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This 'Tiny Toon' Venture Isn't From TV

March 27, 1992|DENNIS HUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Home video is overrun with cartoons, many of them 30- to 45-minute tapes of repackaged TV shows. What makes "Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation" (Warner, $20) so unusual is that it's a long (80 minutes) cartoon that was created specifically for the home video market.

In fact, the concept is so strange that some consumers apparently think the project is a theme-oriented collection of cartoons from the "Tiny Toons" TV series. But those shows are not yet available on video.

Jean MacCurdy, senior vice president of animation services at Warner Bros., said that about 1 million copies of "Vacation" have been shipped to retailers--a record for direct-to-video programs, which are dominated by B movies and non-theatrical material.

Produced by Steven Spielberg, the movie features characters from the TV series, which chronicles the slapstick adventures of students at Acme Acres' "Looniversity." Characters such as Buster Bunny and Hampton Pig are based on veteran Warner Bros. cartoon stars, who happen to be professors at the "Looniversity." The new Toons' attempt to be as irreverent and wacky as their Loony Toons predecessors but not as violent--and succeed for the most part.

Parents should keep in mind that this isn't wholesome, Disney-style humor but smart-alecky, slightly off-color stuff--including vomiting jokes. "In creating this vacation story, we were trying to recall all of our experiences during summer, like the boredom of summer and some of those horrible car trips," MacCurdy said.

The TV show is geared to children ages 6 to 11, but it has an older following too. The feature is styled similarly.

"We planned the humor to work on several levels," MacCurdy said. "Kids will laugh at stuff that viewers who are teens and adults won't get and vice versa."

Although MacCurdy declined to reveal the budget, she said that it was much higher than for the TV series. "It's a more elaborate, higher quality production," she said. "There's more animation, more attention to camera moves and a lot of shadow work. Also, there are jokes throughout the closing credits."

"Vacation" was released on video at the same time as another cartoon feature produced by Spielberg, MCA/Universal's "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West."

"We wanted to take advantage of the Easter retail sales season, which is lucrative for children's video--and they probably had the same idea," MacCurdy said. "It's appropriate for ours to be out now since some of the characters are bunnies, which makes them attractive this time of year."

New on Video: Here are some releases just out on video:

"Rambling Rose" (LIVE, $93). This comedy/drama shows the explosive effects generated by a naive, backwoods sexpot (Laura Dern) who moves in with a family in a Southern town in the '30s. Diane Ladd and Robert Duvall play the parents. Oscar nominations for Dern and Ladd have turned this box-office stiff into a must-see.

"The Fisher King" (Columbia TriStar, no suggested price). In director Terry Gilliam's thoroughly unorthodox romantic comedy, Robin Williams plays a homeless man who befriends a down-and-out radio talk-show host (Jeff Bridges). Both Williams and Mercedes Ruehl are up for Oscars. The laser edition (Criterion, $100) offers an audio track of the director's commentary plus scenes that were cut from the final version.

"Backtrack" (Vestron, $90). Director Dennis Hopper's imaginative, 1989 gem, which hardly anybody saw, is being resurrected, partly because star Jodie Foster is such a hot item. Foster plays an artist who witnessed a killing and is on the run from both the good guys and the bad guys, including a hit man (Hopper) who's in love with her.

"Paradise" (Touchstone, $93). A sentimental story of a small-town couple (Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) whose shaky marriage is slowly rejuvenated when they have to care for a young boy (Elijah Wood).

"Stepping Out" (Paramount, no list price). A comedy, heart-warming to the point of corniness, about a dance teacher (Liza Minnelli) who has to whip a pack of oddballs (including Julie Waters and Ellen Greene) into shape so they can perform in a show.

"China O'Brien 2" (Imperial, $90). In this bloody sequel to last year's direct-to-video action hit, O'Brien (Cynthia Rothrock) smashes a small army of drug dealers.

"It Couldn't Happen Here" (Columbia TriStar, $60). Pretentious, surreal, film-noir nonsense from the British pop-dance duo the Pet Shop Boys, who string together vignettes showing how empty and silly life can be (not as empty and silly as this movie).

New on Laser: Recent releases on laser disc include:

"Two-Minute Warning" (MCA/Universal, $35). Occasionally thrilling 1976 film about the search for a sniper in a crowded football stadium, starring Charlton Heston.

"The Invisible Ray" (MCA/Universal, $35). Entertaining (for horror buffs) pairing of two of the genre's great old timers, Bela Legosi and Boris Karloff, in a 1936 tale of a scientist (Karloff) slowly being ravaged by radiation.

Upcoming on Video: Coming soon to video stores:

"Billy Bathgate," "Curley Sue" and "Deceived" (Wednesday), "Richochet" (April 8), "Necessary Roughness" (April 9), "101 Dalmatians" and "Ed Sullivan TV Shows" (April 10), "Frankie & Johnny" (April 29).

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