Howdy folks. Hold onto your hats: here comes my first ever review!
‘Jonny Quest’ is a television cartoon series that had a one season run in ’64-’65.The demographic is young boys, aged 10-12. The producers try to bring realistic super-hero comic book art to the screen. This is an action/adventure show with elements of science fiction, science fact, and a bit of supernatural on occasion.
Jonny is the son of brilliant scientist and inventor, Dr. Benton Quest. Mom is out of the picture, so Dr. Quest has a bodyguard, ‘Race’ Bannon, to help raise and home-school Jonny. Hadji, an adopted son of Dr. Quest, is Jonny’s best friend. The show is dated in many ways, and the stereotypical appearance of Hadji’s character shows, but Hadji is always depicted in a good light. He is witty, charming, smart and resourceful. He is also every bit as adventuresome as Jonny. A fifth member of the cast is Jonny’s dog, ‘Bandit’. The opening of the show has no credits other than introducing the characters. No real people names. This show only gives credence to what would entertain a young boy.
This is a Hanna-Barbera production. They are not known for high quality animation; however, Jonny Quest was ground-breaking, and perhaps unequaled since. There is three-dimensionality to the the work as it is built in layers, much like what Japanese animation became famous for in the seventies and eighties. The backgrounds are lavishly detailed and extravagantly coloured. Each episode occurs in a specific geographic location, and the background work reflects that. A striking trait of the cartoon is its obvious attempt at looking like a comic book. Several shots in each episode come across as carefully staged comic panels. A wonderful use of shadows, unlike any other anime, is often used. They are not afraid of the color black on this show, which really adds a lush quality to the appearance. I have never seen another cartoon try so hard to recreate a comic. Not Trigun, Bebop, the DC Batman movies nor Batman the Animated Series.
As I just mentioned Trigun and Bebop, I would like to make a BOLD CLAIM. Those two shows contain my favorite anime soundtracks. The music in Trigun is so soulful; the music of Bebop is technical and catchy, however, Jonny Quest has the best soundtrack ever. It might be described as orchestrated jazz? Whatever you call it, it is bad-ass. The opening theme is better than either Trigun or Bebop. They also have the most extensive library of incidental music. The incidental music is exotic, with rhythms that get your adrenaline pumping, invoking a sense of adventure, fun, and whimsy, but also fear, foreboding, and dread. There is over two and a half hours of original material on the soundtrack, so it never gets old or redundant. Much of the music gets recycled into other Hanna-Barberra toons.
Dr. Quest has the latest in state of the art technology at his disposal. Many episodes mention the space race and the United States race to get to the moon. This cartoon is a time capsule of sorts. This was a special moment in time when futuristic gadgets caught the public imagination such as an early computer, portable video phones and hydrafoils. A couple of episodes feature jet-packs, or sometimes flying platforms. All sorts of planes are shown off. The main plane operated by the Quests features nose mounted aerolons. They sometimes fly around in a vertical/take-off/land jet. A couple of episodes feature biplanes.
A different animal, each common to the geographic locale for every episode, is highlighted. Exotic birds, rare goats, camels,or something would come out to play with Bandit. Many dangerous animals appear, though. One episode has the gang on the Amazon River traveling in an old-fashioned steam-launch when they are attacked by dozens of crocodiles. The boys take up rifles and fight them off, which brings me to the number one attribute of this show; the violence! This is one of the most violent television shows I have ever seen. People die on this show. Dr. Quest, Race Bannon, Jonny and Hadji are all stone cold killers. They never go to the police or authority of any kind. If you frack with the Quests, they will track you down and kill you: criminals, Nazis, and supernatural monsters. I don’t know how many people die over the course of the show, including many in horrible, screaming deaths. For me, this is what makes this show an epic. It is far from politically correct. The show does not try to preach a moral lesson of some kind as is prevalent in kid shows. The violence is justified and unapologetic.
The producers brought in a comic book artist that loved detailed work. Most cartoon artists hate that sort of thing, but this cat reveled in it. The bold adventure spirit that the show is about is also what brought it to life and is what gives this cartoon its lasting charm.
Please watch and listen to the Jonny Quest opener sequence!: Jonny Quest Opener and Song
Here is a link to the entire soundtrack: Jonny Quest Soundtrack.
Great review! Hard to imagine I am old enough to see the original and can still remember the show! (And I am not even a boy)
Hi Dianne, thank you for stopping by.
I must have seen it on Saturday morning reruns, but I know it was when I was really young. Some of the episodes really kind of scared me at the time.
I am sure there were lots of girls that liked Jonny Quest! It was geared towards boys but I am sure it had a wide appeal.
Wonderful and informative review, good sir. The visual style and animation remind me so much of Scooby-Doo and Flintstones. And honestly, something about Johnny Quest rings a bell for me! I wouldn’t be surprised if I had seen an episode of it randomly at some point in my childhood. Thanks for sharing, Icky! I look forward to more of your thoughts on these classics. 😀
Yep, the same production company made Scooby and the Flintstones, but this was that companies attempt at something more. There were a couple of reboots for the show in the eighties and nineties, plus there is a feature movie coming out, but I say you can’t beat the original!
Thanks for stopping by!
Hurray, I have my internet back so I can read and comment!
I’ve heard of Johnny Quest but never watched it. I listened to the opening and my goodness, you weren’t exaggerating the jazz influence at all. Reading your comments to Lashaan, it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m thinking of the reboots, probably the 90’s one as we didn’t get a tv until ’89 or so I think?
I like that you wrote a review. What brought this on? And thanks for shooting me the email letting me know it was up.
Thanks for stopping by, Bookstooge.
Thanks for listening to the opener! It really is bad-ass!
I am not sure what brought this on. I guess I have wanted to write a review of some kind, but could not find a subject of which I was comfortable being critical.
I’d never heard of this series, perhaps because I was not the target audience or because it wasn’t shown in the UK in my cartoon-television era – the 1980s! I was surprised when you said it was a 1960s production because the artwork looks very modern.
Hi Stephanie Jane.
Yes, Ma’am, Jonny Quest is certainly ahead of it’s time. It is funny to see what sort of entertainment stands the test of time. So very little in animation at that time was particularly well done. These cats should be proud.
Thank you for stopping by to read the article Stephanie Jane, I really appreciate it!
Your pal, ~Ichabod 😉
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I used to LOVE Jonny Quest! When you said it was only 1 season I was blown away… I could have sworn that it was longer. Maybe it was just so good that I forgot it was such a short run.
I completely agree about the comic style and the lack of fear of the colour black. They definitely loved their shadows.
Bold statement about the soundtrack… I’ll have to refresh my memory on that one. But, Cowboy Bebop has, absolutely, the BEST soundtrack I’ve ever come across. Nothing beats “Tank!” and “The Egg and I”. Amazing!
You are far too young to remember the old sixties version/run. How did you ever see this? Are you sure it was not a re-boot?
Did you ever do a refresher on the soundtrack?
Happy Trails, Tipsy Bookworm Lady! You Rock, sister!
Thanks for the email with the pix! Glad the box could come in handy too 🙂
I don’t recall having ever watched this, but I’ll see if I can find it somewhere. The images look amazing for the time. Thanks for sharing!
Just wanted to stop by and say a heartfelt thanks for your continued “likes” on various posts. I do appreciate them and want to make sure you don’t think I take you for granted 😀
Dude, I would not follow, read, and hit the ‘like’ button if I did not genuinely enjoy the articles. 🙂
Thank you. I appreciate your sentiments.