If there were one mastermind behind the production of the Beatles Yellow Submarine, it would definitely be Al Brodax, otherwise known as "Big Al," as Erich Segal noted. How does one prepare to undertake the creation of one of the world's most acclaimed animated films -- about one of the world's most acclaimed group of musicians? Frankly I don't know-- but if you glance at the bio of Al Brodax, you begin to get an idea, of the type of person it would take.
From 1950-1960 he worked with program development at the William Morris Agency and helped develop "The Show of Shows"; Pulitzer Prize Playhouse"; Celanese Theater and Omnibus in a Production Supervisory position.
From 1960-69 he created and headed the motion picture/television department of King Features Syndicate, a division of the Hearst Corporation. During this period he produced and wrote over 500 animations for television including 220 Popeyes - Barney Google, Krazy Kat, as well as the Beatles cartoon series which averaged, this is amazing friends, a 45-50 share of audience during a three-year run on the ABC Network.
He also produced and co-created with Bob Kane (of Batman fame) an animated series entitled Cool McCool. Now this time frame is where we are focusing right now, because it was then that Al Brodax, also acted as the producer/writer of Yellow Submarine.
He received 32 Best Picture of the Year Awards, thirty-two! And also of course, the New York Critics Award, Scholastic Magazine's Bellringer Award, National Council of Churches, and many others.
From 1969-1980 Al Brodax was self-employed as producer/writer/lyricist/director. He was the Animation Supervisor for ABC Network's children's show Make a Wish, which ran from 1970-1975, during which period the show was the recipient of several Emmy Awards. And on those occasions it did not win, it was nominated.
Also true of the ACT Award. From 1975 to 1980 he continued to supervise animation for Animals, Animals, Animals, hosted by Hal Linden. This program was awarded the George Peabody Award, an Emmy Award, a nomination for an Emmy Award, as well as three Action for Television Awards. This guy is awarded out friends! This is wonderful.
From 1980 to 1982 he served as consultant to Marvel Comics. He was hired to establish a West Coast presence for the Company and develop feature film projects.
And since 1983 to the present, he has served as consultant to Computer Graphics Laboratories, Inc., hired for development of motion picture, concepts, television and cassette programming. And also he is a motion picture producer/director of Strawberry Fields production.
Now, in production is Strawberry Fields a feature-length animation starring new versions of Beatles music. This project is currently on hold --substituting an animated musical version of Don Quixote.
Now that's a lengthy introduction, but it is well deserved to read it all, for without such preparation, I don't know how Al Brodax could have accomplished one of the world's most acclaimed animated films.
Now friends, I understand that is a lengthy introduction, and we seldom go to those kind of lengths, but it is well-deserved. For without such preparation, I don't know how Al Brodax could have accomplished one of the world's most acclaimed animated films.
Welcome to 21st Century Radio's Beatles Yellow Submarine Special Journey, Al Brodax!!!
Al Brodax: Good Morning Dr. Bob.
Bob Hieronimus: Well, good morning to you Al. And a snowy wet morning over here in Baltimore. Now, the Beatles were obligated to honor a film contract for United Artists. I've tried without success to understand how many films they owed to United Artists and the time period needed to fulfill their contract. Could you settle this problem for us? How many films were they contracted to do and what films successfully fulfilled their contract with United Artists?
AB: Well, history has it that Hard Days Night, Help were, because these contracts were introduced by Walter Shenson for United Artists. They had a 3 picture deal. And at the time I arrived on the scene, the scene that had to do with the submarine, I had done the Beatles television series, the cartoon series which was highly successful, and during that whole period it was my ambition to do a full length feature.
All the time running like a fugue throughout this was the presence of Brian Epstein, who's a very difficult person. But he did make the promise that if the cartoons were successful, I 'd have a shot at a feature.
Grabbing at this straw, I understood that the Beatles wanted more than anything else to go to India to get their lives straightened out with this guru. I've had problems, at least three to four years with contact with them. At this time, I suggested that they could go to India, with my blessings and have a feature produced while they were in residence in India, and all they had to do was sign a piece of paper. I'd do the work. Thereby fulfilling their contract of the three picture deal with United Artists. So they latched on to this, and that's truly how the Submarine happened.
BH: Well, the third one then was the Yellow Submarine and that fulfilled the contract?
AB: Right, I don't know about the two others, Magical Mystery or Let It Be. I don't know who financed or distributed that.
BH: I see, now, under what conditions did you begin your relationship with the Beatles and when did you begin to work with or for them?
AB: Well, that's a strange story, but I always believed that life is just a series of accidents. This was an interesting accident. I was head of the motion picture/television department as you stated, for King Features. I created it. And one day a very lonely looking fellow, man who was terribly lost was wandering down the hall looking for the elevator. And he had a little piece of paper in his hand, I directed him to the elevator and looked at the piece of paper.
Lo and behold it was a caricature of the Beatles. I thought it was interesting but not very well drawn, but I asked him about it. He says well, he'd been to the editor of King Features, the print editor, they do Blondie, Barney Google, all of those. They are the most successful syndicate I guess as you know, in terms of newspaper syndication. And the editor didn't know who the Beatles were, why would he be taking up his terribly important time and get the hell out of my office.
My good fortune, I invited him into my office, which was elaborate at that time because I was quite successful with the Popeyes or the Beatles or --Excuse me, the Beatles didn't happen yet, the Popeyes, the Barney Googles and so on. I had him sit and have a drink, a cocktail it was about lunch time. So we talked. And he said he had the rights to the drawn caricatures of the Beatles. It just blossomed from there. I took it beyond him to Brian to request the animation rights to the Beatles. And he agreed. The terms were severe, but we did get the rights to animate the Beatles.
BH: Do you remember the name of that fellow?
AB: You know I don't? He's really one of the big heroes in this whole epic. And I don't remember his name.
BH: Let's talk a bit about the Beatles cartoons, that's an amazing success, 45-50 share, I don't know if things ever have happened like that again, except maybe in the days of radio with Jack Benny. That's a total dominance there Al.
AB: Yea, that will never happen again. It's too many channels, too many outlets.
BH: Well, the Beatles cartoons were done for ABC in the 1960s. I enjoy watching them, even though my versions of them are pretty rough, with my daughter, who is 6 and 7/8 years old, now she's going to hit that big number 7 on somewhere around the 14th of April. Now, even though the copies we view as I noted, are not in the best of condition, she enjoys them a great deal. Now, there are some people who love them and others who are less happy about them. Could you give us a little history of their development? Now, you already started that in part.
AB: Right, well continuing with the poor man looking for the elevator, I was able to get those rights. King Features was stocked full of artists doing their print work. One of the artists was Jack Mendelsohn, who wrote a strip called "Jackie's Diary" and I asked him to do some caricatures of the Beatles, which he did. I then created a simple premise that is that I will animate stories based around the titles of the Beatles songs. And Brian liked that idea and he said proceed with it. And we did some story boards, a few story boards, some caricatures and inked and painted them. And we sort of made a print presentation to a man in Chicago.
This is absolutely the quickest sale ever made in the history of television. A man named Anton Isaacson, who was the head of Lionel Train Company. And I, a real gentleman, he invited me to Chicago. I came with my story boards and we sat in his office, sat in the lobby, he was too busy, he had some crisis, pumped up and he couldn't see me, but he didn't send his secretary out, came out himself and said "What d'ya got Al?"
