Disney to release Peter Jackson's The Beatles documentary this September

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
The Beatles in THE BEATLES: GET BACK. (Linda McCartney)

Disney has acquired the rights to Peter Jackson’s long-awaited The Beatles documentary, setting a release date of 4 September in the United Kingdom.

The feature length film, titled The Beatles: Get Back, will document the making of the Fab Four’s penultimate studio album Let It Be, and features extensive never-before-seen footage from the recording sessions. It will also feature the band’s final live performance in 1969 on the roof of their Savile Row office, in full and remastered.

The band’s drummer, Ringo Starr, says the film offers a totally different perspective on the recording sessions to Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 documentary Let It Be, which portrayed a band in turmoil and was released just one month after they officially split.

"I’m really looking forward to this film. Peter is great and it was so cool looking at all this footage. There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the version that came out,” Starr said in a statement.

Read more: New Beatles doc to ‘bust myths’ about Let It Be sessions

“There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that. I think this version will be a lot more peace and loving, like we really were."

Paul McCartney adds: “The friendship and love between us comes over and reminds me of what a crazily beautiful time we had."

Compiled from over 55 hours of unseen footage, filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969, and 140 hours of mostly unheard audio recordings from the Let It Be album sessions, a press release for the film said the film will “showcase the warmth, camaraderie and humour of the making of the legendary band’s studio album”.

The Beatles at TVC's animation studios, participating in "Mod Odyssey," a film about the creation of Yellow Submarine, November 6, 1967. (Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images)

The footage has been restored by Park Road Post Production of Wellington, New Zealand, and is being edited by Jabez Olssen, who collaborated with Jackson on 2018’s They Shall Not Grow Old, the groundbreaking film which featured restored and colorised World War I archival footage. The music in the film will be mixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell at Abbey Road Studios in London.

Peter Jackson said, "Working on this project has been a joyous discovery. I’ve been privileged to be a fly on the wall while the greatest band of all time works, plays and creates masterpieces. I’m thrilled that Disney have stepped up as our distributor. There’s no one better to have our movie seen by the greatest number of people."

The announcement was made earlier today by Bob Iger, Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, at Disney’s annual meeting of shareholders.

The four members of the BEATLES giving a press conference upon the release of their new album SERGENT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BANDS on June 1st. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

“No band has had the kind of impact on the world that The Beatles have had, and The Beatles: Get Back is a front-row seat to the inner workings of these genius creators at a seminal moment in music history, with spectacularly restored footage that looks like it was shot yesterday," Iger said.

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"I’m a huge fan myself, so I could not be happier that Disney is able to share Peter Jackson’s stunning documentary with global audiences in September."

Lindsay-Hogg’s Let It Be was released in May 1970 at the same time as the album which features hits such as The Long and Winding Road, Across The Universe and Get Back. Both came a month after the band announced their split.

Let It Be, poster, The Beatles-clockwise from top left: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, 1970. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

The 1970 film not been officially available on home video since the 1980s. Footage from the film appeared in the extensive 1995 documentary series The Beatles Anthology, but a planned DVD release was canned in 2007.

“The film was so controversial when it first came out. When we got halfway through restoring it, we looked at the outtakes and realised: this stuff is still controversial. It raised a lot of old issues,” said Beatles exec Neil Aspinall at the time.

The Disney press release confirmed Lindsay-Hogg’s film is also being fully restored and will be made available at a later date.

This isn’t the first time The Beatles have hooked up with Disney. The Fab Four were linked with playing the vultures in the 1964 The Jungle Book, and in 2009 the studio announced a CGI motion capture remake of the band’s 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine, directed by Robert Zemeckis. It was cancelled in 2011.