Western Animation: The Beatles
"Yeah yeah yeah!"
A cartoon series that ran from 1965 to 1969 following the wacky hijinks of The Beatles
. Notable for being the first cartoon about actual people
made for television.
The series followed a Two Shorts Format
, with each short separated by two singalong segments. The singalongs would always start with either John Lennon
, Paul McCartney
or George Harrison
trying to introduce the song and encourage the viewers to sing along, and Ringo Starr
interrupting to try and "set up the proper mood" with props.
Although the series was a colossal success when it debuted, it faded quickly as the Beatles themselves evolved their music and personalities. Eventually, the show was quietly scooted out of the way to make room for Jonny Quest
reruns, as ABC
's Saturday Morning lineup was being dominated by action/adventure shows at the time, while the cartoon was getting more surreal.
Produced by Al Brodax (who would later go on to produce Cool McCool
and Yellow Submarine
) for King Features, who produced a number of other cartoon series based on its own popular comic strips. Notable in that making the show was literally a world-wide effort, and an early example of farming out animation overseas to save money. A majority of the production was done in England, but episodes were also farmed out to studios in Australia, Canada, and Holland. This lends the show a bit of discontinuity when it comes to animation style; the Australian episodes are particularly prone to poor quality because Australia had a limited animation industry before the show arrived there and therefore fewer experienced professionals to draw from.
Many of the same people from the English studio who worked on the cartoon, as well as the American producers, went on to work on Yellow Submarine
(including Lance Percival as Old Fred), one of the many reasons why the Beatles initially wanted nothing to do with the film.
The show got a brief revival in the 1980's when it was rerun on cable television, most notably MTV
and the Disney Channel
- Abhorrent Admirer: Several less-than appealing ladies fall for one (or more) of the Beatles in the course of the show. Most notable are the fat belly dancer who pursues George in "The Word" and the witch in "Devil in Her Heart". The latter is reversed after she falls into her love potion and becomes beautiful; then Ringo chases after her!
- Absentee Actor: Paul and John never appear in "Devil in Her Heart", and George and Ringo only make a brief background appearance in "I Saw Her Standing There".
- Accidental Marriage: In "Can't Buy Me Love", John accepts a "friendship ring" from a chief, which means he must marry the chief's daughter.
- All Cloth Unravels: In "Hold Me Tight", George is only saved from falling to his death off of the Statue of Liberty by Ringo grabbing the thread of his unraveling shirt.
- The Alleged Car: The Beatles help fix one that belongs to lovesick young man in "Drive My Car".
- And You Were There: Inverted in "I'm Only Sleeping":
John: "What a dream I just had!"
Ringo: "We know, we were there."
- Animals Not to Scale: "I'll Get You" features the Beatles riding one tiny elephant.
- Annoying Laugh: Ringo's distinctive 'Uhuhuhuh Yeah'.
- Appease the Volcano God: A tamer example than usual in "Matchbox": the natives believe that drumming can appease their volcano god, and Ringo lends his skills.
- Asian Speekee Engrish: All over the series, unfortunately. For example, a sign for a miniature garden "It Won't Be Long" introduces "Dr. Ah-So" as the "Honoulable Ploplietor".
- Band Toon: The Ur Example.
- The Beatles: Obviously.
- Beautiful All Along: The receptionist in "Thank You Girl", who lets down her hair and starts dancing when the Beatles arrive at the cooking school.
- Big Friendly Dog: Gunther from "Gib Mir Deine Hand", who helps them through the Alps.
- Body Snatcher: In "I'm Looking Through You", Ringo's body is stolen by the ghost of an Egyptian pharaoh.
- Born Unlucky / The Jinx: In "Good Day Sunshine", Ringo is both. He will cause something lucky to appear, but then it will break or go wrong. It's subverted at the end, though, when his luck appears to change for the better.
- Certain episodes of the show never aired when the show was re-run on the Disney Channel, likely thanks to Values Dissonance, though a few of the more dated ones did make it through.