And I showed it to him, I said these are the drawings, this is the concept, as they come down with new songs, we will create stories. He said "You got a deal!" I never even got into his office, this just happened in the lobby. And I said tell me about the extent of the deal. He said I'll buy half, how many do you want to do? I said well, let's start with 26. And he said "26, you have it. ABC, call Bob Duffy."
That was the beginning, I called Bob Duffy on the pay phone, he said he hadn't heard from Mr. Isaacson yet, but I should have given him a little time. By the time I got to New York, Duffy had called my office and he said you can have the deal, ABC's half has been sold to Lionel Trains. And that was the beginning.
BH: And it lasted 3 years?
BH: Now, were these cartoons seen in England?
AB: No, the Beatles didn't like the caricatures, and they also objected to the fact that I had English voice overs do the voices except for one Englishman. Because it was always difficult for Americans, in my experience, to understand Englishmen.
BH: Well, children would certainly have a difficult time if that was the main market.
AB: They tend to have a mouth full of marbles and for the most part they are difficult to understand. So that was the reason for using the voice over. It was an American named Paul Frees, he does the, did the, he's no longer alive, the giant green, you know,...
BH: Yea, the Jolly Green Giant, oh yes Paul Frees.
AB: He was a very well known voice over.
BH: Yes, he worked also many times with June Foray and Bob Balser, oh my, he's a legend. Now, you received a lot of correspondence from the viewers of this show, and I understand some of it was really very interesting and surprising, especially the mothers' reaction to the cartoons. What was that?
AB: Mothers' reaction was very interesting, you know we were talking about the '60's and a time of pot and free sex, everybody was having a jolly good time. I had many many letters from house mothers who indicated that their darling girls were invited to frat houses on Friday nights to dinner and dance and what not, and why, wouldn't that be nice to stay over and sing along with the Beatles in the morning?
Apparently they thought it was a very good idea. And it happened much too often. I was getting irate letters from these women. And I indicated that it wasn't intended for grown people, just for kids on Saturday mornings, but they seem to be enjoying it, and God bless them and it's not my problem lady!
BH: Yea, they were much more interesting times about thirty years ago, Al, they sure were. Enough of that though. So, in 1967 the Beatles owed at least one more movie to United Artists. When did you determine that it would be an animated film, because that was quite a, in my opinion, that was a stroke of genius, because I don't see how it could be done in any other way.
AB: Well, it was, you asked me about how many films they had to do to answer their contract with UA. And that's exactly the reason, the animation did not require their presence.
BH: Yea, and that particular time they weren't getting along too well. That may be the understatement of the millennia.
AB: They were in India at that time, they wanted most of all to go to India. An interesting post script maybe, before they went to India, Ringo had a special problem. He was a very funny little guy. His special problem was handled by one of the unsung heroes in this epic, Wendy Hanson, who was Brian's personal secretary. She called me and said Ringo is afraid of snakes, and where they were going and where they had to go meet the guru was an area full of snakes. And he wanted purple boots no less. I was coming over, one year I made 17 trips doing the cartoon, 17 trips to London in 12 months. I was in the air a lot of the time. So Wendy and I marched down Carnaby Street and found a pair of boots.
BH: Purple boots?
AB: No, they weren't purple and they weren't thick enough. But we had specially made boots for Ringo. Just in time for him to go to India, he was forever grateful. He said he didn't see a snake when he came back.
BH: It's a darned good thing he didn't. I'm not that happy about snakes myself. I try to be bold about it. You know the creation, this is really, it's really fortunate that we have you on the phone here because animated films are like magic to children. I know my daughter just thinks they're real, you know in lots of ways. But the creation of any animated film production contains an enormous number of steps, and there's a kind of like a basic formula for the creation of a film like the Yellow Submarine, could you briefly, and I know this is too complicated to really handle like this, but if our listeners could become more conscious as to what step follows what when you do an animation film.
AB: Well, it's a complicated process, it's far more complicated than live action. Every move, you know, if you have a coffee cup on your desk now, as I do, from the time you reach for it to the time it reaches your mouth has to take several, several drawings. Each to be inked, painted, traced, photographed and sequenced. So it's time consuming and complicated and difficult. It's a highly difficult process.
But the first step is always the words. You can't begin without the words. So first the script is written, and that script is then committed to a story board which is then further broken down into what we call layouts. That's sort of a high focus onto specific scenes. And then we record, in animation sound precedes the drawn figure, the lip sync. For the greater part, there's some post production, music, background music, done post, but most of the time it's the sound that precedes the picture.
And then the animation proceeds, you do it with one or more directors because it is lengthy and it is complicated. In our case, as you know, we did it with 3 directors, but mostly Bob Balser and Jack Stokes. And you shoot it, you do pencil tests. The pencil tests are the equivalent of the dailies in live action. And you see them every day, every morning, and you comment on the movement, the reaction, the tone, the pace, whatever. Its your blueprint for going into the real animation or the more finished product, which has to do with the tracing, the painting and the end, the photographing.
BH: What a process. Boy, it just seems like, by the way, what kind of coffee cup do you have in front of you there? Who's on yours?
AB: It says Cornwall on it. And I bought it in England. I'm an Anglophile from way back. We intend to do a live action picture in Cornwall this spring.
BH: Well, Pogo's on mine.
AB: Pardon me, oh Pogo!
BH: It's one of my most favorite characters in the whole world.
AB: Hanging you with the animated characters eh?
BH: You know, there were several films about Pogo.
AB: Pogo's one of my favorites.
BH: Is he?
AB: Oh yea!
BH: Oh well, we've got to make sure we send you some stuff on Pogo. I'll instruct my Executive Producer, you listening to me Executive Producer?
AB: Pogo is... Walt Kelly was a bit of a genius.
BH: Wasn't he? God, what a fine person. It's too bad we don't have a man like Walt Kelly today in the dailies.
AB: How about Sypher?
BH: Sypher, yea he's good. He's good and there's another, what are we doing here, we're getting off the subject. We're enjoying ourselves. Now, from the beginning of its production, now this may sound like a redundant question but there are always changes in any type of setup, you start something then all of the sudden changes come in. But from the beginning of the production, did you always play the same part in its creation?
AB: Well, again it's complicated. From the beginning, you have the beginning of the idea. From the idea you go to the funding, otherwise the idea will just stay on your desk at United Artists. Once it's in production, it's a matter of keeping the story thread. Sparing everybody else really the grief, the aggravation of the politics that have to do with the studio or the Distributor, the relationship with the production. There's a lot of that.
BH: Yea, so you've got to oversee the nuts and bolts as well as the good stuff.
AB: Yea, I heard from the previous interview with John Coates for instance, who said that I did the wheeling - dealing and he did the hard part. Small correction there, without the wheeling - dealing, there wouldn't be a hard part.
BH: Well yea, that goes without saying. Now, you did spend some time talking with the Beatles talking about other projects, but did you discuss the Yellow Submarine film project, or they were just so anxious to get to India that they were just happy to hear from you?
AB: For the most part they were really anxious to get to India, but we had an opportunity to speak at some length anyway. And basically what I wanted to do was a love story. And good/evil, you know the basics, with Beatle music. But it was kind of an amorphous idea to be filled in. It was actually Ringo who came up with the idea.
AB: Well, you know, all you need is love, they didn't go for that title. So he says "Well, why not the Yellow Sub, you could put anything in a submarine."
BH: So Ringo suggested Yellow Submarine.
AB: Yes, that was his idea.
BH: And of course, he sang it.
AB: Yes he did. That's what I think had a lot to do with it. And actually when he's on talk shows, I notice that they play the Submarine, it's one of his themes as he marches on.
