Charlton Heston reprises 'Ben-Hur' role for children's cartoon

Sunday, February 16, 2003

— Charlton Heston is back as "Ben-Hur" -- this time in cartoon form.

The 79-year-old, who won a lead actor Oscar for his role in the live-action 1959 epic, supplies narration and the voice of the title character in the new animated version, set for release on DVD and video Feb. 25.

He said he wanted youngsters to have a tamer introduction to the story about a fictional Jewish slave who becomes a Roman hero during the time of Christ.

"We believe it can be delivered in a child-friendly format to families who have never seen either the play or films," Heston said Thursday in a written response to questions. "Besides, I just could not resist the chance to play this wonderful part again."

The cartoon includes more scenes between the Ben-Hur and Jesus characters, and the climactic chariot race has less violence than previous incarnations of the story. The title also drops a hyphen -- making the new version "Ben Hur."

Heston performed the voice work for the "Ben Hur" cartoon more than a year ago, several months before announcing last August that he is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Fraser Heston, the actor's son and a co-producer of the cartoon, said his father remains in stable health and hopes to reprise the role of Moses in an animated version of his 1956 film "The Ten Commandments."

"He's in pretty good shape," Fraser said. "His memory is still good, and we hope he'll have many more years to come."