A Valencia video company will recall and destroy about 20,000 copies of an Easter cartoon video after a Connecticut family slipped one of the tapes into their VCR and found themselves watching hard-core pornography.
"We believe this was an isolated incident of tampering, but we don't want to take even the slightest chance that someone else becomes the victim of what is obviously a very cruel and sick act," said William Hutten, co-owner of Summit Media Co. of Valencia.
The cartoon, which features Buttons the Bear and Rusty the Fox in an Easter fantasy set in Chucklewood Forest, was purchased for $3 by the Laslo family of Danbury, Conn. But the colorful cartoon was preceded by 25 minutes of explicit sexual acts.
"It was about as low-budget as you can get--nothing was left to the imagination," said Larry Laslo, a 38-year-old plating technician. "Luckily, it doesn't seem to have affected my 7- and 10-year-old."
Carol Laslo, a 40-year-old inspector for a cosmetic company, purchased the Easter cartoon on sale at a local mall, Larry Laslo said. The couple, one of whom works during the day and the other at night, were enjoying a rare dinner together Sunday in the kitchen of their three-bedroom apartment while the children watched cartoons in the living room, he said.
"My son Michael comes running in and says, 'Mommy, there are people on this tape,' " Larry Laslo said. After viewing the tape, Larry Laslo called the local police, who told him it was a civil matter, he said.
"They acted like it wasn't a big deal, but this is not just a little problem," Larry Laslo said. "We're talking about families all over the world. God knows what else is out there.
"I've lost all confidence that I'm getting what it says on the video box," he said.
Hutten said he does not believe that any of Summit's five employees or its distributors tampered with the tapes.
"It's so easy--anyone could have tampered with the tape and resealed it in plastic," Hutten said. "Most retail outlets and warehouses have wrapping machines."
Hutten said someone may have been able to add the pornographic section to the cartoon by putting a piece of Scotch tape over an opening on the back side of the tape. When it is unobstructed, that opening electronically prevents the tape from being erased or material from being added to it, he said.
To prevent future vandalism, the company will start using tamper-proof seals on the cardboard boxes containing its videos, Hutten said. The company sells the cartoons, which Hutten helped create, and other videos, including exercise and travel tapes.
Hutten estimated it will cost Summit about $50,000 to have the tapes shipped back to California from such toy outlets around the country as Circus World and Kay-Bee Toy.
The company plans to view some of the 25-minute tapes to try to determine the extent and origin of the tampering, but it would take too long to watch all of them, so the entire lot will be destroyed, he said.
Larry Laslo said he will not sue Summit because the incident does not appear to have harmed his children.
The case has generated so much media attention that "it's like a celebration for the children," Larry Laslo said.
The tape was duplicated, boxed and shipped from two California companies, ATI Mark V of Anaheim and the now-defunct Advance Video of San Francisco.
Best Film & Video of Great Neck, N.Y., held the distribution rights to the cartoon in 1988 and 1989.