Another ‘Yellow Submarine’ surfaces with Zemeckis at the helm

08.19.09 8 years ago

It’s been a big week for Beatles fans.

I’d say the biggest announcement was about the remastered catalog that’s getting a release on 9.9.09.  I still remember when the Beatles albums all hit CD for the first time, and what a big deal that seemed to be.  As “Star Wars” films are to a home video format, so the Beatles are to audio formats.  They’re never the first ones out the gate, but by the time they are finally released, you can figure that whatever the format is, it’s reached a certain saturation point that is considered by the studios or the music industry to be “everyone.”

In a way, the announcement about the remastered catalog is no surprise at all.  It was a given, a matter of “when,” not “if.”  In the same way, the track list for “The Beatles: Rock Band” is not terribly shocking.  I’ve never owned or even really played any of the “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band” games.  I think I played one song on “Guitar Hero” one time, and that was it.  They’re going to make me buy “The Beatles: Rock Band,” though.  I’ll have no choice.  It sounds way too cool, way too much fun.

But the strangest news about the band this week is the news that director Robert Zemeckis is deep into final negotiations with Disney and whatever army of lawyers and businessmen currently represent the Beatles catalog to bring his motion-capture technology to Pepperland with a new version of “Yellow Submarine,” the psychedelic cartoon that paid tribute to the band’s music in 1968.

Of course, the first question is “Why?”

[more after the jump]

I certainly don’t think the first film is an untouchable classic, flawless and perfect.  It’s very much a record of it’s times, and for fans of the music, it’s a fascinating precursor to MTV and music videos.  I’m willing to bet Zemeckis isn’t going to hew too closely to the original film, and if I could sum up why I’m at least open to the idea, I can do that by posting a simple video:

I love the look of the iconography they’re using in “The Beatles: Rock Band,” and it’s obvious they’re taking some cues from “Yellow Submarine,” but that they’re not only looking at that as a source.  I’m guessing that Zemeckis will also feel free to reinterpret the material.

He’s not even the first to do so.  Remember the Yellow Submarine motion-control ride?  I never got a chance to see it, but it sounded like a really cool way of playing with the designs and the music in a whole new way.

I see in the original Variety story that Disney is also negotiating so they’d be able to take this to Broadway at some point.  My guess is that whatever 16 songs they buy for the film are going to be part of the Disney library from now until the end of the time as they continually repurpose this in different media.

Now I’m curious to see what else Zemeckis ends up bringing to life with his performance capture technology.  He’s been nosing around a new adaptation of “Something Wicked This Way Comes” for a while now, going so far as to commission a few drafts of the script, and that sounds like a piece of material that would fit right in with what he’s doing now.  Still, no one saw “Yellow Submarine” coming, so trying to second-guess Zemeckis seems to increasingly be impossible to do.

I’ll close with some awesome and exciting details about the remastered Beatles catalog coming next month, straight from the press release:

“Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI Music are delighted to announce the release of the original Beatles catalogue, which has been digitally re-mastered for the first time, for worldwide CD release on Wednesday, September 9, 2009, the same date as the release of the widely anticipated ‘The Beatles: Rock Band’ video game. Each of the CDs is packaged with replicated original UK album art, including expanded booklets containing original and newly written liner notes and rare photos. For a limited period, each CD will also be embedded with a brief documentary film about the album. On the same date, two new Beatles boxed CD collections will also be released.

The albums have been re-mastered by a dedicated team of engineers at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London over a four year period utilizing state of the art recording technology alongside vintage studio equipment, carefully maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings. The result of this painstaking process is the highest fidelity the catalogue has seen since its original release.

The collection comprises all 12 Beatles albums in stereo, with track listings and artwork as originally released in the UK , and ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ which became part of The Beatles’ core catalogue when the CDs were first released in 1987. In addition, the collections ‘Past Masters Vol. I and II’ are now combined as one title, for a total of 14 titles over 16 discs. This will mark the first time that the first four Beatles albums will be available in stereo in their entirety on compact disc. These 14 albums, along with a DVD collection of the documentaries, will also be available for purchase together in a stereo boxed set.

