The animation of Yellow Submarine has sometimes falsely been attributed to the famous psychedelic Pop art artist of the era Peter Max. Early on Max was intended to be hired to work on the project, but although his name is prominently displayed in the film's opening credits, he only did a few concept drawings before he became too busy with other projects. Max's style, however, heavily influenced the work of many of the artists and animators who worked on the film. Heinz Edelman supervised the films artwork, while the movie was directed by British animation producer George Dunning.
As with most motion picture musicalss, the music takes precedence over the actual plot, and most of the story is a series of set- pieces designed to present Beatles music set to various images, in a form reminiscent of Walt Disney's Fantasia (and foreshadowing the rise of music videos and MTV fifteen years later). Nonetheless, the movie still presents an entertaining modern-day fairy tale that caters to the ideals of the "love generation." The story takes place in the idyllic paradise called "Pepperland," which is threatened by the evil music-hating Blue Meanies. The Beatles are recruited to save Pepperland from the Meanies, and they succeed through the power of love, music, bright colours, and positive thinking (there are huge stone sculptures of the words "YES," "OK" and "LOVE" littering the landscape of Pepperland).
The Beatles themselves were not enthusiastic in participating in a motion picture at the time, because they were experiencing personal stress (the band was beginning to break apart at the time), and because they had just produced and starred in the disastrous TV special Magical Mystery Tour. Voice actors were hired to imitate the Fab Four's voices in the film. However, the Beatles, impressed after seeing the finished film, did agree to make a cameo appearance in the final scene of the film, before the closing credits.
The movie's style contrasts greatly with the efforts of Walt Disney(hence the "blue meanies" wear Mickey Mouse ears) and other animated films previously released by Hollywood up until the time. The film uses a style of limited animation that deliberately defies reality and paints a landscape that could never exist in real world, something that appealed greatly to the escapists of the 1960s. See also Fantastic Planet. The dialogue is littered with puns, double-entendres, and Beatles in-jokes.
In contrast to the richness of the movie, the Yellow Submarine album is usually considered the Beatles' most lacklustre effort, recorded in late 1967 and 1968 after the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions as a soundtrack for the film. Only four new Beatles songs appear on this album, along with a couple of older Beatle tunes and George Martin arrangements.
The fresh Beatle songs are "Hey Bulldog", a John Lennon piano romp echoing of "Lady Madonna", which was recorded at the same time, but used as an A-Side. "Only A Northern Song", a low key George Harrison track recorded during Sgt. Pepper, is a solid effort, as well as George's "It's All Too Much", a sweeping seven minute epic that is highly underrated. Also on the album is the soccer crowd favorite "All Together Now".
Both "All You Need Is Love", recorded for Our World, and the title track "Yellow Submarine", from Revolver are on this album for their uses in the movie itself. George Martin's arrangements are only noted for their uses in the movie as well, and feature on the second side of the album.
"Across The Universe" was originally slated for the album, but was scraped at the last second and instead was put on hold until Let It Be.
This album is merely a mediocre soundtrack; but mediocre in Beatle terms usually means pretty good by other standards. It was originally released in 1969 and a newer, re-released version of the album came out in 1999 to accompany the re-release of the film. More recognizable Beatles tracks were placed where the Martin suite originally had been; all of the songs on the 1999 album were remixes prepared for the film's reissue.