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MGM, Disney among videos on tap

On April 4, MGM and Disney will be battling for the same kid-vid market with two feature-length cartoons, both priced to sell on VHS and DVD.

MGM's "Tom Sawyer" is a new musical treatment of the Mark Twain classic, featuring the voices of Betty White (as Aunt Polly) and Lee Ann Womack (Becky Thatcher). Two Academy of Country Music prize-winners, Rhett Akins and Mark Wills, play Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, respectively. The tape is $15; the DVD, which includes a featurette about the creation of the cartoon, is $20.Disney is reissuing the company's 30-year-old cartoon, "The Aristocats," about a cultured cat, Duchess (Eva Gabor), and her three Parisian kittens, Toulouse, Berlioz and Marie. Maurice Chevalier sings the title tune, although the movie is most fondly remembered for the Phil Harris/Scatman Crothers duet, "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat."

The eye-popping psychedelic colors that accompany that song are duplicated especially well on the $30 DVD, which also includes interactive features, among them a trivia game made up of questions about the movie's characters and plot. The tape sells for $23.

Also in April, BBC Video is bringing out the British natural-history series, "Walking With Dinosaurs," which was a ratings phenomenon in the United Kingdom, largely because of its costly and time-consuming computer-animation effects. (It makes its American television debut April 16 on the Discovery Channel.)

The effects aren't as impressive as they are in "Jurassic Park" or the new Disney picture, "Dinosaur" -- these creatures look like they were born in a computer -- but as a prehistoric-history lesson it can't be beat. It begins with the first appearance of dinosaurs 220 million years ago and ends with a visualization of the comet that apparently wiped them out 65 million years ago. The tape sells for $25. The DVD, which includes 29 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage and a 50-minute documentary about the making of the series, is $35.

Several new kid-vid specials are already in the stores. "Baby Huey's Great Easter Adventure" (Columbia TriStar Home Video, $15) marks the live-action debut of the cartoon duck. Meryl Streep narrates "The Tale of Peter Rabbit and the Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher" (Rabbit Ears Video, $15), a double bill of Beatrix Potter stories with original music by Lyle Mays.

"William's Wish Wellingtons" (BBC Video, $15) is a collection of 13 five-minute stories about a small boy who has a pair of magical boots. "Barney's Rhyme Time Rhythm" (Lyrick Studios, $15 on tape, $25 on DVD) is a feature-length video about the purple one's trip to the land of Mother Goose.

Sony Wonder's March lineup includes "Babies Have It Made" and "Pet Tales," both 55-minute tapes from the "Wimzie's House" PBS series ($10 apiece); "Arthur's Famous Friends" and "Arthur Goes to Hollywood," both from the "Arthur' series featuring the voice of Fred Rogers ($10 apiece); and a 75-minute animated musical, "Jack and the Beanstalk" ($13), featuring the voices of Ben Savage as the voice of Jack, Sara Gilbert as his sidekick Dilly and Tone-Loc as the voice of the giant.

Disney's family-friendly reissues this week are packaged as "The Great American Legends" ("Davy Crockett," "Light in the Forest," "Johnny Tremain") and "The Comedy Favorites Series" ("The Absent-Minded Professor," "The Shaggy Dog," "Son of Flubber"). They're on tape for $15 apiece.