April 07, 2018

JOHNNY QUEST


JOHNNY QUEST
(ABC, September 18, 1964-March 11, 1965)

Hanna-Barbera Productions

            Comic book artist Doug Wildey was tasked by Hanna-Barbera to design a series around the radio drama character Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. Wildey crafted a presentation using magazines Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and Science Digest for inspiration in crafting the world and technology featured. When Hanna-Barbera was unable to secure the rights, Wildey was asked to rework his presentation into an original character. It became Johnny Quest, which took inspiration from Jackie Cooper and Frankie Darro movies, the comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and the film Dr. No. Other names proposed for the series were The Saga of Chip Baloo and Quest File 037. The name Quest was selected from the phone book for its adventurous implications.

Race, Johnny, Dr. Quest, Hadji and Bandit.

            Johnny Quest followed the adventures of 11-year-old Johnny (Tim Matheson) as he journeyed around the world on adventures with his father, scientist Dr. Benton C. Quest (John Stephenson for the first five episodes, Don Messick for the remainder), special agent, bodyguard and pilot Roger T. “Race” Bannon (Mike Road) and his adopted Kolkatan brother, Hadji (Danny Bravo). Johnny’s dog, Bandit (Messick combined with actual dog barks), was conceived and designed by animator Dick Bickenbach as the show’s comedy relief. Together, they investigated scientific mysteries that typically ended up being the work of various villains, leading them to fight foes such as robots, monsters, mummies and dinosaurs. They also had a recurring nemesis in the form of Dr. Zin (Vic Perrin): a yellow-skinned Asian criminal mastermind (a common depiction with Cold War-era fiction at the time). The show was the first attempt on television to depict realistic-looking characters in an otherwise fantastic world. Scenes from the abandoned Jack Armstrong series were recycled in the end credits and were part of the package Wildey used to sell the show to ABC.

Dr. Zin.

            Johnny Quest was broadcast in primetime on ABC for 26 episodes. Despite being a critical and ratings success, the series wasn’t renewed for a second season. When it entered syndicated reruns in 1967, it became a big money-maker. Reruns aired on CBS from 1967-70, and NBC from 1971-72, making it one of the few to air on all three major television networks. It was heavily featured on Cartoon Network from its launch in 1992 through 2003 and was also shown on its sister network Boomerang from 2000-14.

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