You'd think that the folks at Walt Disney Home Video have enough classic animation in their cartoon coffers that they wouldn't have to look elsewhere for material to put on tape. hey do -- even though they're keeping most of the feature-length animated works locked away for now -- but they've still gone shopping for untaped animated treasures to fill new Disney cassettes. What they've come up with will be good news for animation fans everywhere, who know that any cartoon that reaches the video market with the Disney imprimatur has to be good. And in the animation world, there's little better than "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle," which will make its home video debut early next month under Disney's Buena Vista Home Video label.
The fearless moose and his flying squirrel sidekick -- along with Boris, Natasha and the rest of the animated entourage -- will make their first video appearance on six $12.99 cassettes. The first batch represents a fraction of the 156 hours of Bullwinkle programming Disney acquired from the late Jay Ward, the series creator, who before his death had a hand in helping Disney to restore the material and in making the program selections for the tape series's launch.
Each volume in the series offers 40 to 45 minutes of Jay Ward programming, presented in a format faithful to Ward's original vision for the television series. That means plenty of trademark cliffhangers, "Fractured Fairy Tales" and appearances on each tape by Dudley Do-Right, Sherman, Peabody, Mr. Know-It-All and others from the Ward stable. Five of the volumes -- "Mona Moose," "Birth of Bullwinkle," "Vincent Van Moose," "Blue Moose" and "La Grande Moose" -- feature complete Bullwinkle adventures; the sixth, "Canadian Gothic," spotlights Dudley Do-Right.
Disney, which is planning to expand the Bullwinkle collection on a regular basis, bills the new addition to its animated family as nothing less than "the greatest video collection in the history of man," which could come as a surprise to Mickey, Donald and the rest of the Disneyland denizens. At least Mickey outpolled Bullwinkle (95 percent to 93 percent) in the "character awareness survey" that accompanied Disney's announcement of the series; both left runners-up "Roger Rabbit" and "The Far Side" (recognized by 73 percent and 60 percent of the adult respondents, respectively) far behind.
The Cat's Meow
Further proof that Disney hasn't always held a monopoly on animated features arrives on tape next month when Warner Home Video offers the video debut of more vintage -- if not classic -- animation from the 1960s, the 1963 feature "Gay Purr-ee." An attempt by UPA Studios -- home of Mr. Magoo -- to show the folks at Disney that they hadn't quite cornered the market on animated musicals for children, "Gay Purr-ee" offers the work of Warner animation giant and film co-author Chuck Jones, a score by the "Wizard of Oz" songwriting team of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and the vocal talents of the woman who made their most famous song famous -- Judy Garland, who supplies the voice of lead cat Mewsette, the country cat whose adventures in the big city provide the basis of the story. Garland is joined on the soundtrack by Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Hermione Gingold, Mel Blanc and Morey Amsterdam. The combination will never match the Disney studio's mastery of the genre, and neither does Warner's current pricing strategy: While Disney would be expected to offer the movie on low-priced tapes for maximum exposure, Warner is following its typical pattern for vintage films new to cassette by pricing the tape at $59.98. These cats, it turns out, will have their nine lives on the rental market rather than on the sell-through shelf.
Rock the Halls
So what if construction delays mean that it exists only as an annual ceremony and spin-off television show. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- which inducted five new members last night -- is still as good an excuse as any to stage a videocassette promotion, and this week CBS/Fox Video will do just that by creating its own "Hall of Fame" collection of tapes featuring inductees. Only one of the first five tapes, due in stores this week priced at $19.98, is new to video: "Jerry Lee Lewis Live in London," a 1983 film of Lewis's first solo U.K. performance. The remaining four tapes, now at new low prices, confirm that Hall of Famers have varying luck when it comes to video entertainment; while Bob Dylan's 1986 concert film "Hard to Handle" (with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and 1982's "Simon & Garfunkel: The Concert in Central Park" have broad appeal, only devoted fans will find much interesting in "Give My Regards to Broad Street" (1984) and "Running Out of Luck" (1986), two forgotten features from Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, respectively.