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Taking the Road Less Traveled to a Fantasy Land


The land of make-believe awaits in these off-the-beaten-path releases.


A Tale of Cinderella. Warner Home Video, 129 minutes, $19.98. At major retailers. Christianne Tisdale, whose credits include Belle in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway and Christine in "Phantom of the Opera's" European tour, is the charming, feisty heroine of this lively new musical.

Written by Bill Frankonis, with music by Will Severin, who co-wrote the lyrics with George David Weiss ("Can't Help Falling in Love"), this filmed stage production sets the fairy tale in Venice, Italy. Transportation is by gondola, not coach, "GodMama La Stella" (Broadway veteran Lorraine Serabian) makes magic with a pasta spoon, Cinderella has gumption and Dad's inability to help is explained: He's under an evil spell.

Some songs aren't ready for prime time but others, such as Tisdale's lovely solos and rousing ensemble numbers, are a treat. This inaugural production, the result of a new partnership between Warner Music Group and New York State Theatre Institute, bodes well for family viewing.

Paddle to the Sea. Lightyear Entertainment, 30 minutes, $12.95, (800) 229-7867. Told with exquisite simplicity, this beautifully photographed short film, an Academy Award nominee, is based on the Caldecott Award-winning picture book by Holling C. Holling. It begins when a Native American boy carves a little man in a wooden canoe and launches it on a snowy slope above Lake Superior, dreaming that it will one day reach the sea. The beguiling live-action film, directed and photographed by William Mason, follows the canoe through close encounters with curious wildlife, little boys, fishermen, a forest fire, Niagara Falls and big ships.

The Toy Town Story Adventures. American Home Entertainment, 68 minutes, $9.95, (800) 422-6484. Nothing state-of-the-art here. Based on the works of S.G. Hulme Beaman, these tales come from the series, which began airing on British television in the '50s, featuring "Gumby"-style stop-action animation and miniature sets. Starring Larry the Lamb, Dennis the Dachshund and other eccentric Toy Town denizens, the stories are about magic gone awry and bumbling bad guys and do-gooders. Larry's bleating wears quickly, but the offbeat humor is a kick.


The Adventures of Denton the Dragon. Kanebell Enterprises Inc., 37 minutes. Cassette and storybook to color: $15. Elliott Gould narrates this modestly produced, imaginative yarn filled with tuneful songs about friendship. With story and score by Raven Kane and Cynthia Rosen, the tale begins when Denton leaves his "Land of Children's Dreams" to see what reality is all about. Traveling in a magical hot-air balloon, Denton makes stops in space, the sea, forests and desert, all nicely integrated as the gentle musical bubbles along to its upbeat ending.

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