BH: Yea, I understand there's something like 25 albums called the Yellow Submarine, Ringo and the Yellow Submarine, or something along those lines.
AB: I didn't know about that.
BH: Well, it's only about $275.00 minimum.
AB: I haven't received my royalties yet, but thank you Dr. Bob. My next call is to my lawyer.
BH: Now, most people have seen the Signet Books, the little paperback on the movie. And the one that I wanted to use as a class text for the Yellow Submarine, in that two-credit college course I taught in 1972, it was extinct. I couldn't find them anywhere, they were goners for sure. And I've always been amazed that they've never been reprinted. They could sell 20 billion of them if they did.
AB: I don't think so.
BH: You don't think so?
AB: No, it was a poor book. Max Wilk is a ... I have a habit of working from the neighborhood, and that had to do with Eric Tuger, we'll talk about that later possibly, but Max and I had a common..., friend in common, a publisher. Sydney Kramer, he was the founder of Bantam Books. And I was in the middle of production when he called and says "wouldn't it be a good idea to a novelization?" I said "Yea, it'd be a fine idea, who do you have in mind?"
He said "Max, you know Max." And yea, I had seen Max downtown. He does a sort of a chronicle about show business. And he's written several books and some screenplays and kind of a mediocre writer but a nice guy. And I said "Why not." And so I invited him over to look at our artwork and write a book, which is what he did. But he had nothing to do with the creation of the movie itself. He just took a dive into the middle of our artwork and wrote something that had nothing to do with the Submarine.
BH: Yea, there were some problems in there for sure. Of course when in 1972 I had no way of knowing how much it veered away from the script and of course there are several versions of it. The one..., I finally got one from Spain I believe, I mean as you well know, and you probably have them, the Yellow Submarine comics come in three different varieties and they're all, there are things within the comics that aren't even in the movie.
AB: I have none of that actually.
BH: You don't have any of that?
BH: Well, we're going to get you a care package together here. Because being King of the Yellow Submarine, you should have just about everything within your possession. I understand that you have one of those wonderful Yellow Submarine watches.
AB: Yea, probably the last of the creation, it's got the original price, I think it was $5.98. Bloomingdales was selling them. You know my office at King Features was inundated with all this merchandise and including maybe well over a hundred Corgi Submarines. I just gave them away to empty the office.
BH: Well, who would have ever thought that Corgi Yellow Submarines mint, in box are about $650.00.
BH: And if you've got $650.00 it's probably not the first thing one would consider purchasing. I think maybe food would be first.
AB: I think so and especially these days. The cells, you know the cells themselves became very valuable. The animation cells. We threw thousands of them away because they were cluttering up the studio. People, animators were slipping/sliding on them and hurting themselves, they are very slippery. And I felt like an awful schmuck because there was millions of dollars worth of stuff out the window. But the other thing that gives me a bit of peace is the fact that Disney used to do the same thing. You know they actually had sliding contests, they'd see how far you could slide on them.
BH: Oh, I never knew that. But June Foray told me a little bit about that experience. She walked into one of those and wondered what it was. "What are they doing skating around here?"
Well, we better get back to what we were doing, we're enjoying ourselves too much now. Here's a fellow that's mentioned in the title page of the Signet publication, Lee Minoff. Who was he and what part did he play in the film's writing, if any. And any comments on how he got involved or uninvolved?
AB: Yea, I know all about him of course, writing it at the outset. It's a strange story, but it's a true story. I had several meetings with the Beatles at the outset when it was decided, while they were going to Harrods's and wherever on Carnaby St. to buy their gear for their trip, we did have meetings - story meetings. We talked a lot and we got along very well when Brian was out of the room. Brian was difficult. In Brian's absence they said "Al we like you, we like your idea, but you know you're kind of old." I am 15 years older that John was, and you know "not of our generation, maybe we need somebody younger." I said "Fine, I'll look around for somebody younger."
And I knew of a Minoff, it wasn't Lee, it was his brother, his name I forget, Charles Minoff, who was a writer on True magazine, and became friends and I said "Do you have a younger brother whose a writer?" He said "he's trying to write, he's a psychologist." I said "How old is he?" And he was just the right age, he was 15 years younger that me. And I said "What does he look like?" He said "Like one of those damn Beatles. He never cuts his hair." I said "Send him over."
So we met, we talked, he was a good looking, personable young man who had long hair, who went to England. And they met him, and he's very charming, and they liked him and they said "Lee's our boy. Do it with Lee."
So that helped getting Brian's signature finally. I came back to the States and Lee did what he did but it was absolutely useless. It was a thing about a submarine or a boat in a bottle and an old couple. And it was just terrible. And I called his agent, I think the name was Flora Roberts. I said "Flora this is useless. I can't use this." She said "Well, you damn well better use it because the Beatles want him. And I'll notify them that you're not using him and you're partially out the window."
BH: Boy, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
AB: She had me in a box, I also had a contract signed with them. So I had to go back to London to talk to Brian about other writers and she literally met me at the airport. Kind of a rotund crazy woman. And she said, "Here's the contract and I put you on notice that this deal's going to go out the window unless Lee gets credit. Even if you don't use a word of it." And we didn't use a word and he got credit. And that's the story of Lee Minoff.
BH: Well, I'll be. So he was the fellow who put the Yellow Submarine in a bottle. And had..., there's a character that, a man and a wife, I guess...
AB: I remember the terrible story. As these things go, and I've worked on so many ties and projects, you sort of wind your way away from the original and get to where it's going to count. And I figured well so I have to give the guy credit, it's a contractual thing, so we get the picture done. You make compromises.
BH: Yea, now, did you play any part in the writing of the film?
AB: Oh yea, I did. I assisted on it. Most of the writing was done, I'd say ninety percent of it was done by Erich Segal and myself. Erich, that's an interesting story. I heard his interview as well. And that was interesting, but get to that whenever you want to.
BH: Yea, well, we'll get to that, he's just a couple of names down here. Jack Mendelsohn, you already mentioned, he was...
AB: Mendelsohn was a marvelous person who worked at King Features in the, he did Jackie's Diary, which was a semi-successful strip. It ran in I don't know how many newspapers. And I assigned him lots of Barney Googles, Beetle Baileys and Popeyes and whatever I was doing, he was good. He was a very good constructionist, but he didn't want to go to England, he went west. And he's now a highly successful writer out there. A good proportion of whatever happens on Saturday morning is out of his pen.
AB: Either writes it or edits it. He did the, oh, Ninja Turtles is the last thing I remember he did. He's very very successful. I used him as a constructionist. We'd send drafts over and he'd prearrange things now and then. And I think, to the best of my recollection, he created the apple bonker idea.
BH: Oh, he did?
AB: I think so, you know it's tough, it was a long, long time ago. But he did make..., one of those villains was his villain. I'm not sure whether it was the... He called them the skull-crushing apple bonkers. I think that was his, all the rest were strictly out of Heinz's head. Heinz loved villains.
BH: Yea! He sure did.
AB: Heinz was the real hero in this piece.
BH: Well, now, let's get to brother Eric here, why was he hired?
AB: Eric, he's funny, brother Eric. There are more holes in that interview than in Albert Hall. It's a lot like the Menendez Brothers, he truly believes in fiction. And there's a lot of fiction in that interview. This is what happened. As I said, I like to work out of a neighborhood. Now, after the Lee Minoff incident, I figured I'd like somebody to work with. I had an awful lot of things going, if you look at... You indicated my record, we always had three or four productions going at once.
BH: Yea, I don't know how you do that.
