December 15, 1986 12:00 PM


They aren’t Christmas stories of course, but any children’s tale delivered as well as these is ideal for any time of year. Both these half-hour tapes use series of shrewdly drawn, subtly shaded still images for illustration. The Elephant’s Child, the Kipling story about how the elephant got its trunk, is read by Jack Nicholson. His voice is always an act in itself, and its natural irony nicely fits the tale of childish curiosity confronting adult fear and hypocrisy. Nicholson does the helpful Bicolored Python Rock Snake with particular zest. That one-man jazz band, Bobby McFerrin, provides background music that is appropriately spare and tinged with sounds of African music. Tim Raglin was art director. Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling is narrated by Cher, whose naturally musical voice gives just the right amount of color to what is otherwise a straighforward reading. The vivid drawings in unusual greens, grays and browns are by Robert Van Nutt. (Looking Class Video Library, each $14.95)

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