Everything but the Game: the Art and Motion of The Beatles: Rock Band


Apart from a loving tribute to a landmark act, Harmonix's singularly-focused rhythm game The Beatles: Rock Band is just as significant a work for being what is essentially gaming's first, best interactive documentary.

Tracing the band's rise and rise from their inauspicious Cavern Club beginnings to the Apple Corps rooftop finale, TB:RB offers a look inside the life of the band both overt (see: the traces and ephemeral snippets in the form of unlockable photos and fan club merch) and covert (see, here: the difficulty-arc-dip from their early, more technical work -- a band with something to prove -- to the remarkably simple bliss-outs as they move into their, er, higher, altered states).

But possibly its most remarkable achievement is the art and motion graphics that went in to the game, from Passion Pictures' eye-searingly gorgeous intro and outro videos, aided by Alberto Mielgo's concepts (at top), and the 'Kid Stays in the Picture'-esque interstitials by Kansas City, MO's MK12.

Below the fold, then: the best of all the above in a high-res gallery, giving you everything but the game.

The intro and outro videos directed by Pete Candeland (the Passion Pictures producer best known for his work animating The Gorillaz) remain the highlight of the entire TB:RB experience, as becomes instantly clear with a quick view of the following.

Illustrator Alberto Mielgo was instrumental at concepting the animated-look at the life of The Beatles, as seen with his setpieces below.


And MK12, the studio who you might otherwise recall for their Agenda Suicide video for dark-wave band The Faint, put together these chapter-bridging interstitials that lead you from venue to venue, and era to era.

See Harmonix's official The Beatles: Rock Band website for more information on the game.


  1. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaawesome! Thanks BB so much for this amazing gallery. Been wanting to grab this title ever since seeing the opening and closing animations.

  2. Might want to put a spoiler warning on this, as these animations are in-game rewards. The second clip you put up is the game’s final cinematic: your reward for finishing the game.

  3. nice stuff from mk12 (as usual) but doesn’t seem to really live up to their best stuff. i would have thought mk12 would unleashe all of their creative tools on this one.

  4. Loved the first animation when I first saw it – thanks for posting the others. Anyone know of a high-res version of the second clip?

  5. Gahhh, I’m honestly tempted to buy the game now and buy a console for it later, just to be sure I don’t miss out on the game.

  6. Worth noting that Matt Fraction, who has brought a really sharp designers eye to comics with books like Casanova and his run on Iron Man, got his start with MK12.

    Gorgeous stuff. It’s funny that the game is so involving that you kind of zone out the art and design, which are so worth enjoying on their own.

  7. Yeah that intro clip is beautiful! I havent played it, tho I doubt the rest of the game is as fantastic as the Sun/Walrus animation. It’s be nice to see that sort of psychedelic fantasy world evolve, maybe an extended animation project will come out of this partnership, that would be awesome.

    On a side note I really wish they had dropped the giant sustained E chord from the end of “A Day in the Life” at the end of the intro video…

  8. I imagine it’s a pretty nice game,
    but I haven’t got console to play

    I imagine it’s a pretty nice game
    but does it change from play to play?

    Want to tell you that I like the intros a lot
    But colorful dots on my telly in a line

    is not my idea of play
    oh yeah not my idea of play.

  9. Inauspicious Cavern Club beginnings? Brian Epstein saw the Beatles play at the Cavern Club, and it was their obvious charisma and stage presence that persuaded him to become their manager.

  10. Absolutely gorgeous. Even apart from the amazing design, the thing I’ve found unexpectedly moving about the game is how much more I find myself appreciating the Beatles; when you’re forced to pay such close attention to every single note of every instrument, you get a much deeper understanding of just how well-constructed these songs are. I’m looking forward to the full album downloads, starting with my favorite album, Abbey Road.

    I want to work for MK12. I’d settle for being talented enough to work for MK12.

  11. It is a lot like a documentary, but it leaves out any negative details- drug use, band disagreements, Yoko, etc. It’s sort of a flowery-revisionist history on the band, but there’s no way a game could truly document all that, because of a few things- like how the game needs an E Rating, and that it needed the approval of the remaining Beatles + the wives.

    Also, for the dozens of artists who worked on the in-game stuff; that is all just as beautiful as the cut scenes :)

  12. Thanks Brandon. This game was my personal favorite of all the music games, because for once I wasn’t forced to play through songs I hated. Peter Molyneux famously once said he wanted to make games that could make the player cry. Well, reaching the end of Beatles Rock Band hit that sweet spot for me – not because the game was over, but because it was a reminder of what might have been…

  13. Someone should hire Passion Pictures to make a full animated movie of this. Passion Pictures work was lovely.

    MTV plays some animations of a few Beatles songs but they are just disappointing. These videos, especially the first few, really catch it for me. I’d buy a DVD of a movie like this in a minute.

  14. I was 16 yrs old when the Beatles hit town. As good as these graphics are, the music is 10 maybe even 11 levels higher. Besides I think I saw some of this stuff before, on the backs of my eyelids, many years ago after finding the correct chemical formula. Beatles forever!

  15. “gaming’s first, best interactive documentary”? I’m pretty sure that title goes to Oregon Trail.

  16. If Oregon Trail were an accurate interactive documentary, Oregon either wouldn’t exist, or would be the world’s largest combination of open sewer and mass grave.

  17. Gorgeous work by Passion Pictures. Disappointing stuff by MK12 though. Sure it’s OK, but it’s 2003 style mograph. The world has moved on from rainbows and animated arrows, not to mention cliche after effects butterflies. What the hell happened MK12? In the Ultralove Ninja days, you guys rocked. Where’s the innovation?

  18. These are fantastic, but if i can beatlenerd for a moment, “Come Together” (Abbey Road) was recorded after “Get Back” (Let It Be), despite the order in which they were released. I wonder why this distilled history of the band doesn’t reflect this…


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