Animation Cel-ebration
February 23, 2024 posted by Michael Lyons

Boy Wonder: The 60th Anniversary of “Jonny Quest”

“As every child knows, the thrill of watching television is imagining yourself as the character on screen. And there was nothing more far out than slipping into Jonny Quest’s world…”

This quote from authors Joe Garner and Michael Ashley in their book It’s Saturday Morning! Celebrating the Golden Era of Cartoons, the 1960s-1990s, perfectly captures why Hanna-Barbera’s series, Jonny Quest, captured the imagination of generations.

“What The Huckleberry Hound Show innovated for the TV short cartoon and The Flintstones for the animated situation comedy, Jonny Quest did the same for action/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy. The series set the standard for virtually everything that followed,” noted fellow Cartoon Research writer Greg Ehrbar, author of the upcoming book Hanna-Barbera: The Recorded History.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Jonny Quest was an amalgam of so much that was popular up to and during 1964, from “cliffhanger” radio serials to James Bond. Still, all of these elements were shaped into something all its own.

The series centered on the title character of Jonny Quest, an 11-year-old who accompanies his father on adventures. His father is Dr. Benton Quest, a widower raising Jonny as a single father and one of the world’s top scientists working for the U.S. Government.

With them is Roger “Race” Bannon, a secret agent who has been assigned to guard Jonny; Hadji Signh, the same age as Jonny, and an orphan from Calcutta, who is Jonny’s best friend and seems to possess mystical powers, and Bandit, Jonny’s rambunctious pet bulldog.

Jonny Quest was new territory for Hanna-Barbera, as it marked a change from more traditional “cartoons,” like Yogi Bear, that they had been associated with, resembling the tone of adventure comic books and live-action shows and films.

This can be seen in the first episode, “The Mystery of the Lizard Men,” which opens with an excellent prologue, setting up the mystery that will be unraveled. Additionally, there is compelling storytelling; as agents read the files on Jonny and Dr. Quest, the audience learns their backstory (Jonny’s mother has passed, and the Quest compound is located in the Florida Keys).

There is also some dynamic action, including an exciting motorboat chase (and crash) toward the conclusion.

This effective staging and plotting continued through each episode with some nice touches. “The Invisible Monster” brings the title character to life as both a beautiful work of art design and an increasingly disturbing image.

The uniqueness of Jonny Quest is thanks to Doug Wildey, a cartoonist and comic artist that Hanna-Barbera brought on board to conceptualize the show’s look. Wildey’s talents resulted in something different from anything Hanna-Barbera, or any studio, had ever done. Striking character design, complete with bold black lines, reminiscent of the best comic book art, was partnered with exotic locales and exciting technology (which came from Wildey’s extensive research).

This world was brought to life thanks to a talented voice cast that included a young Tim Matheson as Jonny, Danny Bravo as Hadji, actor Mike Road as Race, and Hanna-Barbera regular John Stephenson voicing Dr. Quest in the first five episodes, with another of the studio’s voice acting stalwarts, Don Messick filling the role for the remainder of the series.

As the backdrop for Jonny Quest was a jazzy soundtrack, unlike others. “The musical score for Jonny Quest still stands up on the same level as any great film or television score,” Ehrbar adds. “Hoyt Curtin created an unforgettable theme song that, according to him, pushed the musicians to their limits—especially the brass section. They loved the challenge. It’s also important to note that Ted Nichols was the composer. He handled a number of music cues independently of Curtin, as well as Jack de Mello. It was Nichols who continued the Hanna-Barbera ‘house sound’ for comedy and adventure cartoons from the mid-sixties to 1972 when Curtin returned to Hanna-Barbera.”

Jonny Quest debuted in prime-time on ABC from September 18, 1964, through March 1965. After that, reruns were shown on Saturday morning, continuing the show’s popularity, and building its audience.

This led to the show’s return as The New Adventures of Jonny Quest in 1986 and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest in 1996.

Sixty years later, Jonny Quest continues gaining new audiences and nostalgia-fueled love from those who grew up with the show. The series indeed did allow kids to live out their adventure-filled dreams, as noted by two other authors, Timothy Burke and Kevin Burke, in their book, Saturday Morning Fever:

“Most of the kids on Saturday morning were so annoying or useless that we rarely identified with them, but Jonny and Hadji seemed to be having so much fun on their adventures that we often wished we could be in their place.”