- One of the Sing-Along intros was also edited, the one where George tells Ringo the song goes "like gangbusters" and Ringo returns with a machine gun to shoot up the stage; the edited version has George come out and say it's time for the sing-along, and then goes straight into the first song. This edit was probably due to Disney's heavy anti-violence status.
- Boxing Kangaroo: John receives a black eye from one of these in a Sing-Along intro.
- British Stuffiness: John, bizarrely enough, considering he was the antithesis of this trope in reality. Done to make him clearly the "leader" of the Beatles. Like everything else, it depends on the episode).
- Butt Monkey: Ringo, who is constantly picked on and made fun of by the other three.
- Captain Obvious: The third opening constantly reminds us who the stars of the show are.
- Celebrity Toons: Also the Trope Maker.
- Chick Magnet: All four Beatles, needless to say. Fans coming after them are not only a frequent occurrence, but make up the first show opening.
- Childhood Brain Damage: In an episode, John sews the money from last night's concert into Ringo's pocket to keep it from getting lost.
John: There! Safe as in a mother's arms.
John: I know. That's why I didn't sew it in your hat.
- Cleopatra Nose: Ringo's love interest in the sing-a-long for "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party".
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: George thinks he's this to Ringo. Ringo thinks he's this to George. For example, in "Devil in Her Heart":
George: I just can't help worrying about Ringo. Sometimes he's like a little kid!
[cut to Ringo wandering around in the woods]
Ringo: I'd better be getting back. George always needs someone to look after him, poor lad.
- The Collector: Ringo, of all people, in "Ticket to Ride". Fortunately, he's really bad at it.
- Comedic Sociopathy: The Beatles' general reaction to seeing one of the others in a potentially life threatening situation is to sing a song (or worse, stand back and laugh) and wait for the situation to resolve itself. The worst case of this occurs in "I'll Cry Instead". Through a series of coincidences, a black belt in training confuses George for a professional martial artist. Instead of easily clearing this up, the other Beatles force him to fight, even though George's hand is swollen from signing too many autographs.
- Comically Missing the Point: Often done by Ringo, and to a lesser extent George.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: At the end of "Chains", Ringo punishes his bandmates for trying to mutiny against him (long story) by pushing them off a diving board into a pool full of fangirls. He then jumps off himself.
- Cool House: The mobile home in "Matchbox": "Everything's tucked away until you need it!"
- Covered in Kisses: Paul (sans lipstick) in "Eight Days a Week".
- Crashing Through the Harem: In "The Word," the lads crash into a harem tent, courtesy of an out-of-control camel. They promptly get in huge trouble for looking at the harem's unveiled faces, and have to sing their way out, all the while flirting with the girls.
- Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: John, Paul and George do this in "Chains."
- Cute Witch: George's love interest in the "Devil in Her Heart" sing along segment.
- Damsel in Distress:
- Subverted. A woman in "Any Time at All" claims to be one of these but it turns out that she's an expert jewel thief.
- Played with in "I Feel Fine" when Paul has to repeatedly rescue an actress from a Death Course of a movie set. Then again, since everything's phony, they're both never really in danger.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Paul would like you to know that Hollywood is fake and phony. And Robin Hood? He never happened.
- Depending on the Writer: The quality of the writing, characterization and animation varies wildly from episode to episode.
- Disguised in Drag: George, in "What You're Doing", to get Ringo out of a Gypsy wedding. It backfires spectacularly when one of the male Gypsies falls for him.
- Disney Acid Sequence: "Strawberry Fields Forever". There is a plot to the episode, about cheering up the kids at a depressing orphanage, but the story just ends up completely discarded in favor of John, Paul, George, and Ringo flying around through rainbows and daisies and strawberries and other assorted psychedelic imagery. Complete with a "What the hell just happened?" conversation at the end.
- Distress Ball / Distressed Dude: Pretty much Once per Episode. One of the Beatles will do or say something blatantly stupid, get into trouble, and then the others will have to help him. Y'know, after they're done singing about it. Ringo and Paul seem the most frequent holders, but John and George have had it tossed to them quite a few times, too.
