Jonny Quest is ostensibly the story of Jonny Quest, the son of Dr. Benton C. Quest, a multi-field scientific genius who is considered one of the top scientists in the world. In truth, however, the story is really that of Race Bannon, a special agent and bodyguard hired to protect Jonny from falling into the wrong hands, which would compromise Dr. Quest.
Accompanying the group is Jonny’s friend Hadji, an Indian orphan who performs a few magic tricks and is generally a little more responsible than Jonny... but not much. He’s been unofficially adopted by Dr. Quest. Also along for the ride is Jonny’s annoying dog Bandit – Bandit is a smart and capable dog, but his bark is rather annoying as a sound effect.
Unlike other cartoons of the era, and indeed unlike cartoons even today, the show was rather violent. People were constantly being shot and killed or fed to giant lizards or something. The bad guys were genuinely bad and thought nothing of enslaving a village or killing it off, and the good guys shot first and asked questions later. This made for a fast-paced, exciting cartoon that brings to life all the old adventure books that so many generations of young boys loved. This isn’t Tin Tin.
The writing was unique too as it was noir style writing, i.e. short impactful sentences and limited dialog overall. No other cartoon used this style of dialog. The soundtrack too wasn’t your standard pop or classic soundtrack found with most cartoons. This show used a big-band jazz theme which was heavy on the percussion. This again makes the show stand out.
All told, this was really top notch stuff.
Of course, you can’t have something good without the permanently offended trying to take it away. Because of the violence, Jonny Quest was shown in prime time rather than during kiddy hour. The show was both a critical and ratings success, but was cancelled after one year after it became a target by the parental whiner group Action for Children’s Television who lamented the onscreen deaths, the murder attempts, the use of guns, and the moments that scared their pathetic kids.
After cancellation, the show went into syndication and continued to do really well until it was finally taken off the air in 1972 because of the whiners.
In the 1980s, they created the New Adventures of Jonny Quest. These were a waste. They tried to be more kid-friendly and in the process lost everything that gave the originals life. Skip those.
Anyways, if you get the chance, check these out. They are fun, intense and interesting. The characters are strong, as is the writing, the drawing style and music and direction are all stupendous, and it’s just a great adventure.