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* LOOK AND LISTEN

Animated 'Kiki's' a Lush Visual Treat

September 17, 1998|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Video

Kiki's Delivery Service. Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $19.99. Widely available. Move over, Disney. This sparkling new home video release, created by Japan's celebrated animation master Hayao Miyazaki, ranks right up there with Disney's own classics.

This gorgeous, full-length family feature is about the adventures of a little witch-in-training who must find a town in which to be of service, despite her erratic broom-flying skills.

Set in a make-believe contemporary world with a Euro-Asian flavor, its lushly detailed visual splendor, from panoramic vistas of forest, ocean and city to closely observed small details, is astonishing. The quirky story itself is imaginative, comic and uncloyingly filled with heart.

Adding to the must-see appeal of this Americanized version of the film is the celebrity cast that gives it voice: Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, Matthew Lawrence as her admirer Tombo, Debbie Reynolds as a kindly old lady, Janeane Garofalo as Kiki's strong and independent artist friend and especially, the late Phil Hartman as the wise-cracking cat Jiji.

If you're familiar with Miyazaki's work from an earlier American home video release, by the way, the irresistible animated fantasy "My Neighbor Totoro," which he made with collaborator Takahata Isao, you'll have some idea of what kind of treat is in store here.

CD-ROM

Disney's Mulan Animated StoryBook. Windows 95/Macintosh Hybrid. Ages 5 to 9. $35. Was this character-driven release created to capitalize on Disney's most recent animated hit? Of course. But it's also a top-quality effort, visually captivating and chock-full of entertainment.

Here, players must help Mushu the dragon find the magic that has "fallen out" of scrolls containing the "Legend of Mulan." They can participate in the tale with the film's cast of characters while visiting Mulan's village, her home, the army camp and the Imperial City.

Along the way are a variety of activities, with different skill levels, including sing-alongs and printing projects, a mix-and-match of historical costumes for Mulan to wear, logic to figure out how to "wake up the ancestors," playing mah-jongg, creating story scrolls and solving puzzles.

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