Written by Hombre Divertido
In September of 1964 animation innovators and pioneers William Hanna and Joseph Barbara again broke all molds by bringing an animated action series to prime-time television. Though the adventures of 11-year-old Johnny Quest, his best friend Hadji, dog Bandit, father Dr. Benton Quest, and Roger “Race” Bannon would only run in primetime on ABC for one year, it would become a cult classic on Saturday mornings as the original 26 episodes would have a run on each of the three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) over the next fifteen years.
In 1986 the series was re-tooled for a 13-episode run in syndication. The new effort included the original cast, plus Jesse Bradshaw, an independent, eighties teenage girl, and (heavy sigh) Hardrock, a subterranean warrior who was made of stone. This outing had some of the good qualities of the original series, but ultimately not enough.
In 1996 the Cartoon Network would bring the latest incarnation of Jonny Quest to television in the form of The Real Adventures. On February 17th, 2009 Warner Home Video released Volume One (13 episodes) of the first season in a two-disc set.
In The Real Adventures Jonny and Hadji are now teenagers and are joined by a young teenage girl, who in this case is Jesse Bannon, daughter of Race, who also participates in the team’s adventures along with Jonny’s father Dr. Benton Quest. Bandit appears in some of the episodes but is certainly not as prevalent as he was in the original series. Alas, Hardrock does not appear in this series.
The Quest Team continues to travel the world assisting others and solving mysteries. These new stories look and sound great on DVD, though, in certain cases the animation looks more like a computer game than an animated television show.
Generally it is the writing that let’s this new series down. The writers fail to appreciate the group dynamics that made the original series so popular, and many of the stories simply try too hard to be more than they should. The relationships between the team members were instrumental in the success of the original series, and are all but lost here, as the group is constantly split up and Hadji is under utilized.
A computer-generated world titled Questworld plays a key role in too many of the episodes as it simply serves to give children something to look at, but serves little purpose and often distracts from what should have been entertaining stories as in episode two “Escape to Questworld.”
The vocal talents are adequate in the show, though adults may find the extremely recognizable voice of George Segal to be distracting as Dr. Benton Quest. Robert Patrick as Race Bannon is also recognizable, but is overshadowed by his inconsistent performance that includes a southern drawl that seems to disappear and reappear from scene to scene.
The sole special feature in this release is the short documentary: “Jonny Quest Returns: Modernizing a Classic for a New Generation of Fans.” It is informative and entertaining as the various people involved in this project convey their respective goals in bringing Jonny Quest back to television, but it would have been more realistic had they given a more even perspective and conveyed the areas in which they failed.
Recommendation: Children may enjoy the look of the series, but adults will be annoyed with some of the ridiculous and convoluted storylines. Fans of the original series will be disappointed with what has been done to the classic ensemble chemistry that was Jonny Quest of the sixties.