When I was small, there was no event more important to me than a Beatle Event. It didn't matter what it was -- a new Beatles single getting a first play on my local WOKY-AM, a Beatles television appearance, or -- OH MY GOD -- a Beatles MOVIE in the THEATER. Nothing would take precedence over these. To interfere in my Beatle Moment would be to risk facing a tiny spitting cobra of the most deadly venom, with possibly also a spinning head and fire exploding from my eyes and lava spewing from my ears. KEEP AWAY FROM THE YOUNG BEATLE FAN UNTIL THE EVENT IS OVER, PEOPLE. NOTHING TO SEE HERE. BEATLES!!!
Like millions of other Beatle fans who were little kids in the '60s, I felt like the band kinda liked us. They were so friendly and funny and cute, but still irreverent and unpredictable enough to be unlike the other adults in our lives, and therefore were even cooler. Their music was accessible to everyone, a few confusing tracks on the "White Album" excepted. So I wasn't at all surprised to find out that the Beatles were going to release a full-length animated film called "Yellow Submarine" in 1968, just excited beyond excited because the Beatles made a cartoon movie for me! At age six, sitting in the dark theater next to my very patient mom, eating buttery popcorn from a red-and-white striped bag, I remember the warmth of the familiar Beatle voices in song filling my heart with multi-colored butterflies to match the ones onscreen. (I had no clue then that their speaking roles in the film were voiced by actors.) The animation was so rich, so completely new, so languid and funny and busy and strange, so saturated with color, both delicate and dense, it was almost too much to take in, as one of the film's tunes sang. It was -- and remains -- the grooviest thing ever made. My mother tells me I left the theater with the biggest smile on my face, the event over, the Beatles and love winning the day yet again.
It was with the same sense of happiness and importance that today, a stunning 42 years later, I arrived at West Seattle's historic Admiral Theater to see "Yellow Submarine" once more on the big screen, a new print restored for digital 4K theaters, each frame done by hand. This time, I bought two of my own children along, MissNine and Mr14...but we skipped the popcorn. Of course, I had already shared my older VHS and DVD copies with the kids at home, but viewing this film in a proper movie house during this extremely-limited theatrical release, I felt, was truly how "Yellow Submarine" should be seen. They were excited, too...because even all these years later, kids still feel that the Beatles kinda like them.
As the movie unfolded on the huge screen in front of me, I felt the same big smile come over my face again. This time, seeing such detail with adult eyes and having Time as my extra guest, I was again simply awestruck. The seemingly-limitless flights of imagination, the incredible amount of work it took to make, the overwhelming beauty...this "kids' cartoon" turned out to be an important, groundbreaking piece of art. If you could only choose one thing to put in a time capsule to represent the 1960's, "Yellow Submarine," in many ways, might be the perfect pop culture choice, for its art, music, humor, subtle political points, and messages of love and peace.
The soundtrack, using the most recent crystal-clear Beatles remasters, was so rich and clean that I gasped at the first note sung. It really did sound like the band was singing right there in the theater, with even little Beatle breaths and bobbles. What nearly made me cry? When I realized that many in the audience were quietly singing along with each song, a little wispy, sweet undercurrent, which swelled at the end of the film to all of us singing along to "All Together Now," followed by claps and cheers as the house lights came up.
I first walked in to see "Yellow Submarine" as a six-year-old kindergartener; today I walked out as a 50-year-old mother of three...but I feel just the same joy and wonder. That is the gift that the Beatles and "Yellow Submarine" gave me, gave my children, and will give their children someday. Magic.
And damned if we didn't win a "Yellow Submarine" tote bag in the raffle afterwards!
"Yellow Submarine" Official 2012 Trailer