AB: I tell you how you do it, you get two extraordinary people, I had two such people; Mary Ellen Stewart, she was the Associate Producer on Submarine, and Abe Goodman. And with these two people, everything is possible.
They...I loved my two favorite words of theirs in the whole English language, those words being "No problem." Whatever it was it was not a problem. And they took care of things. But anyway, Eric, to get back to Eric. I needed somebody to work with. I called William at work, and a man named Charlie Baker was the man in charge of people writing for Broadway.
Said "Charlie, who do you have in the neighborhood that types?" He says "Well, I have, you live in Westport? " he says " let me look." He takes a look in his book and he says "I have a professor, he's a writer, but he can type." Who is this? He says "Dr. Eric Segal, Assistant or Associate Professor of Latin and Greek writ, but yea, he's not far from where you are." And I think he said "I may have a deal for him with Richard Rogers."
Richard Rogers liked his work and that's a good recommendation. It sounded interesting. So, he gave me..., he said "I'll call Eric and see if he's interested." Well, it didn't take more than ten minutes when I got a call from Dr. Segal, saying he loved and knew the Beatles. He indicated he didn't know them, but he knew them well, knew their music, played them on his guitar and could he be in Westport, he could be there in 45 minutes. I said fine come on down. So he came down, it was summertime, he had his T-shirt on and he had a guitar. And entertained my twin sons, I had twin sons who were pre-teens at that time, and they sang Beatle songs. It was a wonderful family scene and that's how I started with Eric.
BH: Isn't that wonderful?
AB: And most of ..., I mean, there was so much, you know, so much hyperbole in the apocryphal things dated, it becomes a history of sorts. I mean a sort of fantasy frozen in time.
BH: Yea, well, you remember the Yale Literary Review article?
AB: Yea, well that was the fantasy that he froze in time.
BH: Yea, that is the..., I mean I just laughed myself to pieces. It was just..., the images that were presented... And now they represented, especially in the academic fashion, which I sometimes can appreciate, was so entertaining that I've reread that piece a number of times and it was more or less... When I was reading it, I wasn't reading it so much as history, as I was reading it as a novel.
AB: For years... You know I had become a very famous novelist... I actually gave him his first job.
BH: Amazing, isn't that interesting.
AB: And then he went on, you know to write "Love Story" and many, many other novels, and he's very, very successful, as he should be. He does believe his fantasies however. He was never called in to say that..., what really happened was what I told you. And he mentioned that he had been of 40 writers, in fact there were 6 writers before Eric came on to the scene. One of which, interestingly enough, was Joe Heller.
BH: Oh, I've heard of Joe Heller.
AB: Wrote "Catch 22," wrote a treatment for me. Ernie Pintoff, who you may know, wrote a ... and four others. And I marched over there; this is a whole other story, I'm not addressing your question, but it's sort of interesting.
BH: Well, it is interesting and it's important when we're trying to find out what really happened, you know.
AB: Well, I had these... I had Eric at hand here and yea if you look at that book you'll see there are pictures of us writing.
AB: He's on a bike and I'm walking next to him and we're working. In summary, really in terms of where the script was written, it was written in my home in Westport, in his digs at Yale and at the Londonderry Hotel in London. And he was a hell of a good typist. But he said that there were 40 writers and he came in to say that, that sort of blew me away.
BH: Yea, well it's good to get the information from the people who really know.
AB: You meant to say the horse's mouth, but that's okay.
BH: Yea, we won't say that. Well, listen, anyone who could like Pogo can't possibly be a horse.
AB: The other interesting shtick was that he said that UA allowed him a chauffeur driven limo, of which he only made 8 miles or something. That was pure fiction, I mean, if they'd give it to anyone it would be me. I didn't have any limo. And our routine was... He worked hard, he must have spent a month, night and day with me, at the Londonderry. And we would see the rushers in the morning, go back their room and write. And then around 5:00 he would do his turn, he was one of the first runners, joggers that I ever knew. He'd go around Hyde Park and I'd toast him with a glass of Scotch.
BH: You saw him off.
AB: My exercise was a good elbow. A well-developed elbow, and then we did the town. I mean he was hardly a prisoner for the four weeks, he was very good company. That's why I asked for his phone number.
BH: Well, thank you for your analysis, there. And historical accuracy.
AB: Thank you.
BH: Now the song, I know we touched on this before, but did you ever discuss the Yellow Submarine song with Lennon and McCartney. Because Lennon and McCartney wrote it right?
BH: Ringo sang it.
BH: And I don't know if George paid any attention to it at all.
AB: George didn't pay much attention to it, I don't know. I would say he didn't, I think he thought it was a silly little diddy. But because it was, it was a sort of an open, a Rorhschack test, if you will, for the viewer. And you could read all sorts of things into it. I know you've done a study on it. There's a Reverend Smith in Scotland who's done I think three books on it.
AB: And each one was a different approach to the script and related it to the St. James version of the Bible.
BH: Yea, that will be interesting to read. Generally, I don't read other people's works because I like to have my own ideas. And then I like to discover what everybody else did. Now, nearly half the music was the creation of George Martin. What was the process by which George Martin was asked to create the music? How did he go about it? What kind of script did he have?
AB: George was known as the fifth Beatle. You know, he's an absolute genius. What we did was, we animated, as I say, animate to sound, so we animated, I picked I believe it was 9 songs that we animated partially or in whole. And people had already been written most of them from the Sgt. Pepper album. Then we post scored, you know, after the picture was done. And that was George's task. And he used a good part of the London Symphony Orchestra.
And it's beautiful stuff he did, you know the underwater thing, it's a derivative of Bach. There's a lot of Bach in it, but he did a beautiful version of Bach.
BH: Did he take a look at the rushes or anything like that?
AB: No, he's kind of a, not a, yea a primadonna, but a nice one. He's an extraordinarily talented man in the classics. And certainly he was altogether responsible for the success of the Beatles, the music itself. I really don't know if any of this would have happened without him frankly.
BH: That's interesting. I listened to that part of the Yellow Submarine, you know it's almost like a whole side, of the album. It's wonderful for taking baths and stuff of that nature. You know, it mellows you out.
AB: You know, they asked me to write lyrics to it, in terms of getting tremendous royalties, and I started but I really couldn't do it, I got the first words to the theme, if you listen to it again, you'll see how they fit. "So let it happen," if you just throw those words into the basic theme it works. But I couldn't go anywhere from there and we had the production schedule so we forgot it.
BH: Well, what we're going to need to do here is just take a pause here. When we do we'll come back, we'll discuss Heinz Edelmann.
AB: That's always a pleasure.
BH: I love the kinds of days when it rains and it's gray and I can just stay in my studio and either paint or do whatever I need to do...
AB: Those are the best of times.
BH: Aren't they?
AB: I agree with you.
BH: Yea, when you're alone and you don't have to put up with all the other rigmarole of...
AB: The minutia.
BH: Yea, the minutia and the BS of life. We have, one of the things we're going to be sending you, now, is a poster called "We have met the enemy, and he is us." This is a Pogo thing that was done, oh thirty-some years ago.
AB: Oh, fantastic.
BH: I was going to say to you, you have your choice of that or a Pogo cup. But I..
AB: I have my Cornwall cup.
BH: Yea, your Cornwall cup will last you another decade or two. And when you run out of that one, we can get you a Pogo cup. But I just wanted to mention that because I think, I know you're familiar with that particular etching, it was a really fine production. Mr. Kelly was superb.
