Beatles Cartoon

The 1968 feature Yellow Submarine was a landmark in the popular perception of animation as a legitimate art form, but even as the Beatles were lending their likenesses to that groundbreaking work, they were also appearing in a considerably less advanced example of the form.

A cheaply made cartoon series called The Beatles ran on ABC from 1965 to 1969, and while its shabby production quality has resulted in it being largely forgotten outside of hardcore Beatles fandom, as Flavorwire notes, a YouTube account called Beatles Planet has made all 39 episodes available for curious viewers.

The Beatles‘ scripts were the work of a group of writers who contributed to everything from the Jackie Gleason Show to the Spider-Man series, and the cartoons are very much of the old-school punchline era of comedy and the overall disregard for believability and continuity that ruled in television animation at the time. Each episode finds the Beatles dropped in the middle of a standard cartoon setting—a jungle, a haunted castle—where they barrel through the barest sketch of a plot while avoiding roving mobs of Beatlemaniacal girls.

The whole point of the show seems to have been to find a way for its producers to make use of a contract to use actual Beatles recordings, but there’s a certain surreal charm in its disregard for quality. While Ringo has at least a tinge of Liverpudlian lilt in his speech, the other Beatles sound nothing like themselves: the cartoon Paul sounds more posh than the actual one and John sounds like Stewie from Family Guy, while George’s accent doesn’t resemble any actual real-world way of pronouncing things. (Both John and George were voiced by the same guy who did Boris Badenov on Rocky and Bullwinkle.) The writers decided to play up the real Ringo’s space-case comedic qualities to the point where his character seems borderline brain-damaged, which results in some of the show’s actual funny parts, like how whenever the band breaks into song he tends to accidentally swap the one drum he plays for something like a skull or a fish.

It’s pretty clear why The Beatles isn’t available on DVD, but for devoted Beatles fans—or fans of kitschy assembly-line animation—it’s worth a watch.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC