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Yellow Submarine on Blu-ray

The new Blu-ray of Yellow Submarine is out. I just picked up a copy at Best Buy. I’ve looked over some parts of it, and I fully recommend buying it. It isn’t perfect, but it’s well worth buying.

First, the bad news (mixed with some good):

1. No, they didn’t master the film in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, like I wish they would have. So yes, there will be a little cropping at the top and bottom from the full image as created by the animators. This is unfortunate. However, the aspect ratio is 1.66:1, which is better than 16:9. Fans may recall that in 1999, MGM released this film on DVD in the US with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 while the rest of the world got 1.66:1. Somehow, we got a raw deal on that one. This time, it’s 1.66:1, thank goodness. It’s not as good as getting genuine 4:3, but it’s better than before. And I’m very happy to report that it isn’t savagely cropped like that terrible theatrical presentation I went to. That was merely a case of dire incompetence. We can clearly read that George Martin was the Musical Director and that “one minute is a long time.”

2. No “Beatles to Battle.” If you love the alternate footage from the American release of the film, you’ll just have to cling to the old laserdisc.

3. The 5.1 mix is the same as the one on the DVDs. This is the least of the issues, really. I just had hoped they would do a new mix, since several of the music remixes are more different from the originals than they ought to be; certain stereo effects and EQ choices, mostly.

Now, the good news. One of my biggest concerns from the 1999 DVD has been addressed. They’ve included the original mono mix, for real this time. The original DVD was advertised as having the original mix, but in fact, it was only the original mix up to a point. A big section in the middle was the new mix. How does something like that happen? I don’t know. But this time, they really do have the original mix.

The music-only tack is no longer present, contrary to what DVD Beaver says. However, we get a shiny new commentary with producer John Coates and the late Heinz Edelmann. We also get some storyboard sequences that DVD Beaver tells me were on the original DVD (UK anyway) but that I certainly don’t remember. We also get a gallery of pencil sketches and one of production photos, annoying stretched into perspective so it looks like we’re viewing them on a monitor. The “Mod Odyssey” featurette and the crew interviews are here, as before, although notably, they went the extra mile and restored “Mod Odyssey” in HD. Bravo for that.

A few more minor notes. The disc gets a brand new menu, which is a nice bit of work. And on the package side, we get a new booklet with an intro by John Lasseter, a set of plastic transparencies of the four Beatles, some stickers — why not? — and an ad saying that the Yellow Submarine picture book (my dad and his girlfriend had a copy of this) is being reprinted. That’s a nice thing to do. (Now if only they’d reprint “Andromedary SR1.”)

But I’ve saved the best for last. The film looks gorgeous. The HD trailer on YouTube (provided below) is an accurate indication of what you’re going to get. The restoration is beautiful. While we didn’t get film in its original 4:3, we did get a beautiful, sumptuous restoration, and that counts for a whole lot. That’s the biggest reason to buy the new disc. Issues aside, this is a splendid reissue. Pick it up at a retailer near you.

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