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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS : Riding to Success : The locally conceived 'Biker Mice From Mars' series is seen in more than 50 countries. The stars make a live appearance Saturday.

August 19, 1994|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Their name notwithstanding, the Biker Mice From Mars are really Valley dudes.

"Biker Mice From Mars" is a syndicated, animated television series featuring three freedom-loving, crime-fighting teen-age Martian mice who chase bad guys on "ultra-radical" vehicles. The show, broadcast locally on KCOP-TV, Channel 13, is seen in more than 50 countries. The show's Valley connection is a strong one.

Although the cartoons are produced in the Philippines, voice-dubbing and other post-production work are done in the San Fernando Valley. Also, the show's distribution company, Genesis Entertainment, is headquartered in Agoura Hills. But most important, the "Biker Mice" were conceived at Jerry's Famous Deli in Encino.

"My wife and I were having brunch, when all of a sudden about 25 Harleys roared up," said Rick Ungar, the show's creator and executive producer. "But you could see these guys were yuppies."

His close encounter with these white-collar, biker wanna-bes started Ungar's creative process, which culminated in the animated series. The motorcycles were the key attraction, Ungar said.

"Biker Mice" debuted last fall as a once-a-week syndicated series and has expanded to a Monday through Friday format. The show is generating home videos, toys and accessories, Ungar said, and he hopes to release a live-action film in summer 1995.

Similarities between his show and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles do exist, Ungar admitted. But he claims that the difference is in the writing: In "Biker Mice," the writers take great pains to add levels of humor that appeal to adults as well as children, while the Turtles are strictly for kids, Ungar said.

The "Biker Mice From Mars" will make their debut live appearance at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Love Ride Kick-off Ceremony in Glendale. Love Ride, an annual motorcycle fund-raising event to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Assn., is scheduled for Nov. 13. The kick-off on Saturday will open registration and unveil the official Love Ride 11 poster, created by rock poster artist Stanley Mouse.

"I will be there, too, " Ungar said. "We will be there with Peter Fonda and a lot of other celebrities."

\o7 The Love Ride 11 Kick-Off Ceremony, featuring the Biker Mice From Mars, Peter Fonda, Perry King and others, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Harley-Davidson of Glendale, 3717 San Fernando Road, Glendale. The event is open to the public and will also feature refreshments and live entertainment. Call (818) 246-5618.\f7

DOUBLE DATING: "Guys and Dolls" is sometimes called the quintessential Broadway musical. And now, Valley audiences have two chances to see it. Both the Woodland Hills Community Theatre and the Glendale Centre Theatre are presenting concurrent productions of this "musical fable of Broadway."

"Guys and Dolls," based on a Damon Runyon short story about New York lowlifes, has words and music by Frank Loesser and a book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling. The original 1950 Broadway production, directed by theater legend George S. Kaufman, won eight Tony Awards and ran for 1,200 performances. A 1955 film version starred Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. The 1992 revival of the show is still playing on Broadway. The score includes such favorites as "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," "Luck Be a Lady" and "If I Were a Bell."

Concurrent productions in the same geographic area do not usually happen. So, why did it happen here?

Woodland Hills first secured the rights to do the show last spring. Glendale had planned to produce "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," the stage adaptation of the 1954 MGM film musical best remembered for its ensemble dance numbers, but then announced the change to "Guys and Dolls" in its July newsletter.

Glendale Centre Theatre co-producer David Dietlin said the switch was prompted by unforeseen casting problems, specifically a lack of male dancers.

Jon Berry, Woodland Hills Community Theatre artistic director, was diplomatic.

"I was surprised that after contacting them several times and letting them know we were doing 'Guys and Dolls' that they would still pick that play to do," Berry said. "I think they would be surprised if the situation was reversed."

Berry said he never spoke directly with Dietlin or his brother and co-producer, Tim Dietlin, and that they never returned his phone calls. But he said he did leave messages at the theater and was told that the Dietlins had received his messages.

Although there's no exclusivity rule for production rights for community theaters, as there is in equity shows, Berry said it's a matter of protocol and respect not to double up on another theater's production.

David Dietlin discounted the notion that Glendale Centre Theatre is treading on another's turf.

"We didn't know if they were doing it or not," Dietlin said. "And they're so far away. We've done 'Guys and Dolls' before and it's a good strong show."

This is Glendale Centre Theatre's 48th season, but the first under the leadership of the Dietlin brothers, who have taken over the reins from their parents.

Berry said the double productions have not affected his ticket sales. "Our ticket sales are fine," he said. "Several performances are already sold out.

"I do wish them the very best of luck for their show," he added. "I'd like everyone to do well."

\o7 Woodland Hills Community Theatre, 22700 Sherman Way, West Hills, presents "Guys and Dolls" at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 3. Also a Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 28. Tickets are $15 general, $13 students and seniors. Call (818) 884-1907.

Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale, presents "Guys and Dolls" at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, with matinees at 3 p.m. Saturdays. Ends Oct. 1. Tickets are $11.75 Wednesdays, Thursdays and matinees, $14.25 Fridays and Saturdays, $10.75 seniors on Wednesdays and at Saturday matinees. Call (818) 244-8481.\f7

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