- The Ditz: Ringo, who is completely clueless.
- The Door Slams You: In "She Loves You", when the knife thrower storms into his room he crushes all four Beatles behind the door.
- Downer Ending: Some of the episodes end with injuries. And the first episode ends with them fainting at the sight of spooks.
- Duel to the Death:
- "I Saw Her Standing There".
Flamenco Dancer: We will duel to the finish! Choose your weapon, se˝or!
John: How about bean bags at twenty paces, eh?
Flamenco Dancer: Ugh, I will choose them for you. Your sword, se˝or!
- "Long Tall Sally": John and Ringo try on armor as a joke. The suits turn out to be cursed, and the two try to fight each other to the death.
- Dumb and Drummer: Played to a distressing degree with Ringo. The other Beatles often joke that drumming is the only thing he's any good at.
- Edutainment Show: Oddly enough. The show was actually praised by educators for helping teach kids to read via the Sing-Along segments.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: All. The. Time. The episodes that don't end with the Beatles fleeing will end with them having a larf.
- Evil Laugh: John (Truth in Television, depending on whom you ask) at the end of "It Won't Be Long".
- Extreme Omnigoat: Used as a garbage disposal in "Matchbox".
- Extreme Omnivore: Ringo eats actual drumsticks. And possibly other instruments as well: "Guitars taste terrible."
- The Faceless: Brian Epstein. Mentioned in a couple of episodes. His hand was visible and voice actually heard in "Thank You Girl".
- Facial Profiling: Their trips to Japan, thanks to some big-time Values Dissonance. Putting things in context, most of the Japan episodes were made by Australians, who at the time were none too fond of the Japanese because of what was done to Australia during World War II a mere twenty years earlier. Ironically, the show was broadcast and dubbed in Japanese.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: Averted. The appropriate lyric simply appears on screen during the Sing-Alongs.
- Four-Fingered Hands: Much of the time, the characters have four fingers, but due to animation inconstancy between the studios, they often have five, and on one occasion, even six fingers.
- Frogs and Toads: Ringo's pet frog Bartholomew in "I Call Your Name."
- Full-Body Disguise: When a prize bull gets knocked unconscious in "Please Please Me," John and Paul try to get Ringo to play a matador while they don a bull costume. When the costume's zipper breaks, though, Ringo ends up facing a real bull! Which snaps Ringo into panic when he suddenly sees an equally panicky John, Paul and George in the stands (who are trying to warn Ringo of the danger he's in).
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- The mere fact that "Run For Your Life" is in a kids' show. The lyrics to that song are basically saying, "If you ever cheat on me I will hunt you down and kill you."
- Not to mention "Day Tripper." Besides the drug implications, there is even more sexual innuendo, like:
She's a big teaser / She took me half the way there...
Tried to please her / She only played one-night stands...
- "Long Tall Sally" being used for an episode. It's about adultery. Although the story subverts this by referring to a sword with that as its nickname, and merely playing the song in the background during a fight scene. The sing-a-long segment based on the same song, however, makes it pretty clear that Long Tall Sally is a woman Uncle John is into.
- "It Won't be Long": What the title implies in light of John's body being shrunk down to tiny size. Again, the song merely plays in the background.
- The Ghost: The prop man during the Sing-Alongs, who is always on vacation.
- Great White Hunter: The Beatles go on a three-week African safari holiday with great white hunter Alan Watermain in the episode "I'll Get You."
- Groupie Brigade: The Beatles even have nicknames for some of them: the Screamer, the Clipper, and the Fainter.
- Hammerspace: Ringo's props in season 3. He rushes around the room, and they just come out of nowhere, man.
- Hiccup Hijinks: The Beatles employ these on Ringo when he loses his voice.
- Hilarity Ensues: Episodes are set up to put the Beatles in such wacky situations! Whether hilarity actually ensues is up to the viewer and their tolerance for cheesy humor.
