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Pooch Comes to Shove

“Air Bud” creator Kevin DiCicco is doggone made at Keystone Entertainment

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It’s a dog-eat-dog world in Hollywood, and the owner of the late basketball-shooting canine star of last year’s “Air Bud” feels that he’s getting treated like a liver snap by the producers of “Air Bud 2: Golden Receiver” (which opens this summer with a new dog star). “I’m really shocked,” says Kevin DiCicco, about the independent production company Keystone Entertainment. DiCicco brought Keystone the idea for the original film about his golden retriever Buddy — who first gained fame on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and David Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks” in 1991. But DiCicco says that the company still owes him money for the franchise: “I was proud to be able to give them a film to get them on the map, and then they turn around and p–s on me.”

According to DiCicco, 35, his original contract with Keystone promised him 10 percent of net profits from “Air Bud,” none of which he has seen yet. He’s convinced that since the movie cost only $4 million, grossed $25 million (distributed by Disney), and did well on home video, there should be “millions with my name on it.” He’s now preparing a “massive” lawsuit against Keystone.

Robert Vince, the producer of both “Air Bud” films, says he has not yet received a formal complaint and will not comment on DiCicco’s specific claims. “Kevin tends to shoot off his mouth so I have no idea really what he’s talking about,” says Vince, whose company indicated — sometime after Buddy’s leg was amputated in a cancer operation — that there was no sequel planned for him. “I personally like Kevin, and personally feel sad that his dog passed away,” says Vince. “But he’s not a businessman. He trained the dog, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t understand these practical things.”

In the meantime, DiCicco is preparing to unleash his own heirs to Buddy’s dish. He froze Buddy’s sperm four years ago and bred him with a dog in Cleveland. Now he’s teaching three of Buddy’s 13-week-old puppies all of their father’s sporting tricks, such as blocking hockey pucks and catching footballs. DiCicco has signed an endorsement deal with Milk-Bone dog biscuits for the puppies, and he’s planning his own sequel, “Air Bud: The Next Generation,” for filming in fall of 1999. It will be a “cross between ‘Ferris Bueller’ and ‘Home Alone'” and will star the pup that looks most like his dad.

Pointing out that he called his company “Air Bud Productions” since 1991, DiCicco claims that he owns the right to use the “Air Bud” name. “That doesn’t make any sense,” says Vince, who believes that the rights belong to Keystone. “No company spends millions of dollars developing a movie without owning the rights to it.” Looks like it’s gonna be a dogfight.