  • I remember owning the first comic book, adaptation of “Jonny Quest“, obviously, a comic book recreation of the very first episode.

    I remember the comic book, looking almost as good as the television show itself, with very bright colors, including the green seaweed. Beautiful stuff! I wonder how many other comic adaptations of specific episodes came out. I never found anymore after that first issue.

    Otherwise, I never missed an episode. In the middle of all this, once the show was re-broadcast as part of Saturday morning lineup, I then had a color television set and was anxious to see what those episodes look like in full color! I was not disappointed. I am sure that the current Blu-ray edition of these, classic shows look really fine.

    • According to, that Jonny Quest comic was a one shot.

      However, from 1986-88, Comico produced a Jonny Quest comic, and a companion series with the subtitle “Classics,” which looks to be adaptations of ’60s TV episodes. .

      This is the first I’ve known of it. (At the time I knew the company for their three Robotech titles, issue-by-issue, episode-by-episode adaptations of the three segments of the cartoon.) The cover artist is the same as the interior artist, so this is probably what the comics look like.

      • While it’s been a good 20 years or more since I’ve read those comics, my recollection is that they were pretty solid. A couple of issues had shaky artwork due to issues one of the artist was facing, but for the most part the series was well drawn and written. There was also a Mara Jade miniseries, which, yes, please!

        • Jezebel Jade, not Mara! Dangit, this is why I need an edit feature.

      • The JQ Classics comics were actually done by Doug Wildey himself, and they were gorgeous.

        The Comico series also included some Wildey covers and an issue about Jonny’s mom drawn by Wendy Pini of Elfquest fame.

    • That original comic was done sometime between 1964-1966 by Gold Key Comics. I had to trade comic books with my cousin to get it. The ones done by Comico are issue 30 of the 31 issue series; The Invisible Monster. The three that they did as a “Classics” 3 issue miniseries collection are Calcutta Adventure, Werewolf of the Timberlands, and Shadow of the Condor. Yes, you can still get your hands on the Comico series, the one that may prove difficult to find is The Invisible Monster issue #30 of the 31 issue series run. However, it’s not impossible to find it. Try your local comic book shops, if they don’t have them try eBay of on-line comic book stores. Personally, I would get ALL of the Comico Jonny Quest comic books just for the artwork alone. There’s also a Jezebel Jade 3 issue mini series that’s beautifully done. Comico did wrap around covers on them and they’re gorgeous. Doug Wildey did several covers, and in a couple of the issues there’s a three part interview with him about Jonny Quest.

  • “Jonny Quest” made a deep impression on me as a boy. I developed a morbid fear of daddylonglegs spiders thanks to that robot in the title sequence. Still, even as a young boy I thought “The Invisible Monster” was a rip-off of “Forbidden Planet”.

    Hoyt Curtin liked to tell the story of how the trombonists in his band complained that his trombone parts were “too easy to play,” and so for “Jonny Quest” he came up with an opening theme that was “impossible to play on the trombone.” Obviously there’s no such thing as music that’s “too easy to play,” and the JQ theme, difficult as it is, is obviously playable on the trombone; you can distinctly hear them doing so at the beginning of every episode. Curtin also said that the trombone solo in the closing theme begins on a note that “doesn’t exist on the trombone.” What he meant by that was, orchestration textbooks generally give the highest note on the trombone as the D a major ninth above middle C, which is a good rule of thumb when writing for the instrument; but the first note in the solo in question is the E above that. However, many trombonists, both jazz and classical, cultivate the extreme high range of the instrument and are capable of going as high or higher than Curtin’s high E. Even Beethoven and Brahms wrote some crazy high trombone parts in their symphonies.

    With all due respect to John Stephenson, he was all wrong for the role of Dr. Quest. Stephenson was best at playing authority figures and, conversely, villains, but he didn’t make a convincing intellectual. Don Messick did. Messick’s last role, incidentally, was voicing Dr. Danger in the JQ parody “Toby Danger”, probably the funniest segment ever to air on the “Freakazoid!” show.

    • The reason why Don Messick took over doing the voice for Dr Quest from John Stephenson was because, of the similarity between his voice and Mike Road (Race Bannon). There’s one episode that parts on the dialogue between Dr. Quest and Race sounds more like a character talking to himself.

