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Yellow Submarine Beatles - John, Paul, George and Ringo
Factory Entertainment


"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."
In 1968 the Beatles were ruling the world. They were topping the charts all over the planet and they had become a hugely marketable commodity (they are selling hippy wigs in Woolworth’s man, we are coming to the end of the greatest decade in civilisation and as presuming Ed has so rightly pointed out, we have failed to paint it black). It was whilst on the crest of this wave, and during a particularly experimental phase of their existence that The Beatles agreed to make an animated movie ‘inspired’ by the 1966 song ‘Yellow Submarine’ that featured on their groundbreaking album ‘Revolver’.

It was to be directed by George Dunning (a little known maker of short films) and based on the designs of Heinz Endelmann, and would prove to be a challenging watch for many, especially those who were not going to San Francisco!

However, it did deliver a multicoloured, ninety-minute acid trip into a very peculiar landscape. It was a movie that seemed to revel in trying to weird-out its audience, and it certainly managed to do that. At the time of its release it was accused of being a lot of things, subversive, anti-establishment and pro drugs being just a few!

Where as in reality it was just a silly whimsy with some vaguely political statements, and it’s real raison d’etre was to help the Beatles sell even more records whilst simultaneously making a movie so visually and narratively obtuse that ‘the man’ didn’t get it!

So, if you are of the generation that remembers the Beatles actually being a band, or if like me you have a vague memory of them splitting up, these are something of jog down memory lane. There are probably more than a few readers who aren’t even that familiar with the Beatles. I know, it’s shocking, but in a recent poll in the UK, kids between 5 and 15 were shown a picture of Paul McCartney (the husband of the famous Linda McCartney who makes all that veggie frozen food, and father of Stella who knocks up a few posh frocks) and asked who he was. Over 80% had no clue, and when prompted and told about the Beatles many claimed to have never heard of the band either.

So with a legacy that seems revered in certain circles, yet lays derelict in others, what will collectors, be they mature or whippersnapper, make of these figures?

Well, let me guide you as to why I think they are on the whole pretty cool!



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Packaging - ***
These boxes follow the classic old 5-panel gatefold fronted design that was used for years by many manufacturers. In fact it made me feel quite nostalgic for the days when I got the Spinal Tap and Young Frankenstein figures from Sideshow. The outer box is a bright, one might even say garish image of the titular Yellow Submarine from the animated movie with a band logo and character name alongside. There is also another cool little ‘difference’ on each box, but I’ll leave those who choose to buy them to discover that little Easter egg.

The inside flap has some background info on the movie and the making of the figures, which wasn’t quite as easy as one might think, but I’ll go over that below. The fully assembled figure can be seen through the window when the flap is opened, and by pulling open the top tab you can slide the cardboard tray out. Inside this tray is second vac-formed clear plastic tray in which sits the figure alongside its accessories. This is where the nostalgia gave way to a slight amount of annoyance. The reason being that each figure is held secure by five tight wire twisty-ties. Each one has to be carefully removed by un twisting (if you are an anal collector like myself) or by snipping with wire cutters. On the first figure I smiled as I did it, remembering those collecting days of yore… but by the fourth figure (Ringo of course) my fingers were sore and the novelty had very much worn off! This is 2013 Factory Entertainment, please don’t do this again!

Anyway, apart from my slight annoyance with the wires I’m pretty impressed by the boxes in a retro psychedelic kind of a way. They are far from cutting edge, but have a wistful charm and the colourful designs add a nice backdrop to all you ‘mint in boxer’s’.

Sculpting - ***1/2

I alluded above to the fact that the sculpting here wasn’t quite as straightforward as one might originally think. The reason being that the original animated movie these figures are based on was ’experimental’ to say the least. Coming as it did out of The Beatles period of substance experimentation, it was an hour and a half of a psychedelic dream (or nightmare for many) that was made by different teams of animators. The original designs for the characters in the movie were by Heinz Edelmann, the celebrated 60’s graphic designer and illustrator, whose distinct style set the look for many poster and record sleeves at this time. Meaning the already hand drawn and freeform style (it was after all intended to be the anti-Disney) made the characters often look very different in one frame to the next. This meant that Sean Dabbs, the guy who’s job it was to realise these figures, had to watch and re-watch the movie to capture the best representation John, Paul, George and Ringo (you must only ever write their names in this order, it’s some kind of law somewhere) and he certainly managed to capture their iconic look in the movie.

I will say at this juncture, though it will already be painfully obvious, that these are very… and I mean VERY stylised figures. This also means that they will definitely NOT appeal to all of our regular readers who are looking for the next fix of a hyper realistic action hero. No, this is much more for your fan of the band (obviously), fan of avante-garde cinema (perhaps) or ‘designer vinyl’ collector who recognises a classic when he/she sees one.

