Yellow Submarine (film)
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Original theatrical release poster
|Produced by||Al Brodax|
|Story by||Lee Minoff|
|Based on||"Yellow Submarine"|
|Narrated by||Paul Angelis|
|Edited by||Brian J. Bishop|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
Yellow Submarine (also known as The Beatles: Yellow Submarine) is a 1968 British animated film inspired by the music of the Beatles, directed by animation producer George Dunning, and produced by United Artists and King Features Syndicate. Initial press reports stated that the Beatles themselves would provide their own character voices. However, aside from composing and performing the songs, the real Beatles participated only in the closing scene of the film, while their cartoon counterparts were voiced by other actors.
The film received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike, in contrast to some of the Beatles' previous film ventures. Pixar co-founder and former chief creative officer John Lasseter has credited the film with bringing more interest in animation as a serious art form. Time commented that it "turned into a smash hit, delighting adolescents and aesthetes alike". Half a century after its release, it is still regarded as a landmark of animation.
Pepperland is a cheerful, music-loving paradise under the sea, protected by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The titular Yellow Submarine rests on an Aztec-like pyramid on a hill. At the edge of the land is a range of high blue mountains.
The land falls under a surprise attack from the music-hating Blue Meanies, who live beyond the blue mountains. The attack starts with a music-proof blue glass globe that imprisons the band. With the band sealed in the globe, the Blue Meanies fire projectiles from big artillery stationed in the blue mountains and render the Pepperlanders immobile as statues by shooting explosive arrows or dropping giant green apples upon them (a reference to the Beatles then-new company Apple Corps), and drain the entire countryside of colour.
In the last minutes before his capture, Pepperland's elderly Lord Mayor sends Old Fred, an aging sailor (whom the even more elderly mayor calls "Young Fred"), to get help. An explosive fired from one of the Blue Meanies' clowns reactivates the mothballed Yellow Submarine and it takes off with Fred in it ("Yellow Submarine"). Old Fred travels to Liverpool ("Eleanor Rigby"), where he follows a depressed Ringo to The Pier, a house-like building on the top of a hill, and persuades him to return to Pepperland with him. Ringo collects his "mates" John, George, and finally Paul, and the five journey back to Pepperland in the yellow submarine. As they operate the submarine, they sing "All Together Now", after which they pass through several regions on their way to Pepperland:
- Sea of Time – where time flows both forwards and then backwards (to the tune of "When I'm Sixty-Four"). At one point, the submarine passes itself as it loops through time.
- Sea of Science – where they sing "Only a Northern Song". Just before the song finishes, they pick up a monster.
- Sea of Monsters – The monster is ejected into a sea inhabited by other weird monsters. Turning its multi-periscope into a lighter, the submarine lights a cigar for a boxing monster. Ringo accidentally presses the submarine's panic button, ejecting him from the submarine and into the sea. He is seen precariously riding one of the monsters, and is then chased by Native American-like creatures, resulting in John pressing another button which sends the US Cavalry to successfully rescue Ringo. Immediately afterwards, the sinister "vacuum cleaner monster" swallows up all loose objects, creatures, the submarine, the entire landscape, and finally itself, ejecting the submarine into an empty void. The submarine's motor shorts out, and George burns his finger trying to fix it (it is not bothering him by the next scene).
- Sea of Nothing – This blank region is where they meet Jeremy Hillary Boob Ph.D. ("Phud"), a short pudgy creature with a painted clown face and rabbit-like cotton tail, but highly studious and helpful to the Beatles by fixing the motor. They sing "Nowhere Man" in reference to him. As they prepare to leave, Ringo feels sorry for the lonely "Nowhere Man" and invites him to join them aboard the submarine.
- Foothills of the Headlands – When the submarine's propellers stop working, Jeremy fixes them with chewing gum. Unfortunately, once they start up again, they can't be controlled, and Jeremy and the Beatles are separated from the Submarine (and Old Fred). The group find themselves in "the foothills of the Headlands", where John sings "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Spilled pepper (foreshadowing that Pepperland is yet to come) causes the Headlands to sneeze, blowing the Beatles and Jeremy into the Sea of Holes.
