Animation nation

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‘Yellow Submarine’

The 1968 animated feature “Yellow Submarine,” now available on DVD, puts to rest any doubt that the Beatles were dabbling with psychedelic drugs. Based on the Beatles’ song of the same name, the movie is set Pepperland, a colorful cartoon land designed by Heinz Edelmann in Peter Max-fashion. None of the Beatles’ voices is featured in the film, whose tripped-out script was co-written by Erich (“Love Story”) Segal.

The cartoon does, however, weave more than a dozen Beatles songs into its soundtrack. Created at a time when the Vietnam War was in full swing, “Yellow Submarine,” pits the violent Blue Meanies against the peaceful, music-loving citizens of Pepperland. The “all you need is love” message, while a bit idealistic, is as moving today as it was nearly 45 years ago. DVD special features include the “Mod Odyssey” featurette, interviews with crew and vocal talent, and much more.


Ralph Bakshi, of “Fritz the Cat” fame, combined anti-technology and anti-religion messages with images of Nazis and a second death for Hitler in his 1977 futuristic fantasia “Wizards.” Now on Blu-ray in a 35th anniversary edition, “Wizards” is set far into a bleak future, in a world that has been blown apart by terrorists. Against the backdrop of a planet occupied by evil, hideous mutants and good fairies, elves and dwarves, Bakshi brings something new to the age-old story of good versus evil.

Twin brothers Avatar (voiced by Bob Holt) and Blackwolf (voiced by Steve Gravers), represent good and evil, respectively. Three thousand years after Avatar defeated Blackwolf in a duel following the death of their mother Delia, the brothers have kept their distance from each other. But Blackwolf has his heart set on domination and destruction using the power of science and technology. He sends his minions to destroy the magic practiced by Avatar and his followers.

Blackwolf’s massive army, fueled by World War II-era Nazi film footage shown on a vintage projector, and Avatar’s troopsb finally do meet on a bloody and corpse-strewn battlefield. Can you guess who triumphs?

“Wizards” looks like a Saturday morning cartoon on a bad acid trip, an indication of how far animation has come since the late 1970s. However, the themes in “Wizards,” including the excesses of technology,  political extremism and the horrors of war still, ring true today. DVD special features include the collectible packaging, Bakshi’s commentary, a featurette and more.

‘The Secret World of Arrietty’

Easily the most accessible of the animated Studio Ghibli productions, the U.S. version of “The Secret World of Arrietty,” available from Disney in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, is a delight. A retelling of Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers,” the cartoon feature juxtaposes the coming of age stories of sickly “human bean” Shawn (voiced by David Henrie) and rebellious and ambitious borrower Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler). Both adolescents are under the watchful eyes of their elders – Aunt Jessica (Gracie Poletti) and meddling housekeeper Hara (Carol Burnett) take care of Shawn, while Arrietty’s parents are Homily (Amy Poehler) and Pod (Will Arnett).

The relationship between the borrowers, who “take only what they need,” and the human beans, who are destructive and cruel, is severely tested as an unexpected relationship develops between Arrietty and Shawn.

The animation is spectacular, combining the painting-like backgrounds with classic Japanese animation in the foreground. Sweet and touching – full of messages about life, death and survival – “The Secret World of Arrietty” should be shared by one and all. Bonus material includes original Japanese storyboards, music videos and more.

Purchase the DVDs from Amazon, click here.

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