REVIEW: Jonny Quest: The Complete Series
On September 18, 1964, a serious animated adventure series, demonstrating cartoons didn’t have to always be comical such as The Flintstones (still airing then on ABC). Instead, Jonny Quest captured the sense of exploration Americans were longing for thanks to the Mercury astronauts and the rising tide of espionage films, headed by James Bond. However, Jonny was a young boy, making him an ideal feature for the Friday at 7:30 p.m. slot.
While the 26 episodes are all that were produced, the show’s overall quality proved influential to subsequent generations of animators, comic book storytellers, and audiences. It has pretty much remained in syndication for the last forty years. Jonny Quest remained the benchmark for dramatic animated fare for decades, enjoying brief runs as a comic book (notably Comico’s 1980s run).
The series has been collected and polished to a brilliant shine on a just-released Jonny Quest: The Complete Series Blu-ray from Warner Archives, where it will be celebrated in San Diego later this month.
The credit for the Hanna-Barbera series starts with Doug Wildey, who was asked to adapt the radio serial Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy for a cartoon series. Instead, Wildey threw himself into research and so thoroughly updated the concepts and cast that it was something entirely new.
Jonny (voiced by young Tim Matheson) is an 11-year-old homeschooled boy, who accompanies his father, the brilliant Dr. Benton C. Quest (John Stephenson/Don Messick), who is sent by the USA government on various expeditions. They are accompanied by Race Bannon (Mike Road), an agent from Intelligence One, designated as Jonny’s tutor and bodyguard, and Hadji (Danny Bravo), a Kolkata orphan adopted by Dr. Quest. With their dog Bandit, they circle the globe getting in and out of danger with regularity. The stories are imaginative and varied, giving the series its lasting appeal with heavy doses of technological plausibility plus pterodactyls.
There were several recurring characters, notably Race’s old girlfriend, Jade (Cathy Lewis), a mystery never fully solved.
The superior animation lavished on this, compared with most of Hanna-Barbera’s output from the era, looks great here with the traditional 1.33:1 aspect ratio. These files were cleaned up so the colors and heavy black line work is crisp, the colors popping and shadows properly murky.
The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix nicely preserves the one-channel original audio and works just fine with the beautiful visuals. Hoyt Curtin and Ted Nichols’ theme and music have never sounded better.
The special features from the 2004 DVD release are carried over here, including The Jonny Quest Files: Fun, Facts & Trivia (25:19), Jonny Quest: Adventures in Animation (15:15), complete with comments from Brad Bird, Steve Rude, Dan Riba, and Alex Ross; The Jonny Quest Video Handbook (16:57), and P.F. Flyer Sneaker Commercial (1:00).