- Sea of Holes – While they are all searching for the hole leading to the Sea of Green, Jeremy is kidnapped by a Blue Meanie. Ringo investigates one of the endless number of holes and puts it into his pocket. Searching for Jeremy, Ringo jumps onto a green hole which turns the Sea of Holes into the Sea of Green. From here, the group arrives in Pepperland, followed by Old Fred in the Submarine.
Reunited with Old Fred and reviving the Lord Mayor, they look upon the landscape: a sorry sight. The beautiful flowers have become thorns, and the once-happy landscape now a grey, barren wasteland. Everyone is immobilized and made miserable by the evil Blue Meanies, only able to move when permitted (such as when the Meanies feel like bullying them). The Beatles, camouflaged as Pepperlandian cutouts, make it up the hill to the Grand Bandstand, where the Meanies impounded "everything that maketh music" (dodging the Meanies' vicious multi-headed [and multi-bodied] dog on the way), dress up as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and reacquire (steal back) some instruments (their own instruments were lost in the Sea of Monsters). Trying to creep back down the hill the next morning, the four are discovered at the very last second when Ringo accidentally steps on a bagpipe, and a clown sounds the alarm, causing the Beatles to flee hastily from the reawakened Meanies. Once in the clear, after defeating some apple-bonkers, the four rally the land to rebellion, singing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", eventually forcing the Blue Meanie forces to retreat. The Chief Blue Meanie retaliates, sending out his main enforcer, the Dreadful Flying Glove, but John easily defeats it by singing "All You Need is Love". Pepperland is restored to colour and its flowers re-bloom as the residents, empowered by the Beatles' music, rise up and take up arms (flowers) against the Meanies, who begin fleeing headlong back to the blue border mountains where they came from. The original Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are released (thanks to the hole carried in Ringo's pocket from the Sea of Holes). The Beatles then have a rematch with the four-headed Meanie dog, singing "Hey Bulldog", with the Beatles victorious once again (This scene was originally omitted in the US version), and Ringo rescues Jeremy. The Blue Meanies are forced to retreat, and the Chief Blue Meanie tries to save face by trying to pound Jeremy into "a blue burger", but Jeremy performs some "transformation magic" on him, causing the Meanie to bloom roses and sadly concede defeat. John extends an offer of friendship, and the Chief Blue Meanie has a change of heart (partly due to the "transformation magic" performed by Jeremy) and accepts. An enormous party ensues, where everyone sings "It's All Too Much" with everyone living happily ever after.
At the end, we see the real Beatles in live-action, having returned home, playfully showing off their souvenirs: George has the submarine's motor, Paul has (literally) "a little 'LOVE'" and Ringo still has half a hole in his pocket (having supposedly given the other half to Jeremy, who will, as Paul says, "fix it to keep his mind from wandering", a reference to "Fixing a Hole"). Ringo points out John looking through a telescope, which prompts Paul to ask (recalling cartoon Paul's first line in the film), "What's the matter, John-Love? Blue Meanies?" John replies that "newer and bluer Meanies have been sighted within the vicinity of this theatre" and claims there is only one way to go out: "Singing!" The four obliges with a short reprise of "All Together Now", which ends with translations of the song's title in various languages appearing in sequence on the screen. The film originally concluded with the words "Released through United Artists" on the bottom-right-hand-corner of the screen.
- John Clive as John
- Geoffrey Hughes as Paul
- Peter Batten as George (uncredited)
- Paul Angelis as Opening Narrator / Chief Blue Meanie / Ringo / George (additional dialogue)
- Dick Emery as Max / Lord Mayor / Jeremy Hillary Boob
- Lance Percival as "Young/Old" Fred
- According to the special features section of the Yellow Submarine DVD, Peter Batten provided the voice of George for about the first half of the movie. Before he finished recording for the film, he was discovered to be a deserter from the British Army of the Rhine in West Germany, and was arrested. His part was completed by Angelis, who was also the voice of Ringo and the Chief Blue Meanie.
