Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Discuss: Jonny Quest!

Karen: How have we not yet talked about the coolest cartoon show ever? Of course I mean Jonny Quest!! It had everything -spies, monsters, robots, jets, lasers, a cute little dog...and the kids on the show actually were clever and brave.

It had a great look, smart stories, and a hip theme song, but sadly lasted only one season. But it is still fondly remembered by BABsters like us. Let's hear your thoughts on the Quest crew.

Check out this neat stop motion version of the Jonny Quest opening by Roger Evans at


Anonymous said...

Lurker here.....
Dig that crazy music man!

Rip Jagger said...

It's difficult for me now at this distance to remember exactly when Jonny Quest slithered into my consciousness, but suffice it say it did with a bang and has lingered as my absolute favorite cartoon show of all time since.

Jonny was cool, Hadji was the best friend ever, Race was the greatest big buddy and the coolest cat on TV, and Dr.Quest was pretty chill about Jonny's behavior. Even Bandit didn't get on my nerves as much as some of those critters did. It was rockem' sockem' adventure with world-spanning scope!

When I finally got DVD savvy a few years ago, the Jonny Quest DVD set was one of my first purchases. They series had been available in bits and pieces in VHS, I have a few around here, but to have all of them was too cool. I mostly had a home made VHS from the early 90's which I broke out from time to time to refresh on the stories.

Doug Wildey's designs were outstanding and raised the bar for cartoons of the era. Different than Toth's designs which were clean and sleek, the Wildey characters had a resonance which tied them to the classic noir adventures of years past.

I have every JQ comic there has been, even the hard-to-find Gold Key one-shot. It's a gem. The "New Adventures" left me pretty cold alas, but the classic stuff is awesome always.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

I remember watching this on Saturday mornings in the late '70s (reruns of the originals from the '60s). Although I haven't watched them since and hardly recall any individual episodes, I do remember liking quite a bit back then - it was one of those "can't miss" shows. And yes, that title sequence and the theme music are sweet!

Anonymous said...

Karen - awesome topic choice! Rip, I have that DVD with the original 26 episodes as well. I highly recommend it to all the Quest fans out there. Claasic show!


david_b said...

Yes, wonderful topic. It was the '60s, when cartoons were cool.

1) It didn't give you some moral message at the end..., Filmation.

2) While Bandit got close at times, it was before networks insisted on a comical 'putz' to break the tension..

3) Animation for early '60s production was phenominal, never looking dated

4) Quest being a primetime show, the bar certainly was high, as was the Flinstones a few years earlier.

I to collected at least the first dozen of the '80s comics, great covers and stories; my interest waned when other artists started coming in. I had that Wildey '80s poster up for many years in my den, just a perfect rememberance.

Totally loved the closing credits, with the spider-like space craft hovering around and both Race and Dr Quest with bazookas on jetpacks..


I recall using my little MMM jetpacks on the backs of my GI Joes to simulate that.

humanbelly said...

Oh, good, good, GOOD call on this one, Karen! I can't think of anyone my (or more inclusively, "our") age for whom Jonny Quest didn't have a special hold. That original series-- I can't believe it was only one season-- had an impenetrable teflon-like coating of "cool". At some point, every kid would come up with some game or "adventure" or project that identified with or was inspired by the show. Heck, even my younger sisters liked it. I just barely, barely remember my Dad watching it when it was on as an early prime-time show-- I would have been 4. And then it went right to Saturday mornings, and it NEVER left! I'm pretty sure it was usually aired late- around lunchtime- 'cause the music evokes for me the taste of baloney sandwiches, potato chips, and a glass of milk.

And oh man-- the Hoyt Curtin theme is the BEST EVER! And it's a piece where, the more you know about music and the composer himself, the better it actually is. I'm a bit of a (former) trombone player, and this theme is just a MURDEROUSLY delightful challenge for the studio's horn section! And purposely so, as it turns out-- there was kind of a good-natured "give us yer worst, pal" challenge from the 'bone section, so Curtin came up with this driving theme w/ some EXTREMELY fast licks and wide intervals, and then put it in one of the hardest keys for trombones to play in (B, F#, or C#, I think-- many, many sharps. Trombones are conditioned towards reading flats.). And of course there's also that blistering tom-centered drum performance that never lets up. To my ear, it surpasses the performance on the original recording of "Sing, Sing, Sing"-- but here it is on a 50-year-old Hanna-Barbera cartoon-- go figure.

I do recall that the cartoon took a beating from childrens' television censors in later years because of the violence and mayhem. Bad guys and soldiers got blown up and obviously shot and killed. People got bitten by poisonous things & died and so on. And I honestly do remember that bothering me as a little kid, BUT-- not in an inappropriate way. I didn't like that even bad guys' lives were being lost, but what it did bring home very clearly was that things like explosions and weapons and stunts were indeed DANGEROUS, and that there were consequences when dangerous elements came into play. If anything, it was quite the opposite of traditional super-hero or video game violence.

Whoo! Goin' on too long here, I think-- I'll just be signin' off now. . .


david_b said...

Slight-derivative OT from HB's comment regarding censors..:

It says a LOT about society these days.. No one wants to see negative consequences anymore.

From those times to the early '70s, you didn't see gun violence much anymore because the censors were worried guys coming home from the war would have their pistols hangin' around available.