Within each CD’s new packaging, booklets include detailed historical notes along with informative recording notes. With the exception of the ‘Past Masters’ set, newly produced mini-documentaries on the making of each album, directed by Bob Smeaton, are included as QuickTime files on each album. The documentaries contain archival footage, rare photographs and never-before-heard studio chat from The Beatles, offering a unique and very personal insight into the studio atmosphere.

A second boxed set has been created with the collector in mind. ‘The Beatles in Mono’ gathers together, in one place, all of the Beatles recordings that were mixed for a mono release. It will contain 10 of the albums with their original mono mixes, plus two further discs of mono masters (covering similar ground to the stereo tracks on ‘Past Masters’). As an added bonus, the mono ‘Help!’ and ‘Rubber Soul’ discs also include the original 1965 stereo mixes, which have not been previously released on CD. These albums will be packaged in mini-vinyl CD replicas of the original sleeves with all original inserts and label designs retained.

The Stereo Albums (available individually and collected in a stereo boxed set)

The stereo albums have been remastered by Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee.  All CD packages contain original vinyl artwork and liner notes, extensive archival photos, additional historical notes by Kevin Howlett and Mike Heatley, and additional recording notes by Allan Rouse and Kevin Howlett.

Please Please Me (CD debut in stereo)
With The Beatles (CD debut in stereo)
A Hard Day’s Night (CD debut in stereo)

Beatles For Sale (CD debut in stereo)
Rubber Soul
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (also includes 1987 notes, updated, and new intro by Paul McCartney)
Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles
Yellow Submarine (also includes original US liner notes)
Abbey Road
Let It Be
Past Masters (contains new liner notes written by Kevin Howlett)

‘The Beatles in Mono’ (boxed set only)
The mono albums have been remastered by Paul Hicks, Sean Magee with Guy Massey and Steve Rooke
Presented together in box with an essay written by Kevin Howlett

Please Please Me
With The Beatles
A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles For Sale
Help! (CD also includes original 1965 stereo mix)
Rubber Soul (CD also include original 1965 stereo mix)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles
Mono Masters

Re-mastering the Beatles catalogue

The re-mastering process commenced with an extensive period conducting tests before finally copying the analogue master tapes into the digital medium. When this was completed, the transfer was achieved using a Pro Tools workstation operating at 24 bit 192 kHz resolution via a Prism A-D converter. Transferring was a lengthy procedure done a track at a time. Although EMI tape does not suffer the oxide loss associated with some later analogue tapes, there was nevertheless a slight build up of dust, which was removed from the tape machine heads between each title.

From the onset, considerable thought was given to what audio restorative processes were going to be allowed. It was agreed that electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance and bad edits should be improved where possible, so long as it didn’t impact on the original integrity of the songs.

In addition, de-noising technology, which is often associated with re-mastering, was to be used, but subtly and sparingly. Eventually, less than five of the 525 minutes of Beatles music was subjected to this process. Finally, as is common with today’s music, overall limiting – to increase the volume level of the CD – has been used, but on the stereo versions only. However, it was unanimously agreed that because of the importance of The Beatles’ music, limiting would be used moderately, so as to retain the original dynamics of the recordings.

When all of the albums had been transferred, each song was then listened to several times to locate any of the agreed imperfections. These were then addressed by Guy Massey, working with Audio Restoration engineer Simon Gibson.

Mastering could now take place, once the earliest vinyl pressings, along with the existing CDs, were loaded into Pro Tools, thus allowing comparisons to be made with the original master tapes during the equalization process. When an album had been completed, it was auditioned the next day in studio three – a room familiar to the engineers, as all of the recent Beatles mixing projects had taken place in there – and any further alteration of EQ could be addressed back in the mastering room. Following the initial satisfaction of Guy and Steve, Allan Rouse and Mike Heatley then checked each new re-master in yet another location and offered any further suggestions. This continued until all 13 albums were completed to the team’s satisfaction.”

Cool stuff.  I’m sure I’ll end up with all of them here in the house as soon as they’re on shelves.

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