The story that Disney will tell you in the new trailer for “The Beatles: Get Back” is that in January 1969, a film crew was given unprecedented access to document the Beatles at work. This resulted in over 57 hours of the most intimate footage the band ever shot and that it remained in the vaults unseen for several decades. The reality is, the footage did come out: 1970’s “Let It Be,” from director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. The problem was, the entire documentary and the footage they shot was an unflattering mess: it basically was documenting the break-up of the Beatles in real-time (which happened about a year after the footage was shot), and once the band and everyone realized this, it was quickly taken out of circulation and not seen for years aside from anyone who got their hands on bootlegs of VHS copies (I’ve seen it, it’s bad).
But many of the great music documentaries of recent years have essentially excavated lesser documentaries to make something better. Take Martin Scorsese‘s Bob Dylan doc, “No Direction Home,” which takes a lot of footage from Dylan’s own, fascinating, but not-that-great documentary, “Eat The Document,” and recontextualizes it for a modern audience. That’s basically what Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “They Shall Not Grow Old”) has done with “Beatles: Get Back,” taken all the footage from the rambling and shambling, “Let It Be,” doc, and transformed it into a proper documentary that just doesn’t let real-time footage play out in full (maybe some of these novices didn’t know what they were doing back in the ’70s).
Once a movie, ‘Get Back’ is now a Disney+ original docuseries and will be arriving on Disney+ just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Made entirely from never-before-seen*, restored footage, it provides the most intimate and honest glimpse into the creative process and relationship between John, Paul, George, and Ringo ever filmed (*big caveat to the aforementioned set-up graphs).
Here’s the official synopsis:
Directed by three-time Oscar®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “They Shall Not Grow Old”), “The Beatles: Get Back” takes audiences back in time to the band’s January 1969 recording sessions, which became a pivotal moment in music history. The docu-series showcases The Beatles’ creative process as they attempt to write 14 new songs in preparation for their first live concert in over two years. Faced with a nearly impossible deadline, the strong bonds of friendship shared by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are put to the test. The docuseries is compiled from nearly 60 hours of unseen footage shot over 21 days, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969, and from more than 150 hours of unheard audio, most of which has been locked in a vault for over half a century. Jackson is the only person in 50 years to have been given access to this Beatles treasure trove, all of which has now been brilliantly restored. What emerges is an unbelievably intimate portrait of The Beatles, showing how, with their backs against the wall, they could still rely on their friendship, good humor, and creative genius. While plans derail and relationships are put to the test, some of the world’s most iconic songs are composed and performed.
The docuseries features – for the first time in its entirety – The Beatles’ last live performance as a group, the unforgettable rooftop concert on London’s Savile Row, as well as other songs and classic compositions featured on the band’s final two albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be. An exciting new collaboration between The Beatles and Jackson presented by The Walt Disney Studios in association with Apple Corps Ltd. and WingNut Films Productions Ltd., “The Beatles: Get Back” is directed by Peter Jackson, produced by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon, Olivia Harrison, Peter Jackson, Clare Olssen (“They Shall Not Grow Old”) and Jonathan Clyde (“Eight Days a Week”), with Apple Corps’ Jeff Jones (“Eight Days a Week”) and Ken Kamins (“The Hobbit” trilogy) serving as executive producers. Jabez Olssen (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) serves as the film’s editor, the music supervisor is Giles Martin (“Rocketman”), Michael Hedges (“The Adventures of Tintin”), and Brent Burge (“The Hobbit” trilogy) serve as the series re-recording mixers, and the music is mixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell (“Yesterday”).
Note the title, “Get Back,” rather than “Let It Be.” Of course, the Beatles’ final album was Let It Be, produced and augmented by Phil Spector. But Get Back was the album’s original title, and in 2003 Paul McCartney released, Let It Be… Naked, which is essentially what Let It Be, was supposed to be originally: a stripped-back, paired down, back-to-basics album called Get Back (the arguing over all of this is part of what ended the Beatles, got that?).
So yes, the documentary sounds like it may not focus on the dissolution of the Beatles, but the inklings of that divorce did start during these recording sessions, so we’ll see just how deep and dark it gets. “The Beatles: Get Back” rolls out over three days, November 25, 26, and 27, 2021, exclusively on Disney+. Watch the new trailer below.