- Hurricane of Puns: One of the things that carried over to Yellow Submarine.
- Hypocritical Humor: Lots.
George: Well, don't stray too far. They tell me there's some mighty strange creatures livin' in these woods.
Ringo: Oh, George, you and your silly superstitions. Besides, can't you see I got me magic ring to ward off evil spirits?
- I Just Want to Be Special: "Bad Boy" has a Swiss boy running away from home because he wants to be a Beatle.
- I Kiss Your Hand: John does this to an octopus in "I Wanna Hold Your Hand".
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A non-romantic example. The sing-along for "Anna (Go To Him)" features Paul releasing a female canary into the wild to be with a male canary.
- Institutional Apparel: In "Paperback Writer", three of them are briefly shown wearing British prison uniforms.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: John in "It Won't Be Long". The others think he's "some kind of new Beatles doll" and proceed to fight over him.
- In One Ear, Out the Other: In "I've Just Seen a Face", the only thing Paul and George spot when peering through Ringo's ears on opposite sides are each other's eyes.
- Interactive Narrator: The narrator describing the cruise in "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Eventually, the Beatles complain that he's giving away all their disguises and tell him to talk about some other part of the ship. He politely obliges.
- It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context: Well, usually.
- I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: Paul, George and Ringo's reactions to the miniaturized John, who they think is a Beatle doll, in "It Won't Be Long". The song itself happens to suit the situation oddly well.
Paul: Help me to find that doll, boys, I want to take it home. It belongs to me.
John: Me?! Belong to him?!
- The Jester: Ringo in the sing-a-long segment for "What You're Doing".
- Knife Outline: Ringo gets one via a knife thrower in "She Loves You".
- Lame Pun Reaction:
Ringo: You call this a quiet spot? It's all jungle.
Should suit you boys fine. You chaps do have a reputation of being tigers
, y'know. Ahahahahaha! Oh, I say, that is a good one, isn't it? "Jungle tigers", get it?
- Another one in "Please Please Me" when John suggests that he and Paul dress up as the (incapacitated) bull so the bullfight can continue: "We'll pull the bull over their eyes!" Cue Aside Glance from matador.
- Leaning on the Furniture: The model sheets specifically called for both John and George to do this, based on animator's observations of how the real John Lennon and George Harrison acted and moved.
- Let's See You Do Better: In "I Feel Fine", Paul insults an actor by calling his stunts "fake" and "phony". The actor responds by locking Paul onto the movie set, which turns out to be a Death Course, and forcing him to save the lead actress from various traps. She ends up clouting the actor over the head with an umbrella, and Paul over his head with his own guitar.
- Limited Animation: Most of the Beatles' musical performances during the cartoons use the same shots over and over, and not just within the same cartoon. There seem to be several standard shots used in almost every episode (i.e. Paul, George, and John lined up with their guitars, Ringo shaking his head while drumming). It was pretty rare for an episode to have any outright new footage of the Beatles playing unless circumstances dictated otherwise during the song, such as if they were singing in a vehicle or performing while running from danger.
- Limited Wardrobe: The Beatles were depicted in their Fab Four era matching outfits and hairstyles even after the Beatles no longer looked like that. This may be why the openings remind you who's supposed to be who.
- Literal-Minded: Ringo, as aptly demonstrated by the Sing-Along segments.
- Malaproper: As in reality, Ringo. When a bull gets knocked out in "Please Please Me", he suggests "artificial perspiration".
- Marty Stu: In-Universe, each Beatle makes himself out to be one in his version of how they met each other in "Paperback Writer".
- Master of Disguise: Anyface from "No Reply".
- Marie Antoinette: Ringo dreams he's having an affair with her in "Run For Your Life".
- Mirror-Cracking Ugly: Ringo, who breaks mirrors on a couple of occasions. Poor guy.
- Mis-blamed: Ringo Starr wasn't happy with his portrayal in the show and complained to Lance Percival. Lance kindly explained that he just did the voices and pointed Ringo in the direction of the writers.
