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“We all live in a Yellow Submarine”

This Beatles classic still resonates
Illustration: Mazie Neill • The Sentry
The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine remains a relevant classic. 

Nothing captures the weird world of the 1960s quite like the film Yellow Submarine. With a vibrant psychedelic style and unforgettable characters, this musical journey led by The Beatles continues to inspire generations. Beyond the surrealism lies a story that maintains its relevance, being made at a tumultuous time with many parallels to the present.  

Yellow Submarine brings together classic hits and beautiful animation for a cherished piece of musical history. While John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney appear in person at the end of the film, their animated characters were convincingly portrayed by voice actors.  

Many of the songs in the film originate from their previous albums, like Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour, but several only appear in the soundtrack. Familiar classics such as “Eleanor Rigby,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and “All You Need is Love” guide viewers through an underwater odyssey of light and sound. Set in the bizarre realm of Pepperland, supposedly 80,000 leagues beneath the sea, Yellow Submarine brings together all the elements of Pop Art and references other movements from art history.  

After a troop of Blue Meanies take over Pepperland, the Lord Mayor sends Young Fred to look for help in a yellow submarine. Finding himself floating around England, he discovers that The Beatles resemble the members of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from back home. They all agree to venture back to rescue Pepperland on a long, strange trip under the sea. At every corner, the film brings a new dimension to the music of The Beatles.  

Blue Meanies clearly represent the police, or at least an occupying military force. At a time when audiences in the United States could associate the police with racial injustice, audiences in the United Kingdom could make an association with the decolonial struggles in Ireland and abroad. In addition to their aggressive behavior and love for the color blue, the Blue Meanies also patrol the area with weapons and dogs. When the submarine arrives in Britain, an odd encounter between Ringo and a police officer makes the connection even more clear. 

1968 was a year of social unrest and protests around the world, including in the US as well as across the ocean in the UK. Yellow Submarine greeted audiences two months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April, although it wasn’t released to theatres in the US until November—a week after the election of Richard Nixon.  

A month after the Coronavirus pandemic forced people around the world into quarantine, Yellow Submarine streamed live from The Beatles YouTube channel with a brief introduction from Ringo Starr. It was fitting at the time, and only became more significant as the year progressed. Unfortunately, the movie is not widely available on streaming platforms, but it can still be obtained from various locations.

This is a selection from the Sept. 16 issue. To view the full issue, visit: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/866078/

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