Picks and Pans Review: Pecos Bill

updated 09/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

"The trail was dusty, the sun was scorching, the days were long, the cattle smelled bad—and that was the good part." That snippet is an indication of the slightly hip spin this half-hour animated tape puts on the old tall tale. (The 1948 Disney film Melody Time, which had a Pecos Bill segment, is unavailable on tape.) Illustrator Tim Raglin's appealing, broad-stroked drawings are backed by writer Brian Gleeson, who did the adaptation, composer Ry Cooder, who provided the bluesy score, and Robin Williams, who tells the story in a Western accent that's a cross between Gabby Hayes and Lyndon Johnson. (For one character, Williams also affects a John Wayne imitation that's nothing to write to Rich Little about.) The tale is still appealing: A baby is lost in the desert and raised by coyotes, then ends up as a varmint-fighting, puma-taming, cyclone-busting marvel. When he's riding the cyclone and squeezes it so hard it drips salt tears on Utah, creating the Great Salt Lake, Williams adds what sounds like an ad lib—"There were a group of Mormons, just goin,' 'Thank you, Lord.' " So much the better. The loose, good-time tone of the tape should help younger children past the subtler jokes—"If it wasn't for Bill, there wouldn't a been a Wild West...And who wants to hear stories about the Mundane West?"—and it generates a playful, free-spirited energy. (Sony, $14.95; 800-446-6388)

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