- Monumental Damage: The Beatles go to rehearse in the Coliseum and cause it to fall apart.
- Music Soothes the Savage Beast: Attempted in "All My Loving" with a hungry tiger.
- National Stereotypes: Apart from all the racial stereotyping the Beatles themselves are a pretty awful impression of how British people supposedly talk, with lots of Stock British Phrases.
- Noodle Incident: According to the episode "I Want to Hold Your Hand", John was once kissed by an octopus "when he was young".
- Normal-Skinned Space Babe: One of these tries to "save the universe from The Beatles" by stranding them on a random planet in "Day Tripper".
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Apart from the Beatles themselves, nobody.
- Back in the 1960s The Beatles themselves hated the cartoons when they saw them on TV. George Harrison in particular felt they were awful. Their disapproval may have been the reason why they refused to take Disney's offer to voice four caricatured vultures of themselves in Jungle Book and their own animated versions in Yellow Submarine.
- No Swastikas: The Iron Cross option was used in "Paperback Writer", when John Lennon was fighting the Germans in a World War 1 scenario.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
- Not with a Liverpudlian one, at least. The creators decided to use a generic British accent so the viewers could understand them more easily.
- Lance Percival has said in interviews he gave Ringo a hint of a Birmingham accent.
- For some reason Paul Frees plays George with a...completely indescribable accent. The closest one can come is that it's a bad Peter Lorre impression by way of Asia and Ireland.
- Not Now, Ringo: In "Don't Bother Me", John keeps ignoring Ringo. Turns out Ringo's actually trying to warn him about some impending death traps.
- Not Quite Starring: One of the first major examples of capitalizing on a celebrity with a quickly-made, loosely tied-in animated series.
- Obsessed with Food: In "Thank You Girl", Brian puts them on a diet and takes away their money since they've indulged in too much French cooking. The Beatles try to get around him by taking a free French cooking class.
- Off Model: They're hardly ever on model. The Australian episodes are particularly problematic about this due to the shaky animation. Paul is often the worst offender among the Fab Four; his eyes vary in size from episode to episode and his face shape changes constantly.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: John, quite often. And George is a bizarre mix of Asian-Irish-Peter Lorre.
- Opposite-Sex Clone: Each Beatle gets one in "I've Just Seen a Face". Notably, Paul is the most convincing and...vamp-y.
- Parental Bonus: "I'm Down":
George: I'll take care of the grapes. [grabs three French women]
Paul: I believe they're not quite ripe yet. [points to a little girl standing nearby]
- The Power of Rock: Can turn a Deliberately Monochrome orphanage into a psychedelic wonderland!
- Pungeon Master: Ringo, especially in the Sing-Along intros.
- "Rashomon"-Style: "Paperback Writer", where each Beatle recounts his own version of meeting the other three. Taken to an extreme in that said versions involve World War I dog-fighting, curing malaria, James Bond-eque antics, and so on.
- Real Song Theme Tune: "Can't Buy Me Love" for season 1, "Help!" for season 2 and "And Your Bird Can Sing" for season 3.
- The Runt at the End: Ringo. Partial Truth in Television, as Ringo was the shortest member of the band and the last to join.
- Scheherezade Gambit: In "The Word". If the Beatles can find the password involving the word "love", they'll be rescued by the harem girls' father; the girls then manage to convince their sheik to let the Beatles play one song before they're thrown to the crocodiles.
- Security Cling: The Beatles tend to cling to each other or leap into one another's arms in scary situations. For example, after spooky noises are heard during their rehearsal in "A Hard Day's Night"
- Shout-Out: The Beatles' characterizations were based on A Hard Days Night, yet dumbed down considerably.
- "Don't Bother Me" uses the "Ringo sleeping on the wrong end of the bed" gag from Help!, and the second opening is a big shout out to James Bond films. Also in that episode, they face a Generic Arch Villain and a very obvious Mook. He's the spitting image of Oddjob from Goldfinger.
