Friday, May 25, 2012

The Beatles Cartoon, Episode 1!

So, since I'm in no great hurry to get through all the MST3K episodes or all the Monkees episodes, whenever my rotation would have an extra installment of one of those in a month, I'll be putting in an installment of this instead, looking at an episode of the 1965 Beatles cartoon!

This cartoon originally aired on ABC-TV, and was produced by King Studios. The Beatles had nothing to do with the cartoon other than their music being used -- the voices for the Beatles' animated counterparts were done by Paul Frees (John and George) and Lance Percival (Paul and Ringo). Paul Frees also did other bit character voices in the program. Don't get me wrong, I think Paul Frees was an excellent voice man, but I don't know that he ever heard John or George speak before the voicework was done, because he didn't even come close! Lance Percival did a better job with Paul and George, although to be honest, the guys doing the voices for "Yellow Submarine" did a much better job overall.

Aside from this, two things amaze me about this program: First of all, the editing that's done to the songs themselves -- I don't know why they did what they did to them, shuffling verses around, deleting the opening instrumental bars, but it's pretty jarring; Secondly, there's a segment in the middle of the show where the kids watching at home were supposed to sing along with the songs, with the lyrics provided on-screen, and some of the lyrics were really messed up! So you can bet I'll be pointing out these!

One more note: The copies of these shows that I have aren't of the greatest quality in the world. I've tried to clean up the screen caps as best as I can, but like I said, they're not good!

0101The first segment of episode one is "A Hard Day's Night." Each of the cartoons within the show was titled the same as the song used in it. The cartoon opens at Transylvania Station, where the Beatles were rehearsing the title song, but George is off-beat, because so many of the local kids are gathered around him. Paul says they can't rehearse with all the people around them. It's obvious that he's right. Ringo announces he knows the perfect place, it's big and empty.

0102Ringo leads them to a castle, which Paul insists is haunted. Outside the castle, one of the graves in the graveyard opens, and someone comes out to greet them. He's the caretaker, and welcomes company. John asks if they could rehearse in the castle, and the caretaker says it could use some livening up. They start to play the title song, and it's obvious whoever was animating this didn't know that the lead vocals were just John and Paul for the most part, as they have George singing right along! They're interrupted by a howl of a wolf, and try to flee the castle, but they're locked in.

0103Next, they're pursued by a Frankenstein-like monster, a ghost, and a bunch of other monsters. Finally, they're surrounded, and the monsters ask if they were singing. They want the Beatles to continue playing! So they start playing the song again, and the monsters dance along. The Beatles end up fainting before they're done, but the instruments continue to play themselves.

0104This is followed by the singalong portion. This always began with one of the Beatles (either Paul, John or George) coming on a stage to introduce it, and asking for the prop man (who's always out, and Ringo is filling in). Ringo brings some kind of prop he thinks will fit the song, usually misunderstanding what is meant and being the brunt of a joke about how dumb he is. In this instance, for "Not a Second Time," Paul is introducing it, and since it's a tender, romantic love song, Ringo shows up dressed as Cupid. The first messed-up lyric replaces "My crying is through, oh..." with "I cried it's through, oh." This is, of course, repeated the second time the line comes around.

Oh, I forgot to mention, between the two singalongs, whichever Beatle is introducing it tries to encourage the kids at home to sing, usually saying something like, "Some of you were practically humming along!" Occasionally, names are mentioned!

0105The next singalong song is "Devil In Her Heart," and for this one, Paul asks for something appropriate for a torch song. Ringo comes up with a Statue of Liberty costume, and he lights the torch, setting off fireworks. While the song is played, a lot of the still shots are of George with a cute witch. Fortunately, there's no lyrics messed up on-screen!

0106The final segment features "I Want To Hold Your Hand," and takes place on a cruise ship -- at least it starts out that way! An announcer (Frees again) goes on about the Beatles finding time to relax, but of course, the girls always find them and chase them! No matter what disguise they use, the girls keep finding them. Finally, John asks the announcer to go away and stop giving away their location, so the narrator goes to the lounge.

0107Meanwhile, the Beatles end up ducking into a bathysphere, where a scientist (who sounds like Boris Badenov -- no surprise, as it's Frees again doing the voice) looks at an octopus he captured the day before. The octopus appears sad, so the scientist sends the bathysphere down to capture another specimen, unaware the Beatles are inside. Naturally, it lands not far from a lady octopus, which the Beatles meet up with. They perform "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and escape the clutches of the lady octopus. The opening guitar riff of the song is cut in half, but otherwise the song is left alone. Anyway, they're back in the bathysphere when it's brought back to the ship, Ringo buys the octopus from the scientist, and they send it back to the bottom of the ocean, reuniting it with its girlfriend!

So, all things considered, this is a fun cartoon to watch... although I have to admit, it takes some getting used to listening to the voices being way off, as well as dealing with some of the song edits!

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