Yellow Submarine (1968)

Rated: G
Length:  90 min.
Age: 5 and up.                Commonsense Media sez: 7 +

Scary Factor: Blue Meanies and Ruler are threatening and freaky; machine guns carried by the baddies, but no one is shot; flying Glove is scary (mostly the sound of its laugh); one brief moment with Frankenstein monster is a little scary but he soon transforms into John

Also: general freakiness of visuals!

Bad Behavior: one exploding cigar smoked by an undersea monster; no booze, no drugs

Interests: rock music, the Beatles, psychedelia, art, fantasy

Next: Beatles music, movies: A Hard Day’s Night, Help!

Many leagues under the ocean, idyllic Pepperland is attacked by Blue Meanies, who outlaw any kind of music. The ancient mayor sends young Fred off in the Yellow Submarine to find help. Somehow ending up in Liverpool, he enlists the aid of the Beatles. After a long journey full of bizarre adventures, they arrive in Pepperland to impersonate the Lonely Hearts Club Band and defeat the Blue Meanies with Music and Love.

The basic fairytale-ishness of the plot is immediately appealing to kids, though its presentation is so visually weird it may freak them out. That is what I, as an adult, feel certain of, though my 4-year-old saw only the humour. As she put it, “the strange makes it funny”. I think kids will fully appreciate how unusual the artistic style is – it’s certainly a breath of fresh air from any other kind of animation they see. Also story-wise, it’s so rambly and nonsensical that it’s a welcome novelty on that level too. The fact that the Beatle characters (not actually voiced by the Beatles) are mumbly and their obscure puns can’t always be heard may not totally bother children, who just float along with the story. And in the end our heroes offer the Blue Meanies the hand of friendship, so the overall message is one of peace and love.

Violence: there are guns, machine guns and the like, although there is no ‘realistic’ outcome from said weapons. The actual Blue Meanie invasion is mainly achieved by bonking people with large green apples, which temporarily freezes them. Nobody seems to catch any of the bullets coming out of the guns the Blue Meanies wave about. The Glove flies around pounding the ground as a fist but misses more often than not. There are no permanent injuries or deaths – all the warfare is rather too weird and magical for that.

Psychedelia: Though rumours abound about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds being about drugs, and the artwork is psychedelic in style, there is nothing in this film depicting or suggesting drug use of any kind.

The storyline is punctuated with songs, and music video sequences – When I’m 64, Nowhere Man, All You Need is Love, Eleanor Rigby, among others – which are animated in many different styles, and which may intrigue kids interested in art and/or animation. And of course any kids who already love Beatles tunes will enjoy this movie immensely. (With the added bonus of a real-life Beatles cameo at the very end.)

I’ve been very careful to outline the few scary aspects but I don’t want to forget to mention that it’s very funny too! And the Fab Four are absolutely unflappable throughout, never too worried about anything, or frightened, and that does a lot to temper the threatening situations they find themselves in.

In conclusion: A strange and wonderful adventure that will appeal to many kids, but the freakiness of it all might upset others. Watch your child closely to see what effect it’s all having and turn it off if it’s bothering them. I’ve rated this 5 and up to be safe, although many 4 year olds will be okay with it.



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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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