TV Reviews : Dinosaurs Preach Earth Day Message

"Earthday Birthday," an animated special premiering Sunday at 9 a.m. on HBO, attempts to teach young children that even the smallest of us can help solve ecological problems.

Unfortunately, this valuable message gets lost in a smarmy, sloppily constructed story. Producer/director Michael Sporn does his best to keep things moving, but he's been saddled with a dreary, didactic screenplay by Lisa Werenko and Brian McConnachle and a clutch of cornball songs by Robert Stein.

The story centers on the Zwibble Dibbles, a clutch of "adorable, socially responsible" baby dinosaurs who look suspiciously like they've been designed for a merchandising campaign. When a Zwibble named Orbit gets taken on a magic flight around the globe for his birthday, he discovers that (gasp!) pollution exists. The Zwibbles and their friends decide to give the Earth a birthday party and invite all the children in the world to learn how to fight pollution.

Very small children may enjoy the antics of these brightly colored saurians, but their older siblings will quickly tire of the show's saccharine moralizing. Parents who wish to present Earth Day issues intelligently would do better to show their children a cassette of Frederick Back's exquisite, ecological animated films, "Tout-Rien" ("All Nothing") and "The Man Who Planted Trees."

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