Jonny Quest (TV series)

Jonny Quest (TV series)
Jonny Quest
Original Jonny Quest title card from 1964
Format Animated/Science fiction/Adventure
Created by Doug Wildey
Directed by William Hanna
Joseph Barbera
Starring 1964–65:
Tim Matheson as Jonny Quest
Mike Road as Roger "Race" Bannon
Danny Bravo as Hadji
John Stephenson as Dr. Quest (5 episodes)
Don Messick as Dr. Quest and Bandit

Scott Menville as Jonny Quest
Granville Van Dusen as "Race" Bannon
Rob Paulsen as Hadji
Don Messick as Dr. Quest and Bandit
Theme music composer Hoyt Curtin
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 26
Producer(s) William Hanna
Joseph Barbera
Running time 25 minutes (1964-65)
22 minutes (1986–87)
Production company(s) Hanna-Barbera
Distributor Warner Bros. Television
Original channel ABC (1964–65)
Syndication (1986–87)
Original run September 18, 1964 – March 11, 1965

Jonny Quest – often casually referred to as The Adventures of Jonny Quest – is an American science fiction/adventure animated television series about a boy who accompanies his father on extraordinary adventures. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions for Screen Gems, and created and designed by comic book artist Doug Wildey.

Inspired by radio serials and comics in the action-adventure genre, it featured more realistic art, characters, and stories than Hanna-Barbera's previous cartoon programs. It was the first of several Hanna-Barbera action-based adventure shows – which would later include Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Birdman and the Galaxy Trio – and ran on ABC in prime time on early Friday nights for one season in 1964–65.

After spending two decades in reruns, during which time it appeared on all 3 major US television networks of the time, new episodes were produced for syndication in 1986. Two telefilms, a comic book series, and a more modern revival series, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, were produced in the 1990s. Reruns of Johnny Quest can be seen on Cartoon Network's classic cartoon channel Boomerang.



Comic book artist Doug Wildey, after having worked on Cambria Productions' 1962 animated television series Space Angel,[1] found work at the Hanna-Barbera studio, which asked him to design a series starring the radio drama adventure character Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy.[2]

Wildey wrote and drew a presentation, using such magazines as Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Science Digest "to project what would be happening 10 years hence", and devising or fancifully updating such devices as a "snowskimmer" and hydrofoils. When Hanna-Barbera could not or would not obtain the rights to Jack Armstrong, the studio had Wildey rework the concept. Wildey said he "went home and wrote Jonny Quest that night — which was not that tough." For inspiration he drew on Jackie Cooper and Frankie Darrow movies, Milton Caniff's comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and, at the behest of Hanna-Barbera, the James Bond movie Dr. No. As Wildey described in 1986, producer Joe Barbera had seen that first film about the English superspy "and wanted to get in stuff like [Bond's code-number] '007' — numbers. Which we included, by the way, in the first [episode of] Jonny Quest. It was called 'Jonny Quest File 037' or something. We dropped that later; it didn't work. But that was his father's code name as he worked for the government as a scientist and that kind of thing.[2] Hanna-Barbera refused to give him a "created by" credit, Wildey said, and he and studio "finally arrived on 'Based on an idea created by', and that was my credit."[2]

The Saturday-morning TV animated series Jonny Quest debuted on ABC on September 18, 1964. As comics historian Daniel Herman wrote,

Wildey's designs on Jonny Quest gave a cartoon a distinctive look, with its heavy blacks [i.e. shading and shadow] and its Caniff-inspired characters. . . . The show was an action/adventure story involving the feature's namesake, an 11-year-old boy. The cast of characters included Jonny's kid sidekick, named Hadji, Jonny's globetrotting scientist dad . . . and the group's handsome bodyguard, secret agent Race Bannon, who looks as if he stepped out of the pages of [Caniff's comic strip] Steve Canyon. . . . The look of Jonny Quest was unlike any other cartoon television show of the time, with its colorful backgrounds, and its focus on the characters with their jet packs, hydrofoils, and lasers. Wildey would work on other animation projects, but it was with his work on Jonny Quest that he reached his widest audience, bringing a comic book sense of design and style to television cartoons.[3]

Wildey did not design the more cartoonishly drawn, pet bulldog, Bandit, which was designed by animator Dick Bickenbach.[2]

Although they do not appear in any episode, scenes from the Jack Armstrong test film were incorporated into the Jonny Quest closing credits.[citation needed] They are the scenes of Jack Armstrong and Billy Fairfield escaping from African warriors by hovercraft. The test sequence and a number of drawings and storyboards by Wildey were used to sell the series to ABC and sponsors.[citation needed]

Scenes from the abandoned Jack Armstrong test film.
Demo1.gif Demo2.gif Demo03.gif Demo04.gif

The show's working titles were The Saga of Chip Baloo, which Wildey said "wasn't really serious, but that was it for the beginning",[2] and Quest File 037.[4][5][6] The name Quest was selected from a phone book, for its adventurous implications.[2][7]