The detailing here, is there for meant to be representative of the source material, with soft flowing forms and a deliberately ‘hand crafted’ feel. I do however feel that a little more detail could have been worked into the hair and especially the eyes, where the sculpting is often just flat, letting the paint application do all the work. It’s for this reason that John gets my vote as the best of the crew followed by George (who was undoubtedly the coolest Beatle, you may disagree, but you’d be wrong!).

Because of the freeform style of the animation these are based on, I would have thought they would be hand sculpted, but they were in fact all done digitally. So the heads, hands, feet and accessories were all rendered this way before prototype pieces were produced and assembled.

So all in all I am happy with this set, but if the sculpting had shown just a tad more definition around the eyes and on the hair I could have been made a little happier. There is however no denying that they all look very close to their animated counterparts, so in that respect the sculpt has undoubtedly done its job.

The one thing this set does make me realise is how cool it would be to have proper high-end set of the band done in either their Sergeant Pepper’s outfits, or even more preferably in their classic Nehru jacketed mop top era outfits. I would imagine it is a licensing nightmare, but who knows, maybe one day?

Paint - **1/2
The paint here is competent rather than exceptional. Again one has to keep in mind at all times the style these are trying to emulate, but there are still a few places where hairline divisions etc could have been a little crisper. That’s not to say there is any horrendous slop, because there isn’t, but on places like Paul’s sideburns and John’s extra hand holding the telescope, not to mention the rings on Ringo’s hands, the division lines could have been a lot better. It’s not a biggie, and certainly shouldn’t be considered a deal breaker. And in all fairness they do a great job of bringing the animated figures to life, (as lets face it, the movies animated style is pretty unique). However, for an outlay of nearly $140 each you kind of expect something a little more special, or considered, if you will. Anyone familiar with good quality ‘designer’ vinyl will be aware of just how ‘perfect’ they manage to get the paint work on those figures, and it would have been good to see a little of that here. In stead we get something that just about works, but leaves a bit to be desired!

Articulation - ***
There is nothing per se wrong with these the base bodies here, but I did have a couple of issues with the set as a whole. For a start Ringo had the dreaded ‘free spinning foot syndrome’ something I haven’t experienced since the early Sideshow figures. It was an easy fix with a spot of glue, but for figures that retail at $550 a set, you don’t expect to have to fix these kinds of problems.

I also found that all had misaligned limbs straight from the box, another easy fix, as it was reasonably straight forward to twist all the appendages to be pointing in the right direction, but again this is something that is generally put right at the factory before being packaged in these more enlightened times.

Under the clothes these are basically a rather cheap looking regular 1/6th body with adapted long forearms and oversized heads (as you can see in this photo). As such they can achieve virtually any pose you could require, and whilst I was slightly miffed that we didn’t get double elbows, it was almost made up for by the great mobility in the torso and from the waist down. It is worthy of note that because of the oversized forearms and hands, there is no articulation at the wrist.

So, we end up with a utilitarian body that can pose OK, but lacks finish and feels more than a little clunky by modern standards.

Accessories - ***1/2
Each figure comes with a hand holding a key accessory from the movie, an apple from Pepperland, a business card from the nowhere man and a blue figure stand.

In the case of John we have a telescope, Paul has a bunch of flowers, George has a movie camera (EDIT: that's the engine from the submarine, Jeff!) and Ringo has a hole… yes you read right, a hole… don’t ask!
I find it almost unforgivable that we didn’t get a thumbs up pose for Paul, c’mon, we all remember Macca fondly with his fab wacky thumbs aloft!

All the items are chunky and painted in flat colourful tones. The standout accessory here is Paul’s bunch of flowers, as the details and paint work well in the cartoon hues they use, but Johns telescope and George’s camera are all competent as well. Ringo’s ‘hole’ is basically a black disk, not much you can say about that really. The cards are as you’d expect just small oblong cards with words printed on them.

John- Jeremy
Paul- Hillary
George- Boob
Ringo- Ph.D

All three also have blue figure stands. Normally I try not to use stands, but in the case of these figures I am sorely tempted to. They are constructed of a nice bright blue ABS plastic and have both the Beatles and Yellow Submarine printed on them. I did manage to get all three to stand just fine, but for a long-term display these could be very handy.