- Percival also provided the voices of Paul and Ringo for the ABC TV cartoon series The Beatles.
The Beatles were not enthusiastic about participating in a new motion picture, having been dissatisfied with their second feature film, Help! (1965), directed by Richard Lester. However, they saw an animated film as a favourable way to complete their commitment to United Artists for a third film. Many fans have assumed that the cartoon did not satisfy the contract, but Let It Be (1970) was the film not connected to the original three-picture deal the Beatles made with United Artists.
The Beatles make a live-action cameo appearance in the final scene, which was filmed on 25 January 1968, shortly before the band's trip to India. This was done primarily to fulfill their contractual obligation to United Artists of actually appearing in the film. The cameo was originally intended to feature a post-production psychedelic background and effects, but because of time and budget constraints, a blank, black background remained in the final film. While Starr and McCartney still looked the same as their animated counterparts, Lennon and Harrison's physical appearances had changed by the time the cameo was shot. Both were clean-shaven, and Lennon had begun to grow his hair longer with accompanying mutton chop sideburns.
The original story was written by Lee Minoff, based on the song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and the screenplay penned by four collaborators including Erich Segal. The George Harrison character's recurring line "It's all in the mind" is taken from The Goon Show.
As with many motion picture musicals, the music takes precedence over the actual plot, and most of the story is a series of set pieces designed to present Beatles music set to various images, in a form reminiscent of Walt Disney's Fantasia (and foreshadowing the rise of music videos and MTV thirteen years later). Nonetheless, the film still presents a modern-day fairy tale representing the values of its intended hippie audience.
The dialogue is littered with puns, double entendres, and Beatles in-jokes. In the DVD commentary track production supervisor John Coates states that many of these lines were written by Liverpudlian poet Roger McGough, though he received no credit in the film.
In the DVD commentary track, Coates states that the Meanies were always intended to be coloured blue. However, Millicent McMillan recalls that the Blue Meanies were originally supposed to be red, or even purple, but when Heinz Edelmann's assistant accidentally changed the colours, the film's characters took on a different meaning. Coates acknowledges in the commentary that the "are you Bluish? You don't look Bluish" joke in the film is a pun on the then-contemporary expression "you don't look Jewish", but that it was not intended to be derogatory.
The Beatles' animated personas were based on their appearance in the promotional film for the song "Strawberry Fields Forever", with the exception of Paul being without his moustache. The film also includes several references to songs not included in the soundtrack, including "A Day in the Life", where the lyrics are referenced in the "Sea of Holes" scene, as well as the orchestral breaks earlier in the film, also from "A Day in the Life".
National and foreign animators were assembled by TVC. American animators Robert Balser and Jack Stokes were hired as the film's animation directors. Charlie Jenkins, one of the film's key creative directors, was responsible for the entire "Eleanor Rigby" sequence, as well as the submarine travel from Liverpool, through London, to splashdown. Jenkins also was responsible for "Only a Northern Song" in the Sea of Science, plus much of the multi-image sequences. A large crew of skilled animators, including (in alphabetical order) Alan Ball, Ron Campbell, John Challis, Hester Coblentz, Geoff Collins, Rich Cox, Duane Crowther, Tony Cuthbert, Malcolm Draper, Paul Driessen, Cam Ford, Norm Drew, Tom Halley, Dick Horne, Arthur Humberstone, Dennis Hunt, Greg Irons, Dianne Jackson, Anne Jolliffe, Dave Livesey, Reg Lodge, Geoff Loynes, Lawrence Moorcroft, Ted Percival, Mike Pocock, Gerald Potterton, and Peter Tupy, were responsible for bringing the animated Beatles to life. The background work was executed by artists under the direction of Alison de Vere and Millicent McMillan who were both background supervisors. Ted Lewis and Chris Miles were responsible for animation cleanup.