Huge alien laser cannons and such..? No such worries there.

Just what looks like kids could get in trouble for.

Anonymous said...

The violence seemed shocking when I was five. In retrospect, it was probably no worse than Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea or The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but those were live action shows. The medium is the message, and, back then, animated cartoons were usually comedies, often the "funny animal" genre. I don't know if Jonny Quest was the first American action-adventure TV cartoon, but, offhand, I don't remember any earlier ones.

Garett said...

I've never seen this show, but I've heard of the character through comics. I just checked out the intro on youtube, and yes the animation looks excellent and fantastic theme song!

Pat Henry said...

Race Bannon was TV's coolest mom.

Redartz said...

Excellent topic! Jonny Quest was the gold standard for television animation. It had an unmatched combination of strong characters, dramatic visuals, exciting stories and a fabulous soundtrack. Like many of you, the DVD collection remains a favorite.

There was a great issue of Amazing Heroes which focused on the show, and featured a long interview with Doug Wildey. The artwork's prominent dark tones and use of black was noted; watching an episode will show just how effective this was in giving the show solidity .
Additionally, how can you beat the cool array of villains?
Dr. Zin tops the list, but there were many others. I particularly liked the former Nazi in the Devil's Tower episode. There he was, laughing like a lunatic while bombing our heroes from a vintage plane . Wow...

dbutler16 said...

Wasn't it every kid's dream to live Johnny Quest's lifestyle? A genius dad, a pilot-adventurer nanny, a home on an island, no formal schooling, and exotic friend, and a cute doggie!
Oh, how I used to love this show. It was a bit like James Bond starring a couple of kids.

david_b said...

Well, dbutler, agreed, but between us, I'd be fine with the jetpack, bazooka, and OK, perhaps Bandit.

Always loved when the boat came crashing down on the frogmen as well.. I know that sounds grizzly and I'm not violent by any stretch, but it sure looked COOL on the screen.

Doc Savage said...

I have never seen the original series. I saw part of some revival show but wasn't taken with it so turned it off a few minutes in. I have the comic book with the Dave Stevens Jezebel Jade cover. Was she on the show?

Karen said...

I too saw the show in reruns on Saturday mornings and it made a huge impression. It seemed like the perfect confluence of great design, jazzy theme song, and wonderful writing. I appreciate that it never spoke down to me (as a child)but offered smart stories. And yes, it was violent -it just seemed very realistic (OK, except for the giant spider-like robot)to me. I guess it was an era where we were less coddled, less shielded from reality. Guns killed people, and bad guys killed people. Boy were things different!

Unknown said...

I don't think you'll find too many here on BAB who didn't grow up with Jonny Quest. I first discovered it in 1969. It was the same Saturday that I discovered Superman & Batman via the Filmation cartoons, and the Herculoids. Wow, what a day!

Jonny was always on around 12 or 1 on Saturdays, and was always the best thing on. Poor Scooby Doo just couldn't compete.

That stop motion recreation of the theme is brilliant!

James Chatterton

Mike said...

How was this show never made into a movie???

Comicsfan said...

I couldn't help but be reminded of "The Robot Spy," one of my favorite JQ episodes, when sculptress Louise Bourgeois passed away in 2010. Bourgeois obviously had other, deeper motivations for creating "Maman," her sculpture resembling a giant spider; I still feel a little guilty for distilling the whole thing down to a cartoon. :)

(Mike, I'm with you 100%--JQ needs to be a feature film with a mega-budget and a top director--and that damn jet had better have an exquisite opening pan shot. :) )

Doc Savage said...

better yet, how can we keep it from being made into a crappy movie?

vancouver mark said...

It's wonderful to see such love for the greatest cartoon of all time.

I was six when Space Ghost started and seven when Herculoids, Mightor and Superman/Aquaman came on, but this was the highlight of every Saturday morning. As James said it always came on last, at noon or so, and I would wait impatiently to see which episode would be on. My favorite was The Robot Spy that Comicsfan mentioned, just the image of that spider blinking at the tank shell in the opening credits thrilled me.

I echo lots of the points that have been made about the intelligent stories, memorable characters and breathtaking music. I was the only child of a single mother, so I really idealized the male parents and amazing best friend/travelling companion.

I love the international scope of the stories, it was through this show that I probably first experienced the Amazon and Arctic, India and the Andes, Sahara and Indonesia, and so on and on.

I so badly wanted to be Jonny Quest! So a very cool outcome for me has been my amazing wife, a belovedly awesome Central Asian/Indian best friend and travelling companion. At some point as we dated she happened to mention that her family's old name had been Haji. We married soon after.
Later on she also made me levitate without even having to say sim sim salabim.

Karen said...

Mark - lovely story, thank you for sharing that.

You mentioned how JQ was a first exposure to far-away places. I agree, it was almost a travelogue for kids. Every week some exciting, exotic land was featured. Last weekend I turned on the TV and Lawrence of Arabia was on. I stopped and watched, captivated by the amazing landscapes. No CGI required! Sometimes I think we forget how beautiful and fantastic our own planet can be.

dbutler16 said...

Hey, my wife and I just stgarted watching Lawrence of Arabia on DVD last night!

Doc Savage said...

"Greatest cartoon ever"...? None of you ever saw Bullwinkle & Rocky?

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