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I should have seen this coming...

...although really, how could anyone have seen it coming? And yet, how could we not? What follows is exactly what it appears to be, Cheap Trick performing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" live, in its entirety, even madder and more perfect than I possibly imagined, featuring a blend of hubris and humility that only Cheap Trick could muster.

The following is of course not Sgt. Pepper, but the closing medley from Abbey Road. You'll get the idea.

Talk about audacious! Wonderful.

What do you think? Are you as tickled as I am by this?

And so, the celebration of Beatles Week continues....

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Sep 6, 2009 at 5:40:56 pm beatles, music

Are we sure this is a good idea?

I LOVE Yellow Submarine. Loooooooove Yellow Submarine. I'm old enough to remember The Beatles upending New York, which remains a pivotal cultural memory of mine. I dove in all the way, too, including my golden, gleaming Yellow Submarine lunchbox, 1968's de rigeur fashion accessory.

(That one's not mine. I wish. I've watched ebay, Beatlebay, Christie's, and others, and have never seen one for sale in even GOOD condition. Most are pretty well banged up and rusted, and still run in the $700 range...if you can find one at all.)

So maybe I'm too close to it to be objective, but I'm not sure I'm ready for Robert Zemeckis to apply the same 3D motion capture technique he used for "The Polar Express" the upcoming "A Christmas Carol" (starring Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey, respectively, in multiple roles), and "Beowulf," to be applied to a new stereoscopic 3D version of Yellow Submarine.

I'll be honest, the Carrey picture looks wonderful, but I found the other two a little disturbing. In fairness, I (stupidly) didn't see them in IMAX 3D, so I'm not exactly giving them a fair shake. The 2D version is the equivalent of foreign language dubbing...but still.

On one hand, whenever I hear about somebody revisiting The Beatles, I think of Robert Stigwood's "Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band," starring Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees. (What's that? You thought The Bee Gees had top billing? No way, man. Frampton. Look it up.)

That was 1978. I LIKE Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees, and there were some genuinely good performances in it that stand the test of time, notably Earth Wind & Fire's "Got To Get You Into My Life" and Aerosmith's "Come Together." Despite the best efforts of these and many other talented people, 1978 was an AWFUL year to be a Beatle fan. I felt like I had to hide.

Until 1978 became a WONDERFUL year to be a Beatles fan. one the kindest, sweetest, most generous and humane movies ever made, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," told the tale of a handful of teens doing their best to see The Beatles live in the Ed Sullivan Theater on Feb. 9, 1964. The movie isn't about that show, or about Beatlemania. The fact is that no movie can adequately capture how big The Beatles were, and this one doesn't try. "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" shows how The Beatles reached beyond the hype, and touched the lives and hearts of these particular people.

Instead of running to hide from an awful movie, I now felt like I had to run to tell everyone what a wonderful movie this is.

And, as you can see there at the bottom, co-written by, and directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Hmmm, all of a sudden, I'm not quite so worried about him redoing "Yellow Submarine."

"I Wanna Hold Your Hand" was groundbreaking in one small way, and two big ones. The small one is that it was the first movie to show the intimate side of fandom -- including the competition among fans to prove oneself "the BIGGEST fan." It showed in a compassionate and empathetic way the way that identifying with a performer changes your own identity, and in this case, for the better. I certainly feel that way about my own Beatles fandom, and I'm certain Mr. Zemeckis does too.

More broadly, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" was the first movie to mingle historical events and footage with narrative storytelling on this scale. (He certainly did a bit of it in "Forrest Gump" a bit later.)

It was also the first movie to entirely immerse itself in music. You can take music out of virtually any picture where music played a pivotal role or strongly underscored the cinematic experience -- "Singin' In The Rain," "Blackboard Jungle," "Apocalypse Now" -- and they wouldn't be all that different as movies. You wouldn't even have to swap out the songs for something else. Just take 'em out, and reflow the edit. No biggie.

Without these particular songs, there is no "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." It could possibly be done, but only as a stunt. To tell this real story, you need these real songs -- all 17 of 'em -- by these real performers.

So anyway, if anybody is going to do anything with The Beatles in a movie, I can't think of anybody better than Robert Zemeckis. I'm also not going to be an idiot: I'm going to see this one in IMAX 3D. I encourage you, likewise, to accept no substitutes.


Gratuitous multimedia:

1) The Yellow Submarine 6-sheet. Found this in a UK poster collection. Sorry they didn't have an image any bigger than this to show it, but this bad boy is 81 inches by 81 inches!

The Beatles as "The Forces of Good." Check. Screenplay by Erich Segal, author of "Love Story." Check.

2) The original Yellow Submarine trailer
3) The Robert Stigwood Sgt. Pepper Trailer

Notes: Trailers used to be a lot longer than they are today, eh? The good news is that this covers a whole lot of my favorite imagery from the movie. Bad news for anybody who thought that The Beatles were actually in the movie!

See? I told you it was bad. And that Peter Frampton had top billing.

4) Although this last clip is from December 1967, Jimi Hendrix added "Sgt. Pepper" to his show the week the album was released on June 1 of that year. (Yes, I remembered that off the top of my head. I can allllmost remember my own birthday, but I'll never forget this date.) This was much to the amazement of The Beatles, and to the consternation of the rest of the English music scene, who had yet another aspect of Jimi's talent to humble them.

Seriously, if you're going to don Sgt. Pepper garb and sing a Beatles tune, watch and learn. As the man says, "Watch out for your ears."

Posted by: Tim Wilson on Sep 4, 2009 at 11:39:02 am beatles, yellow submarine, stereoscopic 3d, robert zemeckis, movies, music

Creative COW Magazine: The Games Issue.