Well, friends, we took a little break there and we're talking with Al Brodax, the Head Dude, as we used to say in the old days. The Big Dude who really put this Beatles Yellow Submarine production together. Now, Heinz Edelmann. How was he selected and what part of the film was he responsible for?
AB: Heinz was an absolute genius. He was selected by George Dunning and Coates, mostly Dunning I guess. They'd seen his work from German magazines. He did advertising art, graphic art. And thought it was interesting. Both sides of the ocean we were working, with other graphic artists, we were, none of us happy with anything we had seen yet. When I had seen Heinz's work, renderings of the four Beatles, there was no question that he was the guy.
He had never done animation. And therefore, his technique was not really suited for animation, because animation is basically, what we call a circular technique. The animator basically works with circles. They're easy to move. Heinz moved, his basic approach was rectangular. And they are very difficult to move, but worth the trouble.
Actually, the first character we tried to move was Ringo, from Heinz's sketches. And Ringo limped for a good six weeks, we couldn't get his legs straight. But once we, we sort of compromised a little, in terms of what Heinz did. He moved, and they all moved and they had a very different kind of look. And I was so taken by the look, that we actually had a sign put up in the studio, much like Clinton's sign in his campaign headquarters, it said "The Economy Stupid." I had a large sign made up saying "Disney dash- the Opposite." It makes the point.
BH: Well, I know that Walt Kelly would have enjoyed hearing that. His little time that he spent there was most strange to say the least.
AB: He had actually Salvador Dali, worked for Disney.
BH: Did he?
BH: I didn't know that.
AB: And I had a project working with Dali for awhile.
BH: I bet you that was something.
AB: Well, yea, a very difficult person. He spoke in three languages, each sentence had three languages. I had a secretary at that time who could speak all those languages, so luckily there was a translation at hand, but... And we'd meet at the St. Regis bar once a week to discuss this project. It had to do with the Devil and his drawings, which were extraordinary. But the man was out of his gourd. But he did tell me that he worked for Disney, and every night he'd take his ash can, his pail beneath his desk and put it in a big bag and take it home with him, because he didn't want anyone to have his drawings.
BH: Oh, well, that's Salvador Dali, good ole' surrealism, they call it surrealism but there's a lot of other things there. Now, what kind of script was Heinz working from?
AB: Well, we had a script. A lot of people deny that but we had a fairly loosely written script, a beginning , middle and an end, that Erich and I had from the outset and once we started production. We did have to stitch it together and that, the chaos that people speak of at times was really engineered chaos. Because it's what gave us our edge. They really didn't know where they were going all the time, except I knew. And Erich knew. And Stokes and Balser knew.
BH: It sounds a little bit like the military there. You know, the compartmentalizing of information, the need to know basis.
AB: That's right. Because then, they were sort of competing with each other, they were out-doing each other. And they didn't really know to what end except their egos and I got the best of them out of them because of that.
And in the end, they thanked me. In the end they saw how we finally stitched it together.
BH: And then we get to Charles Jenkins, who contributed Special Effects. How was, what's his part in this, and where can we see his Special Effects in the film?
AB: Charlie was a genius, another one of our heroes. When we first... we first had preliminary meetings, I left London and I... They said they would do some work, Heinz had already been selected as the artist. I asked him to do one scene, any scene he chose to do, and I'd come back, and based upon that we would have a green light from United Artist and we'd go ahead.
So they did a scene and the scene they did, among others, but this was the basic one, was the one with George on the hill and there's a cow in the background and it's a mix of live action and animation. This was done by Charlie, on his Magical Mystery Bench. He had a special optical bench, that was a secret. He literally wouldn't let us know how he did these things. He had a way of folding it up and taking it home at night.
BH: Well, I'll be.
AB: A very strange man, but extraordinarily talented. He did that scene and everybody held their breath for air. I came over and of course I had to be the front man in terms of going back to United Artists and selling it. But, I loved it. It had nothing to do with anything Disney ever did. There was a cocktail party early in the morning in some hotel, he showed me his stuff, and Dunning held his breath, as did Stokes and everybody involved and I said "I love it." And Charlie was on the team. The other thing that comes to mind, he had a way of painting negatives.
AB: The other one that was extraordinary, was the Eleanor Rigby scene, stuff coming out of the smoke stacks, and the camera coming up and the town seemingly going down, it had a dimensional effect to it.
BH: It sure did and it's very haunting too, it was such a mixture of fantasy and reality that it put you in another space.
AB: It was done three or four o'clock in the morning in a camera room in Soho and lots of times in camera rooms you're concerned about lint and other things. But we saw part of his magical bench but not all of it. When we saw the stuff come back from the lab we all went bananas and tried to recreate that scene, to do it again. We couldn't do it again, it was an accident. Something happened somewhere between his optical bench and what they did in the lab that gave it that effect.
BH: Is Charles Jenkins still around?
AB: I believe he is.
BH: Is he in Argentina, you think?
AB: That's what I heard. Before, prior to Argentina and after Submarine and a few other things, he became very important in the Parisian scene, on the Parisian scene in terms of style and design.
BH: Well, I'll be.
AB: He's a renaissance man if there ever was one.
BH: George Dunning. We see his name in big letters in the credits of the book and the film. He is listed as the Director. What did he direct in respect to Animation and Script? Has he passed on?
AB: Yes, George was ill. He had..., his lungs kept collapsing even during production. But he was not my original choice, originally I wanted a man named McClaron from Canada to direct. He had a tremendous reputation. I had seen a lot of his stuff, mostly festival houses. And I was looking for something that was not Disneyesque. And he did it all.
So I called him and he said no, that he was teaching up there and busy, but he would recommend George Dunning, who worked at UPA. So I met George, who now had a little studio on Dean Street in Soho with John Coates, they were doing commercials.
I liked him, he was a gentleman, as was Coates - is Coates, he's still around. And I liked their work. But George had a problem. And his big problem was that he could not make decisions. And we had a very severe schedule, we really had eleven to twelve months to finish this. An opening night in Picadilly at the Pavilion Hotel. Opening night at a hotel, it was a theater. And we..., I couldn't wait for George, so one day we sort of had a thing, and I said "George, we have to move on to the next scene." He just stared at me. He had a way of staring like "Go to Hell, Yank." There was a thing that had to do with "Yanks" and "Brits" that developed.
BH: Oh really?
AB: Yea, it wasn't unpleasant but it was there. I had Mary and Abe, and the three of us were "Yanks." Balser was born in Syracuse but spent a lot of time in Europe. But it was kind of a division there. There was Dunning and Coates and the rest on the other side. But we had a "to do" in his office and I said if you don't get to the next scene by tomorrow, this scene is over with, I have to do something. So the next day I appeared and he was still where he was the day before. I said George, and I'm reassigning this stuff. And I reassigned the stuff to, the remaining film really, to Stokes.
And to Bob Balser, who, Bob appreciated schedules and did it. So in effect their names should have been much larger than George's.
BH: Now, we're going back here a little because we want to take a look at what it is like to oversee a production of multiple geniuses. You had a cast of individuals, I shouldn't call them a cast, but I think you know what I mean, I mean with Mendelsohn and Segal and Edelmann and Stokes, and Balser, you have guys obviously, that knew what the hell they were doing. But what was your day to day job on the production of the film, could you walk us through, just kind of like a summary of a day.
AB: It's a long day. Because it really... I moved to London for the production period, I had a flat in Mayfair, walking distance to the studio, so I could get there, walk back and forth. The days sort of melted into the nights, and you never knew what the hell day it was. It's true that at one point we had 200 people, an army, working around the clock. And this is where Coates really did do his job, he landed these students up from the local art schools. And we had 8 hour shifts.
