Disney changes its spots: No Dalmatians, et al.

DISNEY’S PET PEEVE: First there was the famous Katzenberg memo. Now there’s the not-so-famous but nonetheless hair-raising “No Pets Allowed!” memo.

Some Disney feature animation personnel are up in arms about a new edict issued last week by the department’s top dog, Peter Schneider, informing staffers that as of next month they can no longer bring their pets to work.

Animation worker bees say Schneider’s in the doghouse for initiating the new policy, since for years it’s been common practice to bring everything from potbellied pigs to rats, mice and snakes to their Burbank workplace.

“There was no meeting or notice about this. All of a sudden everyone was told , ‘You can’t bring your pets into work,’ ” said a sore source. “A lot of these people work extended hours and put in long days, and they can’t run home that easily to feed their pets.”

In the memo, Schneider explained that the new no-pets policy is being instituted because he received “many complaints, including medical ones,” from individuals in the department.

“As you all know, for the past several years, animals in the building have been a potential problem and we have tried several ways to accommodate those artists who have wanted to bring their pets to work.

“However, in the last few months, the practice has become excessive. … We do want to make our workplace environment as comfortable as we can … but we also must make the environment as safe and clean for all.”

He points out that fish are exempt from the ban, and if animals are to be used as models for production, they must be approved by the associate producer.

Some say Disney’s animation department became more like a zoo than a place of business. One source said that a staffer’s snake recently escaped from his cage and ate another worker’s pet mouse.

We can only assume the deceased rodent wasn’t Mickey.

WE DON’T LIKE SECRETS: While Paramount, CAA and Barry Levinson are bent on keeping the contents of the director’s latest project for the studio under wraps , DISH managed to pry the premise out of a not-so-unsuspecting mole.

The low-budget relationship comedy — which Levinson and Mark Johnson are producing for Paramount under their new Baltimore Pix deal — is about an unemployed actor at the end of his tether who goes to desperate means to advance his career.

He steals loot out of his girlfriend’s bank account to buy a public bus bench located outside a prominent motion picture studio. He pastes his photo and phone number on it, hoping to attract the attention of exex passing to and from the studio. As for what happens next, well, you’ll just have to see the movie.

Negotiations are under way with Joe Pesci to star.

TRASH THE FLICK, SAVE THE PREMISE: After seeing a recent screening of David Burton Morris’ low-budget romantic comedy “Jersey Girl,” Columbia Pictures brass found they loved the premise but not the picture. So they’ve decided to shelve its theatrical release and reshape the idea as a big-budgeted, major star- and director-driven vehicle.

While Columbia officials wouldn’t talk, one of the unreleased film’s producers, Nicole Seguin, confirmed that studio honchos Peter Guber and Mark Canton “have decided to make a remake with stars.”

It’s her understanding that the $ 5.5 million movie, also produced by Electric Pictures’ Staffan Ahrenberg and Interscope’s David Madden, may wind up being shown on Fox, then go straight to video, bypassing the big screen in its present form.

“I’m very sad because I really love the movie and think it had a shot — but we’ll never know,” Seguin said.

SPE’s low-budget distributor Triumph Releasing originally slated the movie, which stars Jami Gertz, Dylan McDermott and Aida Turturro, for an April 9 bow.

One source claims that Columbia may not totally wipe out Gina Wendkos’ script , but rather intends to bring a new writer aboard to rework the material with the possibility of salvaging portions.

SEA OF FEMME ROLES SWELLS: Indie producer Joe Vecchio has joined the ranks of filmmakers looking to promote stronger roles for women in film.

The Universal Pix-based producer is developing a project called “The Warrior Queen,” based on Eleanor Fairburn’s historical novel “The White Sea Horse,” about the legendary 16th-century Irish independence fighter Grace O’Malley. The rebellious woman led Ireland’s warring clans of men against the invasion of the British under England’s Elizabeth I.

“She was more than a warrior sea queen, she was an incredible figure of her time who was determined to command her own fleet of ships when it was unheard of for females to do anything but have babies, cook and clean,” Vecchio said.

PELICAN CASTS ITS NET: Warner Bros.’ “The Pelican Brief,” Alan Pakula’s adaptation of John Grisham’s popular novel to star Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, is finalizing deals with Sam Shepard, John Lithgow and Tony Goldwyn, the pic’s New York-based casting director Alixe Gordin confirmed Monday. Production is slated to begin May 24.

While “minor details” are still being ironed out on those contracts, Gordin confirmed that firm deals have been made with Robert Culp (“I Spy”) to play the president of the United States and John Heard to be an FBI lawyer. Stanley Tucci plays the assassin.

Pending consummation of their deals, Shepard will portray Callahan, a law professor with whom Roberts has a romantic liaison, while Lithgow’s role is managing editor of the Washington Post. Goldwyn plays chief of staff to the president. And Hume Cronyn may take on a cameo role in the movie, which Pakula is producing with Pieter Jan Brugge.

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