Will puppy pic be on par with pig?

GOOD MORNING: Looking ahead to the Oscars of 1997: Could another G-rated, family film follow in the famous footprints of “Babe”– namely “101 Dalmatians”? I talked with Stephen Herek, directing the live version of the 1962 “Dalmatians” cartoon hit. He considers “Babe””a great movie.” His “Dalmatians” human cast is led by Glenn Close as the evil Cruella de Vil, plus Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright and Jeff Daniels, and more than 600 puppies. “Eight weeks old is the perfect age for ’em,” he says. “We have a lot of breeders here!” and laughingly added, “We’re exploring genetic engineering.” (It’s a joke, folks.) With nature’s help, the movie will be a Thanksgiving release. “The human thesps “are all animal lovers,” adds Herek. ILM and Jim Henson’s troops also are working the special effects, but the puppies are real. Herek, also the director of the delightfully uplifting (and successful) “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” is, of course, overjoyed with Richard Dreyfuss’ Oscar nomination, and he compliments the thesp’s terrif portrayal in “a journey through life”… Talking about “Babe,” nominee “farmer” James Cromwell was also a supporting thesp in “The Babe,” Arthur Hiller’s U pic about Babe Ruth, that is. ‘It’ll be a pleasure to hand him his nomination certificate at the nominees’ luncheon at the Beverly Hilton, March 12,” said the prez of the Acad. Hiller and wife Gwen celebrated their 48th wedding anni Valentine’s Day. They were married in 1948 — and should have bought a lottery ticket Wednesday …”The Postman” director Michael Radford, praising the push by Miramax, admitted that when his “White Mischief” failed to get studio support in 1988, “it stopped me from making pictures for years!”… Tuesday, Alan Ladd Jr. completed “The Phantom,” with Billy Zane “fighting” a lion. “We had to wait for him (the lion) to complete his scenes in South Africa in (Douglas/Reuther’s) ‘The Ghost And The Darkness.’ ” Now also in production on “A Very Brady Sequel,” Ladd’s not discounting a third “Bunch.”

FORMER JACKSON COMMUNCATIONS PRESIDENT Bob Petrallia filed for bankruptcy proceedings under Chapter 7 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey. Among other suits, he was a defendant in the Gary Smith-Dwight Hemion $1.8 million suit vs. the Jackson family, including the parents, plus Jermaine and Michael, for payments on “The Jackson Family Honors” show two years ago. A settlement was reached out of court only with Janet. At a mandatory settlement conference here on the “Honors” case attended by 12 attorneys, no resolution was accomplished. It goes to federal district court on June 17 … Michael Reagan’s talkshow is now being heard on more than 100 stations, satellited from L.A. and hopefully soon on a local station as well. Michael tells me he lunches regularly with his father, Ronnie. As for the 85th birthday dinner at Chasen’s, Michael told me, “I probably would have invited him (if it were up to Michael, that is). I don’t think he could have done anything to embarrass himself”… President Clinton has invited TV Acad prez Rich Frank to join Hollywood toppers at the Feb. 29 White House confab on TV violence. And Frank, in turn, will invite Clinton to the TV Acad’s all-day fall confab on “TV’s Impact on Society”…”The American President” is now available to the blind thanks to Martin Sheen’s narration on TheatreVision by RP International’s Helen Harris. Castle Rock and Rob Reiner donated the recording session … And 81 years young thesp Michael Gough, “Batman’s” butler, voiced the description of “Batman Forever” for TheatreVision thanks to WB and Barry Reardon’s cooperation … Producers looking for a building to blow up, burn or otherwise destroy, the Washington State Film Office’s Cathy Sande tells me there’s a classic Seattle style brick building that has to be demolished by the end of March. Call her.

A FOURTH — AND FINAL — DIRECTOR, Marc Rocco (“Murder in the First”), is set for the James Dean biopic. WB is gung ho on the project and its latest script to be produced by Marvin Worth. Meanwhile, Worth is also in post on “Diabolique” and “Norma and Jean,” and also prepping “Easy Women”… Valentine’s Day newlyweds Jim Rush (son of Joan and Herman R.) and Sarah Norton at the family citrus ranch in Ojai … Also on Valentine’s Day, Marilu Henner and husband Rob Lieberman received the ACES National Golden Heart Award … Also on Valentine’s Day, the Steve Tisch Children’s Performing Arts Pavilion was dedicated by the H.E.L.P. Group … Mr. Blackwell delighted the ladies of the MPTVFund’s Smart Set at their Valentine’s Day feed at the Hotel Nikko … Georgiana and Ricardo Montalban were honored at the Colleagues’ Valentine’s Day luncheon by Saks Fifth Ave. and Chanel spring show at the BevWilshire’s noon’er benefitting the Children’s Institute … Ray Charles receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Occidental College May 12. And Joe Adams, his manager for over 30 years, joins Samuel L. Jackson and Dr. Henry W. Foster Jr. in receiving “A Candle in the Dark” awards from Morehouse College Saturday.