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Zemeckis to steer Yellow Submarine through 3D remake

More than 40 years after the cinematic success of The Yellow Submarine, the animated film that epitomised the height of psychedelic pop culture and featured a Beatles soundtrack – it is to be re-made in 3D by Disney.

The Hollywood director, Robert Zemeckis, who is best known for the spectacular special effects of his previous films which include Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, has been brought on board.

The original story was written by Lee Minoff and based on the song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with some of the dialogue scripted by poet Roger McGough.

The film captures an underwater paradise that finds itself menaced by the music-hating “Blue Meanies”. The Beatles’ own contribution was limited. The band only agreed to the film as a means of fulfilling their movie contract and their animated characters were voiced by other actors. But on seeing the finished version, the group agreed to appear as themselves in the final scene.

The upgraded version is to use the state-of-the-art techniques that Zemeckis employed on his visually striking films, The Polar Express and Beowulf. The studio has already pencilled in a tentative release date of summer 2012. But Variety magazine cautioned that lawyers were still in the middle of attempting to secure rights to the 16 original Beatles songs, including All You Need is Love and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. There has been no confirmation yet on the involvement of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles.

While some fans may see a re-make as sacrilege, Connor McNicholas, the former editor of NME, welcomed a 3D version that re-introduced the classic film to a new generation.

“When I was a child, I was absolutely transfixed when I caught it on television. It was tremendously surreal animation and it didn’t have a traditional narrative or characters, and it had a very big effect on me. It’s very easy to have a knee jerk reaction to a re-make as some may see the film as preserved in time, but nothing is wrong with completely re-imagining it in 3D. It is a part of popular culture so it should be allowed to live on,” he said.