The latest sequels to "Toy Story," "An American Tail" and "Dragonheart" won't be stopping at the multiplex, but they will be nearly inescapable on video this month.
"An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster," which is already in stores (Universal Studios Home Video, $15 per tape), is a 76-minute continuation of the Steven Spielberg animated series that started in theaters 14 years ago. Fievel Mouskewitz is again the central character, who has nightmares about a monster terrorizing his neighborhood. Three new songs are introduced.
The first "American Tail" was directed by Don Bluth ("Titan A.E."), but the sequels (including a 1991 theatrical feature) and television series ("Fievel's American Tails") were handled by others. The latest installment was produced and directed by Larry Latham.
Disney almost sent "Toy Story 2" straight to video last year, and that is indeed the fate of "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins," which the company will release Tuesday ($25 for the tape, $30 for the DVD).
The 68-minute cartoon bears little relation to the story lines of John Lasseter's "Toy Story" movies or their unique computer-animation style. This one follows Buzz's action figure, "defender of the universe," into combat with the evil emperor Zurg.
Produced by Disney's Japanese animation division, "Buzz Lightyear" uses Tim Allen's voice again for Buzz, but Jim Hanks replaces Tom Hanks as Woody, who has a cameo part this time. The story is all Buzz, though the Little Green Men from the first two movies make a charming reappearance. The goofiest touch is saved for the closing credits: William Shatner singing "To Infinity and Beyond" with the Star Command Chorus.
Also due Tuesday is Universal Studios Home Video's "Dragonheart: A New Beginning" (rental-priced on tape, $25 for the DVD), an 85-minute spin-off of the 1996 fantasy that relied largely on Sean Connery's dragon voice and its Oscar-nominated visual effects. Produced by Raffaella de Laurentiis, who made the original film, "A New Beginning" features Robby Benson as the voice of a dragon and Chris Masterson (from "Malcolm in the Middle") as a stable boy who wants to be a knight.
Filming on location in castle-rich Slovakia, where the 1996 movie was shot, De Laurentiis set out to make a younger-skewed version, introducing martial arts into the medieval setting. Two stunt teams were used: Tony Leung choreographed the kung-fu aspects of the fight scenes, while a Slovakia team handled the traditional European sword fights. The film's director is Doug Lefler, who did "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" for television.
Next month, Disney will bring out a straight-to-video "Little Mermaid" sequel, "Return to the Sea," while Warner Home Video will have a new Tweety Pie feature, "Tweety's High-Flying Adventure."
Coming later this fall from Warner: "Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders" (Oct. 3) and "Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker" (Oct. 31). DreamWorks is releasing "Joseph: King of Dreams" (Nov. 7), a spin-off of its theatrical cartoon, "Prince of Egypt," while Universal is planning "The Land Before Time VII: The Stone of Cold Fire" (Nov. 28).
Video Watch by John Hartl appears Fridays in MovieTimes.