie Jenkins contribution made the Liverpool scene and the psychedelic scene right at the end. George Dunning, the main directors contribution, was the Lucy in the Sky sequence, which was done in quite another technique, painted directly onto cell traced off from live action. And a sort of pure plot part with the Meanies at the beginning and the big battle scenes at the end, these were all done as the last thing more or less in the film. Even at the end, the production was closed down and people working on the film went off, and then it was discovered that the film did not have a proper ending. So the psychedelic end sequence was put together by the four of us using existing artwork over a weekend again.... And then, of course, wrapped up over a weekend when everyone else was gone. I'm sorry, I mean it, thats the way it is. One would have liked to be consciously... the author of a great masterpiece, but in a way, as the old pilots used to say, this was one I walked away from.
Stay tuned to The Hieronimus & Co. Newsletter for further exclusive excerpts from Dr. Bobs definitive history of The Beatles Yellow Submarine and what life lessons can be learned from its study.