After two live-action movies, A Hard Day’s Night
, the Beatles’ third feature film was an animated trip to Pepperland, which is under siege from the music-hating Blue Meanies, who can only be stopped by the vibrant musical positivity of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Like the previous releases, Yellow Submarine
(1968) is less a plot-driven film than it is a vehicle for wonderful songs, and the switch to animation is a perfect reflection of the Beatles’ dreamy psychedelic period, capturing their optimism and sense of experimentation.
While there was a sizable and diverse creative team behind the film (including Love Story
author Erich Segal), the iconic visual style of Yellow Submarine
—not to mention the essential story elements derived from it—was the work of German graphic designer Heinz Edelmann, credited as the film’s art director. His whimsical combination of conventional photography, simple animation, and rotoscoping, among other techniques, helped turn what started out as an exercise in contract fulfillment for the Beatles into what Roger Ebert called “pure charm, expressed in fantastical imagery.” The film’s 50th anniversary is the perfect time to revisit a crucial moment in Beatles history and consider the impact of their cinematic and musical achievements.