20.8.09

Disney, Zemeckis Board 'Yellow Submarine' (Variety)



Disney and director Robert Zemeckis are negotiating to remake “Yellow Submarine,” the 1968 psychedelic animated film based on the music of The Beatles.

The studio has been quietly brokering a complicated rights deal that would give Zemeckis access to 16 original Beatles songs for a movie he will direct in the performance-capture 3-D digital production format he employed for “A Christmas Carol.” Disney opens that film November 6, with Jim Carrey playing Scrooge as well as the three ghosts who haunt him in the Charles Dickens tale.

The hope is to have "Yellow Submarine" ready to premiere around the 2012 Summer Olympics, which begins July 27 in London.

Disney would not comment on the negotiations or the project. Zemeckis’s ImageMovers would produce.

The deal marries cutting-edge 3-D feature technology with a surging reinterest in The Beatles, who appeared only in the film’s closing scene. Actors provided the voices for the animated characters of Beatles Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

The storyline of the original took place in Pepperland, an undersea paradise protected by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. When the band is captured by the music-hating Blue Meanies, a soldier is sent to Liverpool to fetch the Fab Four, who hop in the submarine and save the day.

Key to the deal is Zemeckis’ ability to use a treasure trove of classic Beatles tunes, from the title song to “All Together Now,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” “All You Need Is Love,” “When I’m 64,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

The deal has been months in the making with armies of lawyers and sources said that rights will encompass the future prospects of a Broadway stage musical -- much as Disney accomplished with “The Lion King,” a Cirque du Soleil stage production (“Love,” a production based on Beatles tunes, has been running for two years at The Mirage) and merchandise.

“Yellow Submarine” is just the latest in a flurry of pacts for The Beatles. September will be a big month for the band that broke up in 1970, with the release of a flurry of remastered records and the vidgame “The Beatles: Rock Band.”

Disney's talks follow the astounding $60 million deal that Sony made to turn the rehearsal footage for the final Michael Jackson concerts into a feature film.


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