  • Jonny Quest broke ground in many respects, especially for animation. It depicted a single parent during a time when two-parent families were very much the norm. It placed Jonny and Hadji on an equal level when the struggle for civil rights was still emerging and transforming attitudes. In fact, on the cusp of so much social change and technological advancement, Jonny Quest provided a positive template for more realistic values and a more technology-based culture. It was still mired in some of the tropes and attitudes of its time, unfortunately, but much of the show was forward-looking. While it retained some of the trademark humor of a Hanna-Barbera production, especially in the character of Bandit, it also offered up a great deal of drama and suspense, even elements of horror. This is one Hanna-Barbera franchise that often gets overlooked in the wake of the ongoing popularity of Scooby-Doo, but there would likely not have been any Scooby-Doo if Jonny hadn’t paved the way.

  • I did once plot to watch the entirety of the franchise, partially for the bit of “all leading up to the Tom and Jerry crossover” (I’m sure it’s *fine*). Mainly, I was intrigued by the records of the genuine fanbase for Real Adventures. Had its own website with fanart drawn with pencil and paper. Also, y’know, had a reputation for being an utter behind the scenes mess. Unfortunately, the original series was taken off HBO Max during a small break, presumably so that I had to subscribe to Boomerang. It’s on Tubi now, so that’s good.

  • [The] effective staging and plotting continued through each episode with some nice touches.

    By necessity, JQ had to employ production shortcuts, but they were generally utilized very cleverly You’ll notice in the aerial dogfight sequence from the “Shadow of the Condor” episode ( ), there’s little actual “animation”. Instead, the use of cutouts, dramatic camera angles, quick cuts, and an exciting score combine to make an effective, thrilling scene. Still impressive after all these years of technological advances.

  • i grew up on Jonny Quest and particularly loved the music. I was so excited when I finally managed to get my hands on a cd of the Hoyt Curtin soundtrack!!! I still listen to that music regularly. As a musical aside, have you ever heard the Jonny Quest theme for the Japanese market? It is VERY different and VERY catchy! Johnny Ku-West-Ohhhh!

  • I’m always surprised nobody ever did a live action “Johnny Quest” movie. It seems such a natural, and an obvious vehicle for teenage Macauley Culkin. But at least there was the great 1996 “Freakazoid” parody “Toby Danger,” which was brilliant except they needed to emulate 1960s TV color and the actual Las Vegas.

    • You are somewhat correct about “Toby Danger” needing to emulate the real Las Vegas! In my original script I called for “McCarran Airport,” the actual name of the Vegas location, but for some reason that minor detail was not followed through. It’s great that “Toby Danger” got made at all, so I’m certainly not complaining. Freakazoid first season producer Mitch Schauer, uncredited “Toby Danger” director Eric Radomski and especially ace storyboard artists Butch Lukic and Brian Burr Chin did a stellar job, as much as possible using overseas animation, the feel of the 1964 JQ. And the late, great Richard Stone had a blast emulating Hoyt Curtin’s score, conducting an orchestra roughly twice the size of anything H-B ever used for television. Doug Wildey, with whom I was lucky enough to work at Ruby-Spears in the 1980s, was a genius, ahead of his time and a very, very funny person in his daily verbal discourse, which never came across in his graphic creations. “Toby Danger” was my attempt to get some of Doug’s unique, humorous take on life into animated form using his graphic approach. TD has an ongoing underground cult following and it inspired a couple of other, better-known things down the line, but “Toby Danger” got there first!

  • I remember lying in an ER exam room, listening to interns decide whether to remove my soon-to-explode appendix now or wait until morning. All the while I am at the proverbial “light” and in the arrogance that can only be associated with a 14 year old boy PISSED AS HELL that he was missing Jonny Quest, I fought and didn’t let go. Fortunately for me the surgeon on call decided that we needed to operate STAT. Afterwards, I was given the nickname “He who argues with the gods” Jonny would be proud!

  • Old enough to remember when “Jonny Quest”, “Top Cat” and “Jetsons” were in prime time, each lasting but a single season before going into perpetual Saturday morning reruns.

    Come to think of it, Bugs Bunny, Alvin, Bullwinkle, “New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and “Famous Adventures of Mister Magoo” also had a fleeting presence in prime time (did any have a second season?) before recycling on Saturdays and/or syndication.