So my day started at, oh it ended sometimes at three or four in the morning, depending upon what trouble we had. People not sticking to the model sheets or maybe somebody had too much pot, we had to take them home. Usually... That's why I'm so... I asked that we do this at noon because noon is about the time I got up then and I'm still having that problem. And then I'd go to the studio, look at the dailies, what happened the day before, which were pencil tests. And we'd have meetings about what was right, what was wrong, and where we should go and what the pace was like.
And then I'd just wander around, looking at the tracing, the painting, just seeing that they go up to the line and not over the line, these were kids out of art school. And using the right colors. And then in the evening I'd go back, if it was Erich Segal's time, I'd go back and say "Jack had this idea, maybe we could use it here in the script." And we'd do a little fixing. Or Heinz would have an idea. There were ideas that were contributed, and many tossed out, but some were used. And we'd have, it was like an unending dance, so to speak.
And the action, the creative action bounced between the little studio that was the original headquarters of TVC of London, and then this big loft we took to house these 200 people. All in and around Soho Square, so the action was there and in a little pub called "The Dog and Duck."
BH: "The Dog and Duck Pub."
AB: Yea, where we always had, we had our own tables at back, and we would wander in and out and discuss things, but it was like something going on in our minds continually. And we were just never-ending conversationalists for a year.
BH: Now when you were working on a project does that mean that your entire eleven months was just focused on this one project?
AB: Good question. No, I had other projects back home, and my Associate Producer, Mary Ellen Stewart, who sadly died at the age of 37, just as we got into production, she was handling what was happening in New York. And what was happening there was several series in syndication, and preparing to do a Blondie live action series for CBS, as soon as I finished Submarine. So she handled that, and there were daily, telephone things from New York to see what was happening.
BH: Well, so in other words, the rest of your life still had to go on back here in the States and you had...
AB: I had the good fortune that Mary handled most of it and I had Abe Goodman, who was... Abe and Coates had a running battle all the time, because Abe was really the Production Manager and Coates felt it was his studio. And they sort of bumped heads a lot. But basically in the beginning, Coates was just in charge of the payroll. And then he, he has a very successful operation now however. And they're doing good work.
BH: The Beatles Yellow Submarine film is recognized as a masterpiece of animation. What animated film techniques did the Yellow Submarine pioneer?
AB: Well, I think... I don't know if we pioneered anything except we made so much use of that rectangle. But we... If anything I think maybe it was an introduction to the computer age in a sense. Because of what Charlie did, of how to mix and match... The one thing that Dunning did do, that was rather extraordinary and one of my favorite parts of the film was Lucy. And that was his special thing, that's the scene he could never get away from. But I loved it. And it was a matter of doing an eclectic film. A matter of doing a film that, whose base was music. And animation to the music.
BH: While we're talking about the different scenes, in your opinion, what were the most successful scenes and aspects of the Yellow Submarine?
AB: Well, I think Eleanor Rigby was very successful.
BH: Eleanor, oh yea!
AB: Lucy was very successful. It's an egomaniacal thing to say, but I think the whole thing was successful. Another favorite of course is "All you need is Love," that was Jack Stokes' special baby. That tower, as a matter of fact, if you remember that scene, the whole screen is filled with Love, Love, Love. Helen Gurley Brown was, still is the Editor of Cosmopolitan, another thing that Hearst owns, and she wanted to use that for the cover of one of the issues. And I allowed it, but somehow United Artists didn't want it because it was before the film premiered. And so that went out to the dumpster.
BH: Now, we've talked about, there are so many successful scenes, now there were lesser successful scenes, I can't think of any bad scenes at all, but there were some that were lesser. What's your opinion as to what might have been...
AB: Well, there was a troublesome scene maybe, the one in the..., the very last scene. If you remember, before the live action part. There was a scene with all of the crowd, the Pepper people waving, waving at the camera, and we sort of faded out before the live action part. We sort of ran out of money at that point. And we didn't have... Heinz made so many Pepper people it drove us crazy, we couldn't animate all those people.
The cost of animation has everything to do with how many things you have going at once. And we had an awful lot of Pepper people waving and singing the song, you know... It was all too much. And instead of animating them, we moved the camera. And we made, we split sections of the Pepper people and moved them back and forth. And that drove me crazy every time I saw, that I see the picture.
BH: Yea, well that's right. Of course we wouldn't know that.
AB: No, most people don't...
BH: There were an awful lot of it looked like very..., there were people within the film, in the cartoon-style, that looked like people that...
AB: Real people. Oh yea, again, the syndrome I had of working out of the neighborhood, the hiring of Erich Segal, etc. It spilled over to the production, that is... The man you see in the telephone booth, he was our publican, he was our, they call them publicans over there, he was our bartender at the Dog and Duck. Another man crouched, sort of looking at him, his collar up, that was Abe Goodman, our Production Manager. Actually, Abe Goodman was the, if you look, if you could freeze that frame, when you look at it next, and you look at him and you look at the Blue Meanie, he was the basic design for the Blue Meanie.
BH: Well, I'll be, interesting.
AB: Another maybe, possibly interesting character is Old Fred. Old Fred was a waiter at Wheeler's, which was a restaurant around the corner.
BH: Old Fred was a waiter at Wheeler's!
AB: He didn't know what the hell we were talking about. But we used to eat there a good deal. It was a marvelous fish restaurant on old Compton Street. It was the original Wheeler's and we had our own floor there, and Old Fred was our waiter. He thought we were all crazy. He didn't like us very much, we were rowdy. I liked the way he looked. He had these rosy cheeks and he was very gaunt and tall, a weird looking guy. I said, you want to be in movies, he said yea, yea, have another drink.
BH: What about there's a, in this section, "All Together Now", there's a man in a bubble with a derby and it looks like a mustache and a beard. He may be holding a cane, and they're singing "All Together Now," he's saying something, I don't know what he's saying. But was he anyone of historical importance or local importance?
AB: "All Together Now," no, I don't know who that man is. I was in the picture.
BH: Where were you?
AB: I'm the man smoking the pipe in front of an alleyway, that the submarine flies over.
BH: You were him! Yes, I've seen you a number of times then. And as a matter of fact, there's a question I want to bring up later on from a little production called "Mod Odyssey." And I was trying to locate and determine who was who, we'll get to that later on. Now, if you had to do the film again, now, you've never heard...
AB: I don't have the strength.
BH: I know, I know you don't have the strength but, if you had to do it again, is there anything you might change in that production?
AB: Not... Nothing at all.
BH: Nothing at all?
AB: Just the last scene. I think everything worked marvelously. It was just a strange and unique combination of talents that made it work.
BH: Well, what was the Beatles' reaction to the final result of the Yellow Submarine film?
AB: When they finally came back from India, they loved it. They started to hang around the studio, especially Ringo. He was taken by it. He commented one day that his nose wasn't quite long enough. And would the animators do something about that? We said sure and we didn't do anything about it. But... And we told him, in subsequent scenes, I said "You notice your nose?" He said "Thank you Al."
BH: We heard there were two versions of the Yellow Submarine. The first was only seen in England and a shorter version, supposedly a shorter version, was shown here in America. Is that true?
AB: Yes, but it's not that there were two versions, it's that there were two endings. There was a kind of an anti-climax, and that had to do with "Hey Bulldog." And there was a battle scene, which is another kind of interesting story. "Hey Bulldog" preceded..., you know it was at the end, before they rush up the hill, and the roses pop out and so on, and there's peace.
