Jonny Quest (also known as The Adventures of Jonny Quest) is an American animated science fictionadventure television series about a boy who accompanies his scientist father on extraordinary adventures. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions for Screen Gems, and was 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, human 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 1964/1965.
After 20 years of reruns, during which time the series appeared on all three major U.S. television networks of the time, new episodes were produced for syndication in 1986 as part of The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera‘s second season. Two telefilms, a comic book series, and a second revival series, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, were produced in the 1990s. Characters from the series also appear throughout The Venture Bros.
Comic book artist Doug Wildey, after having worked on Cambria Productions‘ 1962 animatedtelevision seriesSpace Angel, 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.
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 stripTerry 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 ‘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.” 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.”
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.
Although they do not appear in any episode, scenes from the Jack Armstrong test film were incorporated into the Jonny Quest closing credits. 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.
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”, and Quest File 037. The name Quest was selected from a phone book, for its adventurous implications.