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.