George Dunning, who also worked on the Beatles cartoon series, was the overall director for the film, supervising over 200 artists for 11 months. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was Dunning's idea, which he turned over to Bill Sewell, who delivered more than thirty minutes of rotoscoped images. By that time, Dunning was unavailable, and Bob Balser, with the help of Arne Gustafson, edited the material to its sequence length in the film.
The animation design of Yellow Submarine has sometimes been incorrectly attributed to famous psychedelic pop art artist of the era Peter Max, but the film's art director was Heinz Edelmann. Edelmann, along with his contemporary Milton Glaser, pioneered the psychedelic style for which Max would later become famous, but according to Edelmann and producer Al Brodax, as quoted in the book Inside the Yellow Submarine by Hieronimus and Cortner, Max had nothing to do with the production of Yellow Submarine.
The film's surreal visual style, created by creative director Heinz Edelmann, contrasts greatly with the efforts of Walt Disney Animation Studios and other animated films previously released by Hollywood up until the time. The film uses a style of limited animation. It also paved the way for Terry Gilliam's animations for Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python's Flying Circus (particularly the Eleanor Rigby sequence), as well as the Schoolhouse Rock vignettes for ABC and similar-looking animation in early seasons of Sesame Street and The Electric Company. (As such, only one of the animation staff of Yellow Submarine did indeed contribute subsequent animation to Children's Television Workshop: Ron Campbell.)
In addition to the 1966-released title song "Yellow Submarine", several complete or excerpted songs, four previously unreleased, were used in the film. The songs included "All Together Now", "It's All Too Much", written by Harrison; "Baby, You're a Rich Man", which had first appeared as the B-side to "All You Need Is Love", in June 1967, "Only a Northern Song", a Harrison composition originally recorded during sessions for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and "Hey Bulldog". Written by Lennon, this last track was cut from the film before it opened in the US. "Hey Bulldog" was restored for the US theatrical and home video reissue in 1999. The four new songs used on the soundtrack album were not considered of high enough quality for appearance on a "regular" Beatles album.
The film's instrumental music was an orchestral score composed and arranged by George Martin. One of the film's cues, heard after the main title credits, was originally recorded during sessions for "Good Night" (a track on The Beatles, also known as the "White Album") and would have been used as the introduction to Starr's White Album composition "Don't Pass Me By". The same cue was later released as "A Beginning" on the 1996 Beatles compilation Anthology 3.
- All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney except where noted.
- Track start and end time is indicated in hrs:mins:secs. These are approximated because the songs are embedded in the film plot and cannot be strictly separated.
- 0:00:21–0:02:15: "Introduction Story" music by George Martin
- 0:07:55–0:10:40: "Yellow Submarine"
- 0:10:40–0:13:30: "Eleanor Rigby"
- 0:19:00–0:19:55: "Love You To" (George Harrison) (excerpt, played during George's entrance)
- 0:22:30–0:23:05: "A Day in the Life" (excerpt, orchestral swell, starting as the Submarine takes off)
- 0:23:25–0:25:55: "All Together Now"
- 0:28:20–0:31:15: "When I'm Sixty-Four"
- 0:31:30–0:34:30: "Only a Northern Song" (Harrison)
- 0:43:15–0:46:15: "Nowhere Man"
- 0:48:00–0:51:30: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
- 0:54:30–0:54:50: "Yellow Submarine" (a short vocal excerpt when Ringo finds the green hole that leads to Pepperland)
- 0:56:15–0:56:25: "Think for Yourself" (Harrison) (short excerpt, a line is sung a cappella to revive the Lord Mayor)
- 1:06:35–1:08:50: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
- 1:08:50–1:09:05: "With a Little Help from My Friends" (short excerpt, directly following "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" without interruption, just as on the 1967 album of the same name)
- 1:11:45–1:15:05: "All You Need Is Love"
- 1:16:30–1:16:40: "Baby, You're a Rich Man" (excerpt, played as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are, thanks to Ringo's "hole in [his] pocket", set free from the anti-music bubble; the recording of the song is expanded for the American-released version, and the scene with the expansion of the recording of the song leads to a scene that replaces the "Hey Bulldog" sequence due to the latter sequence being "anti-climactic".)
