Show Business: What's Up, Doc? Animation!

The cartoon boom in TV and movies is reviving a neglected craft

From the creator of gritty real-life dramas like Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law, the idea seemed downright goofy. Steven Bochco's proposal was to do a TV series set in the White House, in which the affairs of government are seen through the eyes of mice, bugs and other critters roaming around the place. A cartoon, of all things. Network executives, Bochco recalls, greeted his suggestion with all the warmth that Sylvester used to display toward Tweety Pie. "They said, 'What, are you crazy? Take a bus.' "

Until recently, the same reaction would have greeted anybody with a notion of...