The Quest team. Front row (left to right): Dr. Benton Quest and "Race" Bannon. Back row: Jonny Quest, Hadji, and Bandit
  • Jonathan "Jonny" Quest is an 11-year-old American boy who lost his mother at an early age. Though unenthusiastic in his schooling, he is adventurous and generally athletic, with a proficiency in judo, scuba diving, and the handling of firearms. He takes on responsibility willingly, attending to his studies, and treating adults with respect. His voice was provided by actor Tim Matheson.
  • Dr. Benton C. Quest is Jonny's father and a US government scientist, considered to be "one of the three top scientists in the world," with interests and technical know-how spanning many fields. Raising Jonny and Hadji as a single father, he is conscientious and decent, though willing and able to take violent decisive action when necessary for survival or defense. Benton Quest was voiced by John Stephenson for five episodes, and by the late Don Messick for the remainder of the series.
  • Roger T. "Race" Bannon is a special agent / bodyguard / pilot from Intelligence One. Governmental fears that Jonny could "fall into the wrong hands" resulted in Bannon's assignment to guard and tutor him.[8] Race was born in Wilmette, Illinois, to John and Sarah Bannon.[9] He is an expert in judo, having a third-degree black belt as well as the ability to defeat noted experts in various martial arts, including sumo wrestlers. The character was voiced by Mike Road, with his design modeled on actor Jeff Chandler.[10] The name is a combination of Race Dunhill and Stretch Bannon from an earlier Doug Wildey comic strip.[2] The surname Bannon is Irish (from 'O'Banain') meaning "white".[11][12]
  • Hadji is a streetwise, 11-year-old Calcutta orphan, who becomes the adopted son of Dr. Benton Quest.[13] Rarely depicted without his bejeweled turban and Nehru jacket, he is proficient in judo, which he learned from an American Marine. The seventh son of a seventh son, Hadji seems to possess mystical powers (including snake charming, levitation, magic, and hypnotism) which may or may not be attributed to parlor trickery. The Quests meet Hadji while Dr. Quest is lecturing at Calcutta University; he saves Dr. Quest's life (by blocking a thrown knife intended for the doctor with a basket lid) and is subsequently adopted into the Quest family.[14] Though slightly more circumspect than Jonny, he can reliably be talked into participating in most any adventure by his adoptive brother. He is voiced by Danny Bravo. In the sequel series The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, Hadji is revealed to be an Indian prince, and is given the last name Singh.
  • Bandit is the name of Jonny's pet, a small white bulldog. He has been so named because his eyes have a black, mask-like coloration around them. This coloration is occasionally instrumental in foiling antagonists. Though unable to speak, in the manner of some other Hanna-Barbera cartoon dogs, he seems uncannily able to understand human speech and is capable of complex facial expressions. Don Messick provided Bandit's vocal effects, which were combined with an archived clip of an actual dog barking.[citation needed] Creator Doug Wildey wanted to have a monkey as Jonny's pet, but he was overruled by Hanna-Barbera.[2]

The Quests have a home compound in the Florida Keys (on the island of Palm Key), but their adventures take them all over the world. The Quest team travels the globe studying scientific mysteries, which generally end up being explained as the work of various bad guys. Such pursuits get them into scrapes with foes that range from espionage robots and electrical monsters to Egyptian mummies and pterosaurs. Although most menaces appeared in only one episode each, one recurring nemesis is known as Dr. Zin, an Asian criminal mastermind.[15] With yellow skin and a diabolical laugh, Zin was an example of the Yellow Peril villains common in Cold War-era fiction.[15][16] The voices of Dr. Zin and other assorted characters were done by Vic Perrin. Race's mysterious old flame, Jade (voiced by Cathy Lewis), appears in two episodes, as do the characters of Corbin (an Intelligence One agent) and the Professor (a scientist colleague of Dr. Quest's). The 1993 made-for-TV feature Jonny's Golden Quest included in its plotline the concept that Race and Jade had been briefly married years earlier, but it also depicted Race and Hadji in place with the family at Mrs. Quest's death, in direct contradiction to explicit statements in the original series.

Animation technique

As the first major studio devoted to television animation (with previous studios, such as Warner Bros. and Disney, devoted to animation for theatrical release), Hanna-Barbera developed the technique of limited animation in order to cut corners and meet the tighter scheduling and budgetary demands of television. As opposed to full animation, this means that characters generally move from side to side with a sliding background behind them and are drawn mostly in static form, with only the moving parts (like running legs, shifting eyes, or talking mouths) being re-drawn from frame to frame on a separate layer.

