One artist who was cast in this film but didn't appear was Jimi Hendrix. Paul McCartney wanted him in the film, but Hendrix was already committed to play at the Monterey Pop Festival, his breakthrough performance. Ironically, McCartney was the person who suggested that Hendrix should get invited to play the festival.
"Mystery tours" were popular in England as low-budget weekend getaways, riding overnight in a bus to a surprise location. Most of "Magical Mystery Tour" was filmed in a rented coach, filled with friends and acquaintances, Beatles office staff, a camera crew, and a handful of experienced actors, rambling around the English countryside one holiday weekend. Everyone was encouraged to invent their own characters, and let whatever was going to happen do so, and the results would have to be magical. Unfortunately this proved not to be the case, with most of the passengers "acting" like anybody would while traveling, mostly humdrum scenery passing by, and no "magical" destination actually planned out. John Lennon and George Harrison weren't interested in playing parts, and spent most of the trip sleeping or avoiding the cameras, while the hand-lettered MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR bus attracted curious onlookers, who began following them in droves. (Suggestions that the chaos mounting outside the bus be filmed, instead of the mundane dialogs going on inside, were not met warmly.) Lennon ultimately ordered the bus be stopped, then got out and personally tore the lettering off the sides, to end the spectacle. (He derided the whole program later as "The most expensive home movie ever made.")
After the premiere showing in December 1967, Ringo Starr apparently rang up the BBC complaining that the poor ratings were due to them showing "this colorful film" in B/W on BBC1. The BBC responded by transmitting again, this time in glorious color a few days later on BBC2. It still bombed.
"Magical Mystery Tour" was conceived as a way for The Beatles to do something fun and exciting in the wake of Brian Epstein's (The Beatles' manager) death. After his death, The Beatles realized that they were in financial trouble and had to do something with their acquired wealth or else the British government would levy taxes against them. So they started Apple Corps. and "Magical Mystery Tour" was the first project they made under the Apple company.
Although all four Beatles are credited with directing the entire film, Paul McCartney directed the bulk of the footage, John Lennon probably directed "I am the Walrus" and the segment with Ringo's Aunt eating a large pile of spaghetti and George Harrison probably directed "Blue Jay Way". However, these are mere speculations, and all of the Beatles submitted ideas to the film.
While the film bombed both times it appeared on British television, and was never broadcast by the US networks, it did become a modest success on the American midnight and college movie circuits in the 1970s. As in the case of reruns of their 1965 Shea Stadium NYC concert, this film has been shown sporadicly on US independent and public TV stations.
The soundtrack recordings were issued in England as a double EP with accompanying booklet. Capitol Records in the US added stereo (and mock-stereo) versions of recent Beatles singles, and issued an LP with an enlarged copy of the booklet. The LP actually sold better as an import in England than the EP, and a British version was issued Nine years later.