That was really written for Erich, you know, who went to Yale. And the bulldog is their mascot. That was written for him as one of the four songs by contract that they had to write for the movie. Had to write four new songs. That was also interesting, the four songs they gave us, as George Martin used to tell it to me, was when they had it fresh and they'd say that's not very much, throw it into the Submarine.
And they dumped whatever they didn't like on us. And so we had three of them, and we still didn't have a fourth and UA was giving me a bad time by phone - "Where's the fourth tape?" And it was very late at night and we needed a fourth song. The movie was still assembled, and Martin said "What are we going to do?" And George Harrison said "I'll do a bit here, I'll make a contribution." And he did "It's Only a Northern Song," and we didn't have a title. And we looked up at the sheet and the name of the company is Northern Song.
BH: Oh yes, yea.
AB: "It's Only a Northern Song" and sent a courier to the airport and we got it to UA in New York on time. But he wrote that in no time flat.
BH: Well then, the version we see here in America only excludes the "Bulldog" and is it true that..., from others we learned that it was Paul McCartney who requested changes in the length, is that true?
AB: No, it was the same problem. The first cut had "Bulldog" in it. And we all looked at that, they were all there, the Beatles were there and he said "Too long." And then I made the cut. Even with that cut we came in on budget. The budget would knock you over. You know what today's budgets are...
BH: Yea, would you like to divulge what your budget was?
AB: Well, I shouldn't. It was minimal.
BH: OK, well we don't... A minimal budget.
AB: Very, very low.
BH: Less than a million.
AB: No, it was a million.
BH: It was at least a million.
BH: OK, now, oh you've already unraveled the great mystery of "Hey Bulldog." Because that makes a lot more sense now. There are many successful artistic productions whose creators weren't conscious of the numerous levels of meanings that are found in their work, and in some ways this can be applied to the Yellow Submarine theme. Could we have your thoughts on this idea?
AB: Yes, I think as many of the others have said now, there were about, I'd say, nine or ten of us that were the core of the creation of this picture. We really didn't have any idea, except I wanted to do a love story. I wanted to do a theme being love and peace, and I wanted a journey. And so how do you do that? You have a tranquil scene interrupted by an enemy - a villain.
The people are overwhelmed, we need somebody to rescue them. Old Fred, the mayor - the mayor, not Old Fred, the mayor who runs off, he goes off and finds the Beatles and they return and come to the rescue. So it has a beginning, middle, and an end. There's nothing heavy in there. Nothing that we... We don't hardly have a parallel Biblical tale.
Heinz was interesting in that he is a real movie buff and loved Westerns. How could you have a picture without Indians somewhere up there on the hillside? And so we did, we had, you know, the Blue Meanies and the Indians up there on the hillside attacking.
Pepperland itself actually had a strange beginning, the genesis of that is that one of my favorite places in the world is Truro, up in Cape Cod. We go there often. And there's a place up there, I sketch but not too well, I sketched out this place that has sort of a mound, a mountain that was bald but beautifully green, not too tall, the grass was not too tall. And it was sparsely, the vegetation was sparse, but beautiful. So I sketched that, and that was really the Pepperland look that I brought to England and Heinz squinted at it and said "I could fix that."
BH: Yea, so in other words the park, the park scenes of Pepperland actually were inspired by scenes in the United States.
AB: True. Truro on the Cape Cod.
BH: On Cape Cod! Oh! That's wonderful to know. That really is.
AB: So, you see, it's an amalgam of all our experiences and then filtered once again through another artist's eyes.
BH: Well, I mentioned this a little earlier and I want to touch on it once again, there was a type of promo film for the Yellow Submarine called "Mod Odyssey" which I've just obtained a copy of. It was produced by Tarot Associates, whoever they are. Are you aware of it? We're trying to identify some of the people depicted in it. If you've seen it, maybe you can remember.
AB: I think that was produced by whatever their name is for UA, as a promo. I did see it once. And they, they never used it.
BH: Oh, they never used it.
AB: No, not to my knowledge anyway.
BH: Well, the copy that I got was a Super 8, you know, film production, which when transferred to video it lost a good deal, needless to say. But there are some folks in there, there was one who wore glasses, smoked a pipe and had a mustache.
AB: Was this through a fish-eye lens, was it like that?
AB: Well, that...
BH: You smoked a pipe.
AB: I smoked a pipe, but I didn't have a mustache.
BH: And did you wear glasses?
BH: That's not you then. Do you think that may be Heinz Edelmann?
AB: No. He didn't have a mustache. It sounds like Abe. Yea, Abe wore glasses, he had a mustache, he was a little balding, sort of a short stocky guy.
AB: That was Abe Goodman.
BH: Now, there was another guy there, another handsome soul that was in a short sleeve, blue shirt, short haircut, maybe a crew cut, and smoked a pipe.
AB: You got it right. That was me.
BH: That was you!
AB: That was me. Was I flipping through pages or something?
BH: Yes, yes you were flipping through pages and there's a gentleman in a dark blue suit, to your left -- an executive-type looking through a larger periodical -- he had no mustache, glasses or pipe.
AB: Ah, that was George.
BH: That was George.
AB: Yea, George Dunning.
BH: Well, I'll be. He was considerably different than ...
AB: Than the rest of us.
BH: Yea, you could feel that when you looked at it.
AB: He was kind of austere and quiet. He was a gentleman, serious. And you know, strange to me that he would even take on this project. Because it didn't seem to be his character.
AB: Yea, that was George, no question about it.
BH: Now, we understand that you're still very much involved in future projects on Beatle subjects. Could you tell us a little about "Strawberry Fields", and your work on publishing material about a, hopefully publishing some more material on the Yellow Submarine? 'Cause you're the guy to do it Al.
AB: The "Strawberry Fields" project started some years ago, but it was brought to me..., I was in England at the time doing what they call a "reckie" over there, looking for a sight for a picture I was going to do for Cornwall this spring hopefully. And I was called back from England to do the "Strawberry Fields" project by ITC Investron. Vestron has since gone bankrupt, ITC is not in very good shape. And they wanted me to produce it.
I chose the computer graphics lab out on the Island as the place, they are the avant-garde of computer graphics. And I thought it was just the perfect medium for Beatles songs. And so the production did start, but the thing was that the Beatles didn't like the idea. They didn't like the idea because basically Paul was miffed at Michael Jackson because he bought their music library you know.
BH: Yea, there was some discussion...
AB: For 35 million dollars he bought the publishing rights. Now Paul's wanting to buy it back, I think for 150 million, but anyway, they really didn't want their songs covered, you know using other artists, by anybody. And they didn't want their stuff out but I had to proceed with this production, I was called into it. So we had other people, and we actually made tracks of Luther Vandross and Cindi Lauper and actually Michael Jackson singing "Get Together" oh, "Come Together."
BH: "Come Together."
AB: So we had eight marvelous tracks and then everything went wrong. By that I mean Vestron went bankrupt, ITC was in bad shape and the lab got into trouble with the Government. And so it was padlocked and it's on hold. Which is sad, because a lot of good stuff was done. And now it's just in the courts. So going from that now I apparently am going to do a Don Quixote film. Animated, not necessarily with Beatle music, but with some people that are well known on Broadway, mainly John Cutler, who's a Broadway producer.
He's done stuff with Elizabeth Taylor, Burton, oh who else I don't know, but well, quite well-known. And he's called me in to work on Don Quixote and we're going to go to the Coast actually next week to talk to a major studio about it.