Bigger than The Beatles. Big opportunity.

(This is an expanded version of my column at the beginning of The Games Issue.)

Normally, Creative COW Magazine is heavily production-oriented. We typically talk about high-end cameras and other cutting-edge hardware. So why a games issue, and why now?

Because while other parts of our business may be cooling down, games are hot. If you've ever tried to pry your kid (or your boss) away from video games long enough to eat supper (or sign your paycheck), then you know how compelling video games are.

Re: hot, here are some numbers. Best opening day for a movie: "The Dark Knight," $67 million. For a console game? "Grand Theft Auto IV," $310 million. This shattered the previous record for first-day sales, Halo 3 and $131 million ??" which was still nearly DOUBLE the all-time best movie opening day! Holy console, Batman!

This year alone, the "World of Warcraft" franchise is expected to pull in well north of $1 billion. Last year, the number was actually $1.1 billion. "World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King" sold 2.8 million new copies in its first 24 hours. Then there were the upgrades. And then the subscriptions for this MMO ??" "massively multiplayer online" game: topping 11.5 million by the end of 2008. That's somewhere around double the population of Ireland, or half the population of Australia.

When people my age say, "Big," we mean The Beatles: 132 million albums in the US. Compare this to Nintendo's Mario franchise at 160 million units! "The Sims" and "Madden Football" are strong too, with 100 million and 75 million respectively.

And don't forget, The Beatles never got to sell you the record player that would only play Beatle albums: Nintendo has sold 100 million DS handhelds! The "other" handheld, the Sony Playstation Portable, is doing fine, thanks, with sales of over 50 million units.

On the console front, Wii is of course stampeding, with 74% growth (can that be right?), and is likely to achieve 50% market share by the end of the year. The most striking thing about console sales is that they're still growing faster than sales of games themselves ??" for now. This says to me that we're still a long way from finished laying the foundation for the growth of the games business as a whole.

A side note on The Beatles: they sold records in other places besides the US, of course, and, especially early in their careers, singles were a critical component in the world-changing impact that these 4 youngsters had. (Youngsters? It's easy to forget that the group was done by the time they reached 30!) It's impossible to overstate the effect of singles including "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," and my favorite, the double A-side single of "Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane." Add them all to the mix, and The Beatles sold well north of 1 billion records worldwide. Nobody else is close.

(While the "nobody is close" observation is clear through every lens, it was harder than I thought to quantify Beatle album sales. There were many different versions, including some US-only releases like "Yesterday and Today." There are also a number of sales certifications vying for ultimate authority, but I feel very, very comfortable with the number 132 million US sales. If you want to dig deeper into the world of album sales ??" and why wouldn't you? ??" you need to go here.

All of that said, The Beatles agree that games are Beatle-sized big. Starting 09/09/09, they'll offer digital downloads of their music exclusively through "Rock Band," a video game where many artists are finding far more sales, and far more money, than anywhere else. Yep, games are becoming bigger than iTunes for music, too.

(Of course, this issue of The COW Magazine also includes a fantastic article on cutting-edge game development for the iTunes App Store.)

The Beatles Rock Band story is well worth a closer look for any fan of music, games, Rock Band, The Beatles and any combination of the above. Rolling Stone has a wonderful overview of the variety of packages that will be available, including a limited edition that will include both game software and a combination of instruments for actually doing the Rock Band thing.

So what does the growth of games mean for you? Jobs. Here at COW East in Boston, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick made the rounds of west-coast game developers like EA and Microsoft, , pitching the same tax breaks offered to filmmakers who create jobs here. He also noted the 60+ game development companies already in the state, including our pals at Harmonix, the developers of Rock Band. After its success with "Lord of the Rings Online," $40 million in venture capital has helped once-tiny Turbine expand to 250 employees. MIT is even partnering with the government of Singapore to develop new games technologies and new jobs.

As you'll see in this issue, not all game jobs are going to fast-twitch 3D animators. Many of them look like traditional post jobs - video is integrated into games, promos are cut - along with quite a few traditional production jobs, like greenscreen shooting and motion capture. Add the stampede of interactive developers- Flash, online gaming, iTunes games and more - into the COW, here for the same reasons that film and video producers have been coming to our communities for 14 years, and watch convergence explode before your eyes.

No story this big can be told in a single issue. We'll keep digging in deeper at more jobs information, interviews with industry leaders, and more of the games-related hardcore production (not just post) stories that you've come to expect from The COW Magazine.

From there, we'll also be exploring the ways that games are changing the landscape of technology. The demands of gamers for beefier processors, higher resolution monitors with faster redraws, surround sound, social networking, and, increasingly, stereoscopic 3D immersive experience, are all making their way into a world even bigger than the world of gaming itself. That's BIG.

In the meantime, there are indeed some production stories for this issue: Oscar-winner James Moll's new documentary "Running the Sahara," is about three guys who, well, yeah - and James has great stories about the shoot. And Bob Zelin will once again blow your mind, this time with Blackmagic's Broadcast Videohub, a distribution revolution. An upcoming expanded edition of Dustin Lau's article on advanced media management with FCP, using workflows he developed for a games review TV show in Singapore, will also include more production angles than our decidedly post-oriented print version. (Links to follow.)

Our detour into Games is an opportunity to remember that, whatever your field of endeavor, we're all playing for keeps, every day. Thanks, too, for helping us play to win at, as over 1.3 million monthly visitors help each other get to the next level of the game! In the meantime, have fun with this issue. We sure did.

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