I was 7-years-old when Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon “Jonny Quest” made its debut. I was hooked with the first episode. A couple of years later, I used to run home after school to make it in time to see “Sinbad Jr. and His Magic Belt” cartoons.
I noticed “Sinbad Jr.” featured the recognizable voice of Jonny Quest. Then I became a huge fan of “Space Ghost,” and noticed the voice of Jace was Jonny and Sinbad Jr. Afterward, tuning in to “Young Samson and Goliath,” there was that voice again.
It wasn’t until age 11, when I saw a theatrical picture titled “Yours, Mine and Ours,” that I put a face to the voice. In the movie, which starred Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball, there was a character named Mike Beardsley, played by a young actor named Tim Matheson. I recognized the voice immediately. I leaned over to my mom during the film’s projection and whispered in her ear, “Mom, that’s the guy who played Jonny Quest!”
Speaking with Tim Matheson for the book Jonny Quest Speaks: Jonny, Sinbad Jr. & Me was a pleasant surprise. Not only did he vividly recall his years at Hanna-Barbera, over 50 years ago, but they were a special part of his life. It helped create opportunities in his career and changed the way he viewed the entertainment industry.
Since he was just a couple of years older than the Jonny Quest character, Tim’s employment was, as he put it, a real-life “adventure” for him. Being in the company of some of animation’s greatest voice actors greatly influenced Matheson. Joe Barbera mentored him. Mel Blanc showed him what character acting was all about.
One of the most amazing aspects of Matheson’s involvement with Jonny Quest is that he has only been to two events in his lifetime concerning the series. The first was when the series made its debut in September 1964. The second was 50 years later, at a silver anniversary celebration at a Los Angeles Comics and Sci-Fi Convention.
Intriguing was the process of receiving animation scripts with little preparation, and recording in the sound both with the rest of the Jonny Quest cast, much like a radio show.
Tim speaks of how Joe Barbera mentored him, and how doing voice acting provided the resources to allow him to buy his first home at the age of 17.
As a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Matheson talked about animation today, both good and bad, and its presence at the Oscars.
Working for Hanna-Barbera was more than just a gig for young Tim Matheson. It was an experience and opportunity of a lifetime. It’s a memory he does not trivialize, but cherishes and sees significance in. Give a listen to a piece of the interview, embed below, and consider ordering the latest “Cartoon Research” book which contains the entire interview and a complete overview of Matheson’s career in animation voice-over.