The Beatles is an American animated television series featuring representations of the popular British rock band of the same name. It was originally broadcast from 1965 to 1969 on ABC in the U.S. (only 1965 to 1967 was first run; later seasons were repeats). The series debuted on September 25, 1965, and new episodes ended on October 21, 1967. A total of 39 episodes were produced. The series was shown on Saturday mornings at 10:30 AM EST until the 1967 third season when it was moved to 12:00 PM EST. For the 1968-69 fourth season, which consisted of repeats, the series was shown at 9:30 AM EST on Sunday mornings. Each episode has the name of a Beatles song, so the story is based on its lyrics and it is also played at some time in the episode. The original series was rebroadcast in syndication by MTV in 1986 and 1987 and on the Disney Channel beginning in 1989 on Fridays at 5 PM. The series was a historical milestone as the first weekly television series to feature animated versions of real, living people.
The series consisted of short animated stories that essentially were intended to set up the visual illustration of Beatles songs that were played in their entirety. In addition, there were sing-along sequences with simpler imagery complementing the full lyrics of particular songs.
The series became notorious for its static depiction of the band in their early "mop-top-and-suit" look as depicted in the live-action film, A Hard Day's Night, even though the band moved beyond it during the series' run. The producers did attempt to acknowledge the band members' contemporary appearances with photographs of them in the series' title sequences during its production run.
The band members themselves had nothing to do with the series' production beyond the use of their music recordings. American actor Paul Frees did the voices of John and George while Lance Percival (of the Carry On series) did the voices of Paul and Ringo. Frees had been the voice of Boris Badenov in The Rocky and Bullwinkle series. The female voices were provided by Julie Bennett and Carol Corbett. At first, the Beatles disliked the series. It is reported, however, that the band members enjoyed the cartoons in later years. Their views of the cartoon series discouraged them from participating significantly in the later animated feature film, Yellow Submarine. Only when the band saw and were impressed by the Yellow Submarine's finished footage did they realize the film was a more ambitious creation. As a result, they agreed to appear in a short live-action epilogue for it. In fact, Yellow Submarine producer Al Brodax and director George Dunning were involved in the production both of the animated series and of Yellow Submarine.
Initially, the opening credits theme was a guitar riff from "A Hard Day's Night" segueing into "Can't Buy Me Love", over a cartoon sequence of the group running down a fire escape, echoing a scene in A Hard Day's Night. The second season's opening theme was "Help!", while the third season's theme was "And Your Bird Can Sing", over a different cartoon sequence.
Although uncredited, Dennis Marks, along with Jack Mendelsohn, Heywood Kling, and Bruce Howard, wrote all 39 episodes of The Beatles series.
Most of the episodes of the series were produced by Artransa Park Studios in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and George Dunning's company TVC Animation in London, with a handful of episodes made in Hollywood, with a crew supervised by veteran cartoon writer John W. Dunn.