- "James Blond" in "Penny Lane".
- Rounding out the Bond references, George pretends to be "008" in his daydream in "Paperback Writer."
- Their performance in "I'm Down" makes a lot of references to their Shea Stadium performance.
- The Beatles imagine themselves as The Three Musketeers in "Any Time at All".
- "Can't Buy Me Love" is likely another reference to Help! They should probably know by now that taking strange rings from foreign tribes is a bad idea. And at the end, John gives the ring to Ringo to take the heat off himself.
- Speaking of Help!, "All My Loving" is practically a Whole Plot Reference to the scene in which a tiger is dangerously close to Ringo and the others have to ward it off by singing.
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: In "Hold Me Tight":
George: Hold on. Look at that suspicious-looking bloke. And notice that package he's holding so gingerly. You know what I think it is?
- Simpleton Voice: Ringo, who speaks noticeably more slowly than the other three.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The images they put to the songs are relevant to varying degrees.
- "Eleanor Rigby" might be the worst offender. The second and third verses play but the actual animation completely diverges from the song's downer nature. In the stanza that describes her death and unattended funeral, she is alive and well, and a group of children decide to throw her a party...
- Another, more literal-than-usual example from the same short - the boys play their two guitars and a bass when Paul sings the song, but the song itself has no guitars nor bass line.
- Speaking Like Totally Teen: John at the end of "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party", after chasing the others around to get them to rehearse. They are not impressed.
- Stock Audio Clip: Always, and for no reason other than to save money and time. It can get pretty awkward hearing Paul say "Rob'n Hood? Heneverhappened." about once a minute in "Taxman."
- Stock Footage: Often used when the Beatles start playing their songs. There are a few band shots that are pretty much Once Per Episode occurrences.
- Straw Fan: Masses and masses of screaming girls are the most frequent fan portrayal, though a few get more characterization.
- Take My Hand: "Hold Me Tight" is taken rather literally, as it's about Ringo trying to keep George from falling off the Statue of Liberty.
- Take-That Kiss: "I Saw Her Standing There"; Jose's girl Rosita plants one on John after she's impressed by his "dancing."
- That Reminds Me of a Song: Employed to varying degrees of success.
- Throw the Book at Them: Ringo whacks Paul with a book on English pronunciation in one of the Sing-Along intros.
- Title Drop: In "Don't Bother Me", John repeatedly says "Don't bother me!" to Ringo, cumulating in himself, George and Paul busting out their guitars and actually singing the song. (Note that Ringo's actually bothering them for a good reason.)
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Ringo, usually. Why Ringo never sued King Features is completely unknown. In comparison to his actual persona, the show's portrayal of him borders on libel.
- George, sometimes. The boy can't even read!
- Trope Maker/Ur Example: As mentioned in the intro.
- ▄berwald: The Beatles visit Transylvania in more than one episode.
- Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...: George's word-for-word reaction to winning the role of Mr. Hollywood in "Boys".
- Unexplained Accent: George's, which is not even British, let alone Liverpudlian.
- Vague Age: The Beatles themselves. They're in their moptop-era designs, meaning they're meant to be young adults, yet a couple episodes has them call each other teenagers, and yet another one has them at a legal drinking age.
- Walking the Earth: The Beatles, apparently. Usually explained as that they're constantly on tour.
- Wedding Deadline: "What You're Doing". Never mind that it's a spur-of-the-moment gypsy wedding and probably isn't even legal.
- What the Hell, Hero?: When Ringo reveals his hobby is catching "birds" (read: women) and putting them in cages in "Ticket to Ride", this is everyone's general reaction.
- Your Size May Vary: Size charts were actually made for the Beatles, at least in comparison to each other. John is supposed to be the tallest, Ringo is the shortest, and Paul and George are the same height and somewhere between John and Ringo. note However, due to Off-Model animation, this didn't always come across very well, both with the Beatles in relation to the setting and occasionally to each other.