Hello, Beatles fans! Join us in our 10-day countdown to the premiere of The Beatles: Get Back on Disney +, measuring the 10 greatest television moments in the long, winding history of the Liverpool boys.
This is an excerpt from TV Guide magazine Special Collector’s Edition of The Beatles On TV, available to order online now at BeatlesonTV.com and to buy at newsstands across the country.
3. The Beatles
Series broadcast on ABC
September 25, 1965-Oct. 21, 1967
The big picture
The Beatles have always been lively; here they have proven that they can also wear a ‘toon.
In the wings
After watching the Beatles get the teens to stand up The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Al Brodax, then producer Popeye and Bailey beetle cartoons on television – asked the group’s management to translate their songs and energy into an animated series in the United States. The papers were signed, and this very first weekly TV show featuring cartoon versions of real people premiered according to ABC’s fall 1965 program in a Saturday morning slot at 10:30 a.m. A total of 39 episodes were produced, with short pieces depicting Beatles songs from albums up to and including Revolver.
The show used the same quick cut style of A hard day’s Night and To help! to give him a jovial impudence. The only thing missing? The intelligent writing of these films. To its credit, the show has tried to capture the personalities of the guys. It even suggested some sort of pecking order, with John as the boss always joking; Paul, the elegant and carefree second banana; George the Beatle hunched but angular, with ironic humor; and Ringo – with the hairiest of mop tops – being silly, likable and innocent, not to say short.
The episodes took their titles from Beatles tunes, and the plots – if you can call them that – referred to the song lyrics. Namely: John receives a friendship ring from a Polynesian tribal chief, which forces him to marry the chief’s daughter; antics switch to “Can’t Buy Me Love”. In another, The Beatles jump into a diving bell to hide from fans, before being thrown into the ocean, where a loving octopus awaits them, leading to the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Popular British comic actor Lance Percival has been brought in to voice Paul and Ringo. American artist Paul “The Man of a Thousand Voices” Frees did the honors for John and George; he didn’t seem to be trying a British accent.
But what not to like about all these popular songs? There were even two “sing-along” segments in each episode.
The Beatles was an instant audience hit, racking up a 52% share, unheard of for daytime television. For the third season, the show moved to noon on Saturday.
Other than their songs, the band had nothing to do with the show. Their initial reaction to the series caused them to also avoid speaking in Yellow submarine. It wasn’t until after seeing this movie – and liking it – that they agreed to create its live-action ending. The Beatles later admitted to enjoying the cartoon series; in 1999 Harrison said, “I think the passage of time might make them more fun now.”
Frees also provided the voice of Boris Badenov on the popular The Bullwinkle Show.
Why does it rank
Talk about a great way to get young children into the fold of Beatlemania.
The Beatles: Come Back, Documentary premiere, November 25-27, Disney +