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SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : Disney Channel casts a new spell over the 'Wild Swans' fable

January 16, 1994|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Handsome princes were often the rescuers in the earliest days of fairy tales. Not so in Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans, an early coup for feminism thanks to its young protagonist, Princess Elise, who saves her brothers as well as her father's kingdom.

A new version of the fable, which was animated by Klassika Studios in Moscow, premieres on the Disney Channel this week as part of its "Stories to Remember" series.

Actress Sigourney Weaver narrates and lends her voice to more than a dozen characters.

As in Klassika's "The Snow Queen," which aired on Disney last year, "The Wild Swans" centers on the heroic deeds of its female lead. In the beginning, everything is right in Princess Elise's perfect world, where she lives comfortably with her brothers and father, the king. Then the proverbial wicked stepmother enters the picture.

The new queen, who doubles as an evil sorceress, is determined to get rid of the king's kids. While the king is away, she banishes Elise to the home of a peasant family and turns the boys into wild swans, who fly far away from the kingdom. When the lonely Elise learns of her brothers' transformation, she is determined to break the spell and reunite her family.

" 'The Wild Swans' is a story that touches my heart and says things that I would like my children to understand," notes producer Joshua Greene. "The Russian artists who did the show felt the same way. Good stories do that; they cross all cultural boundaries."

Greene, vice president and producer of Lightyear Entertainment, went to Russia in 1990 looking for animators when he found what he calls "renegade animators," former staffers of government animation shops.

The animators "were looking to start their own cooperative and to make films for children that said something, just like I was," Greene recalls. Greene and Lightyear helped the animators establish Klassika, and the two companies began collaborating. The studio was built in southern Moscow during the production of "The Snow Queen."

"(Klassika) really deserves all the credit," he says. "All we did is give them some money, equipment and story. They did all the work."

"The Wild Swans" airs Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on the Disney Channel. For ages 2 to 10.

MORE FAMILY SHOWS

Party on, Nicksters. Roundhouse (Sunday 7:30-8 p.m. Nickelodeon) this week offers a sketch called "Wayne's World Anonymous Youth," a support group for "Wayne's World" addicts. There's also a bit about a boy who gets in trouble just so his parents will pay attention to him; a look at the "Encyclopedia Cheatanica" reference set for plagiarists; "Tried-It" chewing gum; and the songs "Detention Row Blues," "Toe Jam," and "Love Has No Voice." For ages 2 to 8.

This week marks the cable premiere of Disney's 1992 movie The Mighty Ducks (Sunday 7-8:30 p.m. Disney). Emilio Estevez is an aggressive trial lawyer who fulfills a community service sentence by coaching a misfit peewee hockey team. He rallies the players together and gives them the confidence to skate all the way to the state championships. For ages 4 and up.

Alice takes a stand for women's rights in Adventures in Wonderland's "Odd Woman Out" (Wednesday 6:30-7 p.m. Disney). Alice and the Red Queen join forces to fool the lodge brothers of the all-male "Oddballs" into changing their antiquated rules and admitting their first female member. For ages 4 to 10.

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