Alex Abramovich
April 18, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Though its dust jacket claims that the story of animation is the story of America itself, anyone plumbing Serious Business: The Art and Commerce of Animation in America from Betty Boop to Toy Story for clues to our national psyche might as well learn to tie knots by reading The Story of O. Thankfully, Stefan Kanfer knows that ‘toons are much more than cultural icons. And though the narrative peters out toward the end, cramming The Simpsons, Ren & Stimpy, and Toy Story into one chapter, providing a better idea of where animation’s been than where it’s headed, the book’s quick pace and juicy anecdotes provide a fascinating look at a largely neglected part of Hollywood history. Kanfer’s study — half history, half appreciation — treats cartoon characters (Rocky and Bullwinkle, Tom ‘n’ Jerry, the Warner Bros. crew) as the fast friends we grew up with and grew out of, and much of the pleasure of reading it lies in getting reacquainted. B+

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