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Home Entertainment : Videos Offer Live-Action Walks on the Wild Side

August 12, 1994|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If talking lions, a flatulent wart hog and snickering hyenas have given your pint-size "Lion King" fans paws for thought, maybe it's time to check out some live-action lions, tigers and bears available for rent at your local video stores. Disney figures prominently in this mix; so do glorious outdoor film footage and the term heartwarming :

* The Bear. Top-notch French-made film epic, told from the bear's point of view: A bear cub orphan copes with majestic Mother Nature, his giant, cranky Kodiak sidekick and some mean and ugly hunters.

* Benji the Hunted. Disney's shaggy, hyper-spunky super-dog is lost but forgets his own troubles to rescue some rambunctious orphaned cougar cubs and doggedly find them a new mom.

* Born Free. Superior adaptation of Joy Adamson's real-life bestseller about Elsa the lioness, who became part of a game warden's family in Kenya and was eventually returned to the wild. The slower-paced sequel, "Living Free," profiles Elsa and her cubs.

* Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar. A friendly, mischievous young cougar brings chaos into a Pacific Northwest logger's life.

* Cheetah. An orphaned (notice a trend?) cheetah in Africa is parented by a couple of American teens who must teach the growing feline how to survive in the wild.

* Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion. Wholesome, light fun from 1965 that inspired the "Daktari" TV series about a family in Africa and a lovable lion.

* Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. In the remake of Disney's 1963 film, a cat and two dogs, voiced by Michael J. Fox, Don Ameche and Sally Field, undertake a rugged wilderness trek home, fraught with such perils as a mountain lion with attitude.

* The Jungle Book. The evocative 1942 film version of the Rudyard Kipling classic starring Sabu as Mowgli, the little boy raised by wolves. Remember: Panther good, tiger bad.

* The Living Desert. Talk about the "circle of life": Disney's evergreen, Oscar-winning documentary from 1953, is crawling with the scaly, feathery and furry critters who call the desert home.

* National Geographic's "Really Wild Animals." A don't-miss series of quality kids' videos that explore the globe, with a cartoon guide (voiced by Dudley Moore), great cinematography of animals, music video nature segments, animation and a large helping of humor.

* Never Cry Wolf. A memorable performance by Charles Martin Smith as naturalist Farley Mowat, on an odyssey of discovery into the lives and hearts of wolves. Remarkable Arctic footage; some nudity--Smith strips down to get close to nature--and some violence: Wolves will be wolves.

* Nikki, Wild Dog of the North. A young wolf dog, separated from his master, teams up with a bear cub in the Canadian wilderness in this exciting, kid-pleasing 1961 Disney adventure.

* Old Yeller. Based on Fred Gipson's novel, one of Disney's first and best dog films about a fearless mutt and his boy on the Texas frontier. Some savage animal brawls--bears and wild pigs--and a tearful ending, though not as tearful as the book's.

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