- 1:17:25–1:21:00: "Hey Bulldog" Originally shown only in Europe before the film's 1999 restoration.
- 1:24:15–1:27:15: "It's All Too Much" (Harrison)
- 1:27:15–1:29:00: "All Together Now" (accompanied by images of the real Beatles singing, numbers and letters, and "all together now" translated in various languages)
- First soundtrack album
- Second soundtrack album
Another soundtrack was released in 1999, which contained all of the Beatles' songs from the film except "A Day in the Life".
Yellow Submarine received widespread critical acclaim. Released in the midst of the psychedelic pop culture of the 1960s, the film drew in movie goers both for its lush, wildly creative images, and its soundtrack of Beatles songs. The film was distributed worldwide by United Artists in two versions. The version shown in Europe included an extra musical number, "Hey Bulldog", heard in the final third of the film. For release in the United States, the number was replaced with alternative animation due to time constraints. It was felt that at the time, American audiences would grow tired from the length of the film. The box office receipts for the film were as follows: domestic receipts - $992,000+ USD; international receipts - $280,000+ USD. For reference, the top grossing films for 1968 were in excess of $50M in the domestic market alone.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 97% approval rating based on 58 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The website's critical consensus states: "A joyful, phantasmagoric blend of colorful animation and the music of the Beatles, Yellow Submarine is delightful (and occasionally melancholy) family fare." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews". According to one source the film was not a commercial success.
Rights and distribution
Of all the Beatles films released by UA, this had been the only one to which UA retained the rights, leading up to its purchase by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1981. In 2005, Sony Pictures Entertainment led a consortium that purchased MGM and UA. SPE had handled theatrical distribution for MGM until 2012. Conversely, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment was responsible for home video distribution when the most recent home video release went out of print.
For the 50th anniversary of the movie in 2018, it screened in UK and Ireland for one day on 8 July 2018, and in the US from 8 July 2018. Additionally, Amazon negotiated an exclusive streaming window on the movie via their Amazon Prime service, starting 13 July 2018 in the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, Spain, France and Italy under a deal with Apple Corps. The companies declined to disclose the length of the Amazon's exclusive rights.
With the dawn of the home video era came an opportunity to release Yellow Submarine on VHS and LaserDisc. However, it was held up for some years due to music-rights issues that United Artists had to clear in order for the film to be issued on video by what was then MGM/UA Home Video in 1987. Coinciding with the CD release of the soundtrack album, United Artists issued the film on home video on 28 August that year. To the disappointment of fans in the UK, the film was presented in its US theatrical version, thereby omitting the "Hey Bulldog" scene. The video was discontinued around 1990, and for many years copies of the original VHS issue were considered collectables.
On 14 September 1999, then-rights holders Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Apple reissued the film for the first time on DVD and VHS using restoration techniques of the time. The sound was remixed to Dolby 5.1, and the film re-edited to its European theatrical version, with the "Hey Bulldog" number restored. This version (released through MGM Home Entertainment) went out of print once the rights reverted to Apple Corps.
The film became available on Amazon Prime Video on 13 July 2018 in the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, Spain, France and Italy.
On 20 March 2012, Apple announced that the film had been restored by hand for DVD and Blu-ray release on 28 May 2012 (29 May 2012 in North America), later delayed one week to 4 June 2012 (5 June 2012 in North America). In a released statement, the company stated: "The film's soundtrack album will be reissued on CD on the same date. The film has been restored in 4K digital resolution for the first time – all done by hand, frame by frame." The delicate restoration was supervised by Paul Rutan Jr and his team which included Chris Dusendschon, Rayan Raghuram and Randy Walker. No automated software was used to clean-up the film's repaired and digitised photo-chemical elements. The work was done by hand, a single frame at a time by forty to sixty trained digital artists over several months.