BH: The west coast?
AB: We're going to go to the coast. To Los Angeles.
BH: Yea, the west coast.
AB: Oh yea, west coast. There is no other coast.
BH: Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot.
AB: We're not a coast.
BH: I guess we're not, no. Well you know, the cost of Beatles memorabilia never seems to stop going through the roof. In your opinion, since you had a lot of it in your office, you saw a lot of it like the Corgi toy, the Lunch Box, which my goodness gracious, the Lunch Box today, you could buy a car with. The Lunch Box and the thermos, the books, the puzzles... In your opinion what was the best of the created Yellow Submarine memorabilia?
AB: I think the Corgi's really. That was the best. There were a lot of less than desirable pieces made. I can't really..., the Lunch Box was OK, the watch was so-so, but whatever it was it was very desirable apparently.
BH: Well, one of these days I'm going to get a watch. If I can ever find it. That's the biggest problem in the world is locating the stuff, it's not so much just the money, it's locating it. Because you can go on forever looking for stuff in the different magazines. And what they're asking is insane.
AB: If you go to these Beatlefests, you know, they have them every year almost.
BH: Yea, there's one coming up on March 13th that I've been invited to, I'd like to be able to spend six hours running around at 400 tables.
AB: Where's that one going to be?
BH: That's going to be in the Meadowlands, in New Jersey. And I'm looking forward to, I seldom get a chance to go out, I'm kind of like stuck in my studio all the time. And there's some advantages to that, I don't have to put up with everybody else's faults impinging upon me all the time.
Now, there's one other question I wanted to ask, and it's not so much related to this. It's related to the time period. Because the '60's, during the mid to late '60's consciousness was focused on the attempt to end all wars and in particular those in S.E. Asia. Fortunately there were musicians from that era that worked nearly unanimously, nearly so, toward world peace. Which I can't think of there being anything else more important and I know how corny that sounds, but would you evaluate the kind of consciousness we have, like in the '90's as compared to 30 years ago, because you were really right in the midst of all of what was happening.
AB: Yes. Well, I think, hopefully it's coming back again.
BH: I hope so.
AB: The latest moves on Bosnia, you know, we've waited an awfully long time. Finally, finally maybe it's happening. And I think the '90's are going to be very much like the '60's. Hopefully so.
BH: I hope so too Al. Well, hopeful, hopefully..., I understand you're thinking about, or working on something dealing with the Yellow Submarine. Is that right?
AB: Yes, and also, well yes. I hope to do a book from my point of view on the Yellow Sub. Which would contain many of these little bits and pieces I've been giving you.
BH: Well, you're actually the only person that really could do that. You'd have... One would have to be really in the seat of watching the whole thing happen and unfold to be able to give an accurate rendition of what went on.
AB: There are many, many, many stories, and the Eric Segal one is typical. Just walking down the street, not seeing Heinz maybe for 2 days, and I would say "she's leaving home," and he'd yell at me "no she's not!" And anybody passing would think we were crazy, but it had to do with my wanting to use that song. And he wouldn't have anything to do with designing a mermaid for me. And things like that. There are many, many of those stories and... I'll give you one other funny one about Heinz.
Well, the basic story is, whatever relationship I had with the Beatles, and it was good, I liked them very much, they were very exciting to be around and it had to do with the basic syndrome that has..., relates to Liverpool vis a vis Brooklyn. I was brought up in Brooklyn and I understood Liverpudlians and their needs and their attitudes. And it was partially the reason why we got together, why we got along so well, for the most part. And so there are all kinds of shtick like that that I think would make interesting reading.
BH: No doubt, indeed and since the, you know, 25 year anniversary has come and gone and I was sitting there hopefully watching something big happen.
AB: Oh, they're going to work on the 30th year, their coming to America which is next year I believe. You know they're doing a 10 - 15 hour anthology now.
BH: Oh yea.
AB: I know it will incorporate an awful lot of stuff. Films you've never seen before, interviews. I had an interview with them and we just introduced the cartoon. Stuff like that. Sixteen millimeter, I shot a lot of sixteen while I was in and around the studio that nobody's ever seen.
BH: You know there's a raging controversy that's going on, I know you're well aware of it as to..., concerning the possibility of a reunion of three of the Beatles and Boy when you read one magazine, they're totally pissed off about it - Excuse me they're not happy about it. You read another one and they're telling you how great everything is. What's your feeling about that?
AB: Well, I think Paul, I read a quote from Paul somewhere, said that "we will go into a studio, the three of us and try to do a song for the anthology. And if that works out, we'll take it from there." I think that's really the truth of the matter. I know that a sort of a peace has developed between himself and Yoko.
Yoko, to my feeling, is badly misunderstood and got a bum rap. She hardly broke up the Beatles. They were just ready to go their own way and she happened along. So there is a misunderstanding it seems. I saw them on television at some ceremony hugging each other. And it looked good. I don't think Julian, it's rumored that Julian would join them. I don't think that will happen. But I think the three of them could do good music, most especially if George Martin is in the control room. And I hear that he will be.
BH: Oh, good, good. Well, that... obviously a lot of us... It's kind of like
a, to me, a symbolic coming together at a time when I see our nation in considerable
turmoil from the standpoint of our loss of certain Constitutional rights, which
really we're not going to mention anything about this evening, 'cause that's
a real downer to watch us lose 2nd Amendment rights, and then the possibility
that you could be driving around in your car now in America and you could be
shot. And you don't even know if it's the law or not. It is just a very unfortunate
Al, I want to thank you for joining us in our attempt to recover the history of one of animation film's landmarks. And as we've noted, we have collected some stuff for you. I've worked on and I think we have resolved the deal in which when we send you your Yellow Submarine Corgi, that it will be in a box. That was a difficult thing to maneuver.
AB: Oh, if you don't get the box, I would appreciate it as much.
BH: Yea, well, yea, but to have the box... It's crazy that a piece of paper would be as valuable as that little toy. But fortunately we bumped into some sensitive people, we did some real horse trading and things worked out and we'll send you some... Did you see the River Group's Beatles card collection yet?
AB: I saw one of them, I think Laura...
BH: Oh yea, Laura sent that to you.
AB: They're actually neighbors here. They work out of Westport.
BH: That's interesting. Well we're going to send you the whole set of that. And you requested a set of Revolutionary Comics?
AB: Yes, well that will help me with my research.
AB: Yea, they did a good job. There are 8, there's a set of 8 of them, they're thinking about doing a 9th. Or something like that. And then we've included dozens of packs of cards for your grandchildren. Sesame Street, Aladdin, Tom & Jerry, all kinds of other non-sports... and Babe Ruth, 'cause he's one of most favorite heroes.
AB: Well, I'll have to explain that to the grandchildren.
AB: There's a generational problem. I thank you for all that Dr. Bob.
BH: Al, I want to thank you. I mean my heavens, you've given us a good 20 years of your life here. And we very much appreciate it. And our interest in this area really is , and this is really hard for many people to understand, is to try to ......
AB: There's a new piece I hope to be doing next year with John Cutler, "Don Quixote" a musical fantasy. I hope will pick up where Submarine left off. The pursuit of the dream and the dream of peace. And a future for the kids.
BH: Well, perhaps if you had time and you're not too busy, you could join us again and we could talk about it on the air?
AB: I'll let you know, I've got to go to Los Angeles next week, see what develops in terms of who will be involved. I'll be happy to talk to you Dr. Bob.
BH: Thank you Al. Have a great day.
AB: You too.
BH: Bye bye sir.