This was particularly true of Jonny Quest. The series' visual style was unusual for its time, combining a fairly realistic depiction of human figures and objects with the limited animation technique (although not so limited as that of Hanna-Barbera's contemporaneous daytime cartoons). The series made heavy use of rich music scores, off-screen impacts with sound effects, reaction shots, cycling animations, cutaways, scene-to-scene dissolves, and abbreviated dialogue to move the story forward, without requiring extensive original animation of figures. For example, objects would often reverse direction off-screen, eliminating the need to show the turn,[17] or a running character would enter the frame sliding to a stop, allowing a single drawn figure to be used.[18]

Network run and Saturday morning reruns

Jonny Quest first aired on September 18, 1964 on the ABC network, in prime time, and was an almost instant success, both critically and ratings-wise. It was canceled after one season, not because of poor ratings, but because each episode of the show went over budget.[citation needed] Like the original Star Trek television series, this series would be a big money-maker in syndication, but this avenue to profits was not as well-known when the show was canceled in 1965. Reruns of the show were broadcast on various networks’ Saturday morning lineups beginning in 1967.

Censorship and Controversy

Jonny Quest became a target of parental watchdog group Action for Children's Television (ACT) for its multiple onscreen deaths, murder attempts, use of firearms and deadly weapons, depictions of monsters, and tense moments.[citation needed] Reruns were taken off the air in 1972, but returned to Saturday morning, in edited form,[citation needed] sporadically afterward.[citation needed].


The percussion-heavy big band jazz theme music for the 1960s series and each episode's score were all composed by Hoyt Curtin. In a 1999 interview, he stated that the jazz band for the series consisted of 4 trumpets, 6 trombones, 5 woodwind doublers, and a 5-man rhythm section.[19] Alvin Stoller or Frankie Capp usually played drums.[citation needed] While a string section comes in at moments of tension or pizzicato for comic relief, the score is primarily driven by a big brass sound. Curtin stated that the band took about an hour to record the main theme. It contained a trombone solo performed by jazz veteran Frank Rosolino, and a complex riff in which the trombone players were physically unable to keep up with the rapidly changing slide positions needed.[19] Cues in the series were generally recorded in one take, done by a regular group of union session players who could "read like demons". The cues were, of course, later recycled for other Hanna-Barbera series (The Herculoids, The Fantastic Four, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio etc.).

For the later animated series, the music was adapted for orchestra and added major dramatic and intriguing tones.

The original version of this theme song became available on the CD entitled Television's Greatest Hits, Vol.2: From the 50s and 60s, produced in 1990, and on that recording the composition is called merely Jonny Quest.


A simple substitution code ring was offered as a promotion by PF Flyers. The ring featured a movable code wheel, magnifying lens, signal flasher and a secret compartment. The code was implemented by a rotating circular inner code dial marked "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ" and a fixed outer code marked "WEARPFSLQMYBUHXVCZNDKIOTGJ", i.e. "Wear PFs".

Home video

Various episodes of the classic series have been released on VHS over the years.

On May 11, 2004, Warner Home Video released Jonny Quest: The Complete First Season on DVD in Region 1, which features all 26 episodes of the original series,[20] although some have been edited for content and contain incorrect closing credits.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Herman, Daniel. Silver Age: The Second Generation of Comic Artists (Hermes Press, Neshannock Township, Pennsylvania, 2004) p. 195. Trade paperback ISBN 978-1-9325-6364-1
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Olbrich, David W. "Doug Wildey, an interview with the creator of Jonny Quest", Amazing Heroes #95 (ISSN 0745-6506), May 15, 1986, p. 34 WebCitation archive
  3. ^ Herman, pp. 195-196
  4. ^ Castleman, Harry, and Walter J. Podrazik, Harry and Wally's Favorite TV Shows, Prentice Hall Press, 1989
  5. ^ Brooks, Tim and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, Ballantine Books, 1995 (sixth ed.)
  6. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV (Barnes and Noble Books, 2004)
  7. ^ Barbera, Joseph (1994). My Life in "Toons": From Flatbush to Bedrock in Under a Century. Atlanta, GA: Turner Publishing Company. p. 152. ISBN 1-57036-042-1. 
  8. ^ "The Mystery of the Lizard Men," Jonny Quest, 18 September 1964
  9. ^ "Double Danger," Jonny Quest, 13 November 1964
  10. ^ Quest documentary, part 11 on YouTube
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Boucher, Geoff (2009), “Hero Complex: In Search of Jonny Quest”, Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2009
  14. ^ "Calcutta Adventure". Jonny Quest. 30 October 1964. No. seven, season one.
  15. ^ a b Saturday morning fever, Timothy Burke, Kevin Burke pp. 113-116
  16. ^ The supervillain book: the evil side of comics and Hollywood, Gina Renée Misiroglu, Michael Eury, Visible Ink Press, 2006
  17. ^ Quest documentary, part 5 on YouTube
  18. ^ Quest documentary, part 6 on YouTube
  19. ^ a b Quest documentary, part 16 on YouTube
  20. ^ Jonny Quest at


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