Part of the 40th Anniversary Series on “Behind the Scenes of the Yellow Submarine”
With 2008 marking the 40th anniversary of the theatrical premiere of the “Yellow Submarine,” we are taking the opportunity to remind you that there were true identities with hearts and souls behind this film that we all love so well.
While most of us love this film because we love anything The Beatles touched, it’s enlightening to remember that the actual Beatles had nothing at all to do with the story or the artwork on this production. They just created the music that drove the plot and the personalities that were animated as cartoon heroes. But who drew these cartoons? What motivated them? What did they do for fun?
One of our most exciting discoveries made after the publication of our 2002 book, “Inside the Yellow Submarine: The Making of the Beatles Animated Classic,” was that of Cam and Diana Ford in Australia. Cam and Diana were two of the approximately 10 percent of the “Submarine” crew (that numbered over 200 at its highest point) who were expatriate Aussies.
Aside from sharing details on the inspirations behind many of the most-beloved scenes in the film (see companion articles in this series at http://www.21stCenturyRadio.com/yellowsub, where you can read Cam’s memories of animating the 7th Cavalry Charge in the Sea of Monsters, and Diana’s of the Lucy in the Sky sequence), Cam and Diana are terrific storytellers, and boy, did they tell us some humdingers of behind-the-scenes antics! With at least three-dozen interviews of co-creators of the “Yellow Submarine” under my belt, I marveled at how few of these hijinks on the high seas had been recorded before. I think it’s because my primary interviews had focused on the main designers and motivators behind this film, supplemented by a few tracers and painters, accountants, producers and writers.
Of the hard-working, professional animators responsible for the actual, physical output — those who earned the title of “key animator” — many of whom we interviewed previously worked as freelancers from their own private studios. Cam, and later, Diana Ford, however, were right there in the thick of things at the TVC London studios from beginning to end.
Animators tend to be a fun-loving bunch of crazy-artist types anyway, but when we consider the other elements adding to the pressure cooker environment of the “Yellow Submarine” production studios, it’s understandable that some creative ways were devised to let off steam.
The crew began gathering in London in the very hot summer of 1967. It would be several months yet before Al Brodax’s production department would give them scripts or storyboards or voice actors, without which there was almost nothing for them to do. With the normal timeline standard thrown out the window, the animators eventually began to devise fantastic musical interludes animating the approved Beatles songs. They just prayed that these musical sequences could be inserted somehow into the storyline — whenever that storyline eventually emerged.
Cam Ford remembered a long series of what he called hijinks that the animators on “Yellow Submarine” got into as they waited for their next assignments.
The London studios of TVC were bustling places as these young artists found the means of amusing themselves during these strange and wonderful 11 months. As you read Cam’s stories, you might also wonder if there are any seeds of inspirations that found themselves into the Sea of Monsters or Phrenology here?