In addition to the DVD and Blu-ray re-release, the restored version also received a limited theatrical run in May 2012.
On 14 September 1999, United Artists and Apple Records digitally remixed the audio of the film for a highly successful theatrical and home video re-release. Though the visuals were not digitally restored, a new transfer was done after cleaning the original film negative and rejuvenating the colour. A soundtrack album for this version was also released, which featured the first extensive digital stereo remixes of Beatles material.
The previous DVD release also featured a music-only audio track, without spoken dialogue, leaving only the music and the songs. As aforementioned, the MGM disc is out of print and the film's rights have reverted to Apple who reissued the film on 5 June 2012 on DVD and Blu-ray.
Awards and honours
- 1968 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Special Award
- 1969 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (nominated)
- 1970 Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special (nominated)
In August 2009, Variety reported that Walt Disney Pictures and filmmaker Robert Zemeckis were negotiating to produce a 3D computer animated remake of the film. Motion capture was to be used, as with Zemeckis' previous animated films The Polar Express (2004), Monster House (2006), Beowulf (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2009). Variety also indicated Disney hoped to release the film in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Disney and Apple Corps officially announced the remake at the inaugural D23 Expo on 11 September 2009.
Comedian Peter Serafinowicz was cast to voice Paul, Dean Lennox Kelly as John, Cary Elwes as George and Adam Campbell as Ringo. California-based Beatles tribute band The Fab Four was cast to perform the performance capture animation for the animated Beatles.
In May 2010, Disney closed Zemeckis' digital film studio ImageMovers Digital, after the successful yet unsatisfactory box office performance of A Christmas Carol. On 14 March 2011, Disney abandoned the project, citing the disastrous opening weekend results of Simon Wells' Mars Needs Moms. Criticism towards motion capture technology was also a factor.
After its cancellation at Disney, Zemeckis tried to pitch the remake to other studios. By December 2012, Zemeckis expressed that he had lost interest in the project, stating: "That would have been great to bring the Beatles back to life. But it's probably better not to be remade – you're always behind the 8-ball when do you [sic] a remake."
In popular culture
- In The Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield" (1993), Lisa Simpson, under anesthetic, has a dream sequence highly reminiscent of the film.
- In Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007), Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) meets the Beatles (Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long, and Jason Schwartzman) in a tent with Jai Guru Deva Om and is offered to take an LSD trip with them. They start dreaming and end up in scenes of the film.
- In the opening sequence of the third Futurama film Bender's Game (2008), the Planet Express ship flies into the giant television screen and, rather than crashing and breaking it as in the show's usual opening, it gets absorbed into the screen and travels through an opening sequence that parodies the Yellow Submarine's journey in the film.
- Yellow Submarine images are also satirised in episodes of Robot Chicken and Superjail!.
- In 2016, for the 50th anniversary of the original song's release, the popular die-cast toy car brand Hot Wheels released a 1:64 scale edition of the Yellow Submarine, as well as a six-car series, with packaging and decorations based on the film.
- In 2016, Lego Ideas released a Yellow Submarine Lego set. The Minifigures include all four Beatles and Jeremy Hillary Boob.
- On 1 March 2014, Vans officially released a series of shoes based on Yellow Submarine. They cost about $65 and $75.
- The third season of Legion features giggling time demons who are seen to greatly resemble the Blue Meanies.
- In the 2019 Marvel Cinematic Universe film Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark jokingly refers to his shipmate Nebula as a "Blue Meanie."
- In the 2019 film Yesterday, in which a mysterious worldwide electrical blackout causes almost everyone except the film's protagonist Jack Malik to forget the Beatles and allowing him to pass off the music as his own, one of the characters holds up miniature Yellow Submarine at a press conference to indicate that they remember the Beatles.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Yellow Submarine|
- Official website
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- Yellow Submarine movie review by Roger Ebert
- h2g2 Yellow Submarine – the Film Edited Guide Entry
- "Heinz Edelmann, 'Yellow Submarine' Artist, Dies at 75", The New York Times
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