How the Beatles Became Saturday Morning Cartoon Characters
The Beatles were actually first immortalized in animated glory a few years before climbing aboard that famous yellow submarine. They shared their music – but not their actual speaking voices – on a 30-minute Saturday morning cartoon that debuted on Sept. 25, 1965.
The Beatles used their songs to frame the individual episodes, each of which centered on the completely made-up and fanciful adventures of the lads from Liverpool. It was an instant ratings smash for ABC.
Actor Paul Frees, perhaps best known as the voice of Boris Badenov from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, voiced the characters of John Lennon and George Harrison. Lance Percival provided the voices of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
Airing from 1965 until 1967 in its original run, and through 1969 in reruns, the show lasted for 39 total episodes that reportedly marked the first time an animated series had portrayed real, living people.
Watch the Beatles' Saturday-Morning Cartoon Show
The Fab Four hated the show at first, according to the book Beatletoons: The Real Story Behind the Cartoon Beatles, but later embraced its campy portrayal of the period when they still sported mop tops and suits. "I still get a blast out of watching the Beatles cartoons on TV," John Lennon said in 1972.
Executive producer Al Brodax and producer George Dunning would also be involved in the production and direction of Yellow Submarine. Meanwhile, The Beatles series was re-broadcast in 1980 and again in 1987 by MTV, and later by the Disney Channel.
Apple Corps, Ltd. purchased the rights to the show in the '90s, and McFarlane Toys released a line of Beatles figures based on the animated series. "I always kind of liked [the cartoons]," George Harrison said in 1999. "They were so bad or silly that they were good, if you know what I mean. And I think the passage of time might make them more fun now."
Even so, a series website said that despite popular demand, Apple had no immediate plans to release the show on home video.
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