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SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : At last, 'Nudnik' emerges from storage onto the Cartoon Network

January 07, 1996|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nudnik's coming out of the box.

After a 29-year absence from screens, the irrepressible theatrical cartoon character returns this week on The Cartoon Network.

The Nudnik cartoons--and the film library of its production company, Rembrandt Films--were discovered in storage boxes in New Jersey by Adam Snyder, 42, whose father, William L. Synder, owned Rembrandt from 1948 through 1969, when the company closed shop.

Ten of the 13 shorts--one of which was nominated for an Oscar--will be featured on the network's popular alternative "Toon Heads." Nudnik cartoons ran in the U.S. between 1964 and 1967 and appeared on European, but not U.S. television.

In 1959, Rembrandt began its foray into animation. The company won five Academy Awards for animation, including one for Jules Feiffer's "Munro." Rembrandt produced such classic children's book fare as the animated versions of two of Ludwig Bemelmans' "Madeline" series, James Thurber's "Many Moons," and Eve Titus' "Anatole."

One of Rembrandt's most memorable ventures was 1952's "The Emperor's Nightingale," a puppet animation film with an animated Boris Karloff, who also narrated. The same puppet animation technique was later used in Tim Burton's 1993 "Nightmare Before Christmas."

The Cartoon Network presentation is a collaboration between the senior Snyder and creator-animator Gene Deitch, who once headed up the U.S. animation houses UPA and Terrytoons, and created Tom Terrific for "Captain Kangaroo."

Deitch, now 71, originally went to then Stalinist Prague--where Rembrandt's animation was based--for 10 days in 1959 to supervise production. There he met and married Zdenka, a Czech animation producer and never returned to the U.S.

From his home in Prague, Deitch says, "Nudnik came from me. I've always been very clumsy."

Deitch tells a story of working on a Moviola while still at Terrytoons in the mid-'50s: "My tie got threaded into the machine and my teeth almost got knocked out! That kind of stuff was always happening to me, so I got to thinking about a character to whom everything went wrong, I have a very close affinity to Nudnik." Both Deitch and his wife-who live in the-are still active in animation production.

From his Ballyhack Road Brewster, N.Y., office, Synder agrees that Nudnik is Everyman, "He can't quite get anything right, but he always keeps on going with that irrepressible smile."

"Nudnik" airs on "Toon Heads" for a week, Monday through Friday at 9 p.m. on The Cartoon Network. For ages 4 and up.

More Family Shows

Preschoolers can take a seat in front of The Big Comfy Couch (weekdays 8:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.; repeats Saturdays at 7 a.m. KOCE; videos available from Time Life and FAO Schwarz stores), a Canadian production which offers up "educational components" to each episode, which emphasize values, manners and feelings. For ages 2 to 6.

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Most parents welcome advice and that's what psychologist and pediatric oncology nurse Denise Daniels--a contributing correspondent on NBC's "Today"--offers in Parents Helper (weekdays at 6 a.m. America's Talking). Contemporary concerns are at the forefront of the show, which focuses on practical advice and insights on raising kids in a complex world. Steve Doocy, who hosted and produced Fox's "Not Just News," co-hosts. For parents.

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For those who liked the recent movie "A Kid in King Arthur's Court," the Disney Channel offers Kids of the Round Table (Friday, 6:30 p.m.). Chased from his homemade castle in the woods, young Alex (Johnny Morina) finds his contemporary surroundings suddenly switched as he runs away. He discovers a sword in a stone and meets up with Merlin (Malcolm McDowell) who shows him how to use the sword. When he takes his newfound powers to home and to school, things go awry, but he manages to save the day. For ages 6 and up.

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