July 17, 1968: Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ Film Premiere

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Yellow-submarine-poster (crop)The animated feature film inspired by and adapted from themes and ideas in songs by The Beatles and starring cartoon characters based on John, Paul, George and Ringo made its world premiere at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly Circus, on July 17, 1968.

All four Beatles were in attendance: John Lennon with Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr with wife Maureen Starkey and George Harrison accompanied by his spouse Pattie. Paul McCartney came solo; three days later his fiance Jane Asher announces that their engagement has ended. An post-premiere party was held afterwards at the Royal Lancaster Hotel.

As was typical of any event in the 1960s where the Beatles were present, a mob scene ensued on the street outside the theater (see video below). The film opened to the public the next day.

The Beatles themselves only appeared in a short live-action snippet at the end of Yellow Submarine and their characters were voiced by professional actors.

“I’m not sure why we never did our own voices,” said Harrison, “but the actors probably did it better because they needed to be more cartoon-like. Our voices were pretty cartoon-like anyway, but the exaggeration that you’ve got with the actors’ voices suits it.”

The film has come to be recognized as a genre-changing work that led to animation gaining greater respect as an art form and Time magazine noted that it “turned into a smash hit, delighting adolescents and esthetes alike.” Although the band members were initially skeptical about the film, in 1995 all three surviving Beatles expressed an appreciation for it in The Beatles Anthology documentary series.

Watch the movie’s trailer

Interesting bit of trivia: the Harrison song in the movie, “Only a Northern Song,” was written as a cynical commentary on the music publishing company, Northern Songs, that Beatles manager Brian Epstein had formed with publisher Dick James. The deal was unfavorable to the band who eventually lost control of their very valuable song copyrights.

See photos from the premiere on Tumblr.com here.

Watch footage of the London premiere

Related: One of the film’s animators died in 2021

Best Classic Bands Staff

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