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LIKE MOVIE, SOFTWARE VERSION OF DISNEY'S `TOY STORY' IS A HIT

If it hadn't come in a plain, brown mailing envelope, I doubt "Disney's Animated Storybook, Toy Story" would have made it to my desk.

Grownups have been waiting and watching for the software version of the hit movie. They say they want to check it out for their kids.Yeah, right. I know my colleagues. They just wanted to play with Buzz Lightyear and make him glow in the dark.

So I sneaked "Toy Story" home to give it a try. I waited until my kids were in bed, locked my office door and fired up the computer. There was Woody. Hamm. Mr. Potato Head and Bo Peep and Slinky and Buzz.

Hamm, the know-it-all piggy bank, tells the now-familiar story of how Buzz came to Andy's house and upset the rest of the toys. Especially Woody, who'd ruled the toy box until then.

OK, so what does a computer-animated movie look like when it's translated into a computer software game? Incredible - just like the big screen.

Disney and Pixar Animation Studios teamed up on the software version of "Toy Story," just as they did on the movie. The program has the same unique 3-D animations and graphics, which make Woody and his toy buddies move and react with uncannily lifelike actions.

Many of the toy characters will sound familiar to people who've seen the movie since a lot of the same actors did the voice-overs. John Ratzenberger is Hamm, Don Rickles returns as Mr. Potato Head, Annie Potts as Bo Peep and Jim Varney as Slinky Dog. Woody's voice was provided by Tom Hanks in the movie; on the software title it comes from Tom's brother, Jim.

The program is laced with the same kind of humor. Buzz, for instance, tries to counsel two video game characters to find another way to settle their differences.

While the game parallels the movie, it also includes new scenes. Buzz Lightyear, it turns out, is a disco-dancing fool. And when Buzz and Woody resort to fisticuffs at the gas station, they find all sorts of new ways to go after each other.

The story scenes are loaded with point and click surprises, which don't always do the same thing. There also are five skill activities spaced throughout the program. My favorite: Woody's scheme, where you set up a chain reaction that catapults Buzz out a window.

And, yes, you can play with Buzz - punch buttons to make him glow in the dark (which you have to see to believe how real it looks), sprout wings, fire off his laser beams.

One caution: The scenes of bad-boy Sid's room and when the toys get revenge on Sid may be scary to small children.

Disney's "Animated StoryBook, Toy Story," is for children ages 3 to 9. The CD-ROM plays on both Windows or Macintosh computers.

Minimum system requirements: Windows 3.1 or Macintosh 7.1; 8 megabytes of RAM and 10 megabytes of free hard disk space; 256-color video display; double speed CD-ROM. Estimated street price: $35. Contact: 800-900-9234 or on the World Wide Web at (http://www.toystorybook.com).