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Unwrapping ‘Fun in a Box’ Series on Videocassettes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Different and delightful, the “Fun in a Box” videocassette series is aptly named. Aimed at ages 6 to 12--but with adult appeal too--each 30-minute tape is an eclectic, let’s-see-it-again mix of multi-award-winning animated and live action shorts.

The centerpiece of “Fun in a Box 1: “Ben’s Dream and Other Stories and Fun,” is the animated “Ben’s Dream,” based on the book by acclaimed children’s author-illustrator Chris Van Allsburg. Stunningly rendered pen-and-ink drawings come to life, taking viewers on a surreal tour of the world’s historic monuments.

The live-action “Fish” sneaks up on you. Moving and humorous, with a surprise ending, it’s about a lonely little girl who hires three quirky, Keats-quoting detectives to find her brother. Steve Segal’s animated “Red Ball Express” rounds out the tape.

“Fun in a Box 2: “New Friends and Other Stories & Fun,” is highlighted by a funny, animated version of James Stevenson’s book “New Friends,” about a lost duck who winters in New York City. Other segments include the mesmerizing, hand-painted “Metal Dogs of India,” “Kinetic Sculpture” and “Why Cats Eat First,” told by a bearded storyteller.

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A third tape, “Fun in a Box 3: “The Birthday Movie” will be released this month.

Made-to-Order Productions, $14.95 each. Information: (800) 232-5252.

“The Magic Fox,” a touring fairy-tale musical presented by the Golden State Children’s Theatre, is more muddle than magic.

The level of professionalism within the cast varies--standouts are Stephen Wolfe as Finnigan Flannigan Fox and Alan Anderson as Peter the Cobbler. Adriane Gabrielle evokes giggles in her campy role as Slimella the evil sorceress, and there are a few well-executed song-and-dance numbers, but they play against a limp script and unimaginative sets.

It’s a disappointing effort from Raun Yankovich and Adriane Coros, creators of the truly magical “Wolftales.”

“The Magic Fox,” Lincoln Junior High School, 1501 California Ave., Santa Monica, today, 2 p.m.; $3; (213) 828-1371 . Fontana Performing Arts Center, 9460 Sierra Ave., next Saturday, 1 p.m. ; $3; (714) 350-6734. Running time: 1 hour.


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