Outfit - John ***1/2, the others ***
We are again in nostalgia territory here as the outfits take me back to some of those old Sideshow outfits. Which, were it not for the subject matter, might not have been so forgivable. The way the characters were drawn and coloured meant their outfits were pretty bizarre, even for the 70’s, with huge flares, over the top jackets and in the case of John, a pretty ‘out there’ shirt! In fact Johns outfit is the most interesting out of the Fab Four. His shirt is a rainbow of colours with a big ruff-styled collar, trousers that have different coloured legs and a black satin bomber jacket with elasticated cuffs to set it all off.  All the others have outfits that look tame by comparison, but would still get you odd looks were you to go out dressed like this in the real world. I have to admit I’m quite fond of Ringo’s red and blacked striped blazer, but the wearing of the tie hanging over it’s front is an unforgivable fashion faux pas (even for a cartoon character). As always, Paul is the most boring, and looks like the boy most likely to be taken home to the parents with his (all be it brightly coloured) traditional shirt, tie and blazer combo. George manages to look like the second coming, with hair blowing off to the side, for that ‘Christ on a bike’ look, and his outfit is the most tasteful… maybe even elegant of the crew. He has a simple tan coloured Nehru coloured jacket over a green shirt and black trousers.

The tailoring throughout on all the outfits is well observed and competent, but lacks the finesse that is now expected of high-end figures. In all fairness these are not really intended to be played with, and the box clearly states ‘THIS IS NOT A TOY’… but I beg to differ, it might not be for kids (as it also states for ages 14+) but a doll/action figure with accessories and multiple points of articulation is most definitely a toy! What I’m saying, is these are an ‘unpack and display’ item, and as such can look great when arranged together on the shelf. And the colourful outfits certainly enhance their presence. But the use of large Velcro panels on the jackets does mean you need to keep everything done up and closed.

In short Factory Entertainment have chosen a good subject matter for their first foray into the world of 1/6th, as the cartoon outfits lend themselves to an unfussy interpretation, and they have managed to translate the screen seen outfits pretty well to the figures.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
If you are the type of person who is more likely to have a music room rather than a home cinema, these would make a great talking point. And mine have earned a place on my ever-circulating book case display.

However, I wouldn’t recommend letting tiny hands play with them, as they are most definitely designed with the adult collector market in mind. Meaning they are about as much ‘fun’ as you want them to be. I’m basing my score on the fact that they really do look bright and cheerful on the shelf, and after months of displaying various heroes from the latest blockbusters, sometimes, just sometimes its nice to have something a little more light hearted.

Value - ***
I’m pretty sure that any merchandise that wishes to carry the Beatles seal of approval must come with a hefty license, but there again so do most IP’s these days, from Disney to Tolkein with a swift detour past Star Wars and Marvel… oh sorry, I meant Disney and Disney again, you will be expected to pay heavily to associate your brand with theirs.

However at $550 a set that makes each figure $137.50 which feels a little heavy when taking into account the relatively simple sculpt, paint app and tailoring. I think $100 to $110 per figure would be a far more realistic amount, but I also understand the unique place these figures frequent. And I have to say that if someone were to take on more 1/6th animated characters, like the main players from Futurama or the Simpson’s, then I’d be sorely tempted to get them if the design was strong enough (and good quality character specific bodies were used rather than off the shelf cheap ones).

Overall - ***
The few small issues I had with the base bodies haven’t really impacted on my final score. Instead the thing that has dragged it down is price.

This is quaint and charming set of figures, and I do recommend them highly if you have a penchant for the cool and quirky. If you have the kind of home that revels in displaying weird and wonderful curios that show off your interests and travels then this set seriously out cools most of the ‘action heroes’ I usually review.

Lets face it, I’m a geek, you’re a geek, we are all geeks in one way or another (oh yes you are, that’s why you are here and reading this). Some of us are comic geeks, some are movie geeks and a good swathe will be muso’s as well (and if you are anything like me, you are all three rolled into one). So on one level I say feed your inner geek and treat yourself to something like this. Never be ashamed of your geekositude, display it with pride, wear it like armour and celebrate the fact that you are cool while all those corporate ‘suits’… ‘the man’ if you will, can never be apart of our world. He was never meant to ‘get’ the movie, and he will never ‘get’ why we choose to display these things in our home. He’d rather have a badly framed print from Ikea, by some uninspiring post modern artist hanging on his wall, and to add insult to injury it will probably have the artists name written underneath, so people know who painted it, (and to remind him) and quite frankly he deserves it (philistine). And we deserve this!

They really do display rather well, and they make me smile when I look at them (although they simultaneously seem to freak out my youngest daughter for some strange reason).
EDIT- She changed her mind, and being the biggest Beatles fan in the house she requested them for the shelf in her bedroom, where they now reside.

I freely admit that the price does seem a little high if you try to compare these to the likes of the recent offerings from Hot Toys, Sideshow, ENTERBAY, Blitzway et al! However, if you can view these as standalone items that frequent their own little universe, then you won’t go too far wrong. And quite frankly who else is ever going to make these figures again?

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - **1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ***1/2
Outfit - John ***1/2, the others ***
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ***
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
These are available from Factory Entertainments direct  for $550 a set here.

You could have saved $50 by purchasing from the sies sponsor BBTS, but sadly they sold out.

Discussion:
Want to chat about this review?  Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be discussing it!

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This product was provided for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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