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OF, BY AND FOR THE CHILDREN

World's Most Famous Hare Marks a Century of Storybook Living

March 28, 1993|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He sure doesn't look it, but Peter Rabbit is 100 years old this year. Beatrix Potter's curious little bunny will be featured in a new series of specials, The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends.

Potter created Peter and his siblings Mopsy, Flopsy and Cottontail as a letter to the 5-year-old daughter of a friend.

The series opener, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny," and subsequent tales are the first animated versions of the story, because the company holding the rights believed that previous projects were not faithful enough to Potter's original text and artwork.

Each episode opens with a live-action sequence set and filmed in Potter's home, Hill Top, in England's Lake District. Niamh Cusack plays the young Potter and introduces each story as she begins to draw a picture-letter.

Each episode is self-contained, but all are linked by a common setting and cast of characters. The series, which cost $11 million, is reportedly the most expensive animation yet to come out of the United Kingdom.

Peter and his pals will be honored throughout the centennial with a variety of special books published by Warne (a division of Penguin Books), including "The Tale of Peter Rabbit Deluxe Edition," "The Tale of Peter Rabbit Limited Edition Cased Set," which holds a copy of the first printing of the tale, and "So I Shall Tell You a Story" by Judy Taylor, a Potter life and works scholar.

A 15-month celebration of Peter's anniversary includes an exhibit of Potter's work at the Musee d'Orsay, Paris; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; a ballet at the Royal Opera House, London; and other events in London, Melbourne, Scotland and America.

"The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends" debuts Tuesday at 8-8:30 p.m. on the Family Channel. Other episodes of the series will air throughout the year. For ages 2 and up.

MORE FAMILY SHOWS

There has been a lot of media attention on saving the Amazonian, or Brazilian, rain forests, but children should also be aware of the trees around them. In Celebration of Trees (Sunday 7-8 p.m. Discovery) takes a close, loving look at the oldest living things on the planet, which provide us with the air we breathe, food and shelter from the heat and cold. Instead of taking trees for granted, this show demonstrates how we should celebrate trees for all their wonder. For ages 9 and up.

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Instead of being a straight-ahead concert show, Tina Turner: Going Home (Sunday 9-10 p.m. Disney) is more of a gentle profile of the singer's career from the very beginning, using photographs and clips of performances as well as interviews with Turner and those who knew her as a child. Her family and friends reminisce about her as a student, basketball player, cheerleader and little girl who loved to sing and dance. For children with show-business aspirations and parents of those kids, this show depicts one look at a success story. For ages 12 and up.

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Set the VCR for the last showing this month of the Showtime 30-Minute Movie "Witness" (Monday 1-1:30 a.m. Showtime), the story of a Nazi soldier in a concentration camp haunted by the presence of a young Jewish boy who watches him take other Jews to the gas chamber. For ages 9 and up.

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The winner of an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Children's Special, Disney Channel Discovery Woof! (Saturday 7-8:30 p.m. Disney) is about a boy who has a very realistic dream that he is a dog. When he surmises that his baby sister's strong power of suggestion is turning him into a dog, he becomes a boy again and learns that she really wants a puppy. For ages 5 and up.

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