    Was this the plan going in, or were they all hoping to have a prolonged nighttime run like “The Flintstones”? If the latter, was it ratings or production costs that pushed them into permanent repeats?

  • Saturday morning cartoons were still a thing when I was growing up, but there was no way in heck I was getting up at 6 AM (!) to watch that show called Jonny Quest, even though it sounded cool.

    I’m an outlier and have never paid for cable television, so I had never seen Jonny Quest until just a couple years ago. Holy cow, it is fantastic! Such an awesome time capsule, and a unique tone. Nothing else like it from around then unless I’m mistaken – other things had lower production value or were too jokey. I do wish Bandit would shut up, though.

  • Wow! Is JONNY QUEST really 60 years old? That means I was nearly six years old when it premiered? I can’t wrap my head around that, just yet! It’s probably one of the best of the Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon product from the ’60s for me – even more so than THE FLINTSTONES or THE JETSONS from roughly the same era. It still holds up – I think – remarkably well, today!

    I have to say that when my son was younger, it was great fun watching these episodes with him on DVD.( It reminded me of a special period I had with my father when I was a youngster, when we used to watch old Westerns on Saturday afternoons on TV – Dad was reliving his childhood with me.) However, when we got to THE INVISIBLE MONSTER, my son didn’t like the monster coming toward Bandit. He yelled, “Dad! Turn it off!” I tried to calm him down and told him that Bandit would not be harmed by the monster. But, we went with the next episode instead and of course, Bandit was there and not scortched in any way, shape or form. A few days later, my son said he was ready to watch the episode all the way through, but when we got up to the scene where Bandit is frozen in fear and whimpers, putting his head into the sand, my son told me to stop the show. It took my son a couple of weeks to work his courage up, but finally, he said he was truly ready to see the episode all the way through – and he DID! I was very proud of that kid! I still am!

  • A great high mark series at H-B. I wish they continued to do more prime-time series throughout the decade.

  • I told my wife about this JONNY QUEST posting and my son happened to hear this and he was quite annoyed with me that I posted it. He said, “I was 4 years old when that happened!” I think he was a little older, but maybe not by much. But the whole thing made me think I was already six when J.Q. premiered on TV. Didn’t the new “TV season” start in early September – at least for the kids’ shows back then? I seem to remember that the new shows premiered about the time Labor Day popped up and we all had to go back to school. But … I could be wrong. Am I?

    Also, I can’t remember if I told this story before or not – so here goes. Don Messick was a guest at one of those overpriced animation art galleries they used to have and a few of us went to one – in a far (west?) suburb of Chicago. Don Messick was a great guest and someone asked him a question about the many voices he did at Hanna-Barbera and suddenly, a barge of various cartoon voices popped out of his head. When he yelled – as “Dr. Quest” – “Get, down, Jonny!” I tell you, hearing that voice gave me pleasant chills of nostalgia. I looked over at a small kid who was so surprised that these wonderful cartoon voices were popping out of this old man’s mouth that I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head!

    • For the record, JONNY QUEST was a prime time series – aimed partially at adults. As mentioned in the post above, the show debuted on Friday night, September 18th, 1964, at 7:30pm. I was nine years old myself, at the time, and became an immediate faithful viewer.

  • Jerry, that really messes with my memory. I just remember JONNY QUEST being on Saturday mornings. Could I have been a little older when I first saw it? Honestly, I don’t remember it being on Friday nights, but maybe that’s when I first saw the shows for the first time?

    On the other hand, I recall watching THE FLINSTIONES and THE JETSONS on “Prime Time” at night. Now, I’m all confused! It’s POSSIBLE that I first saw the series on Friday nights, but I’d like to find out just when it was put into a Saturday morning time slot, perhaps a few years later? I guess I must be getting OLD? It sounds like it found a Saturday morning time-slot pretty quickly, though.

    The music, the scientific gizmos, the “look” of the show and the characters have pretty much remained “timeless.” There was turmoil between us and the Russians and problems in the Middle East. Sixty years later, the conflicts – sadly – are perhaps, a little different, but they are still there.

    I don’t know how much Hoyt Curtin did as far as the compostions go, but man, that was – and is – good music. One of my favorite themes had a kind of “Wham! Thump! Thump!” tempo to it, that was particularly creepy. If I hear that music with my eyes closed, I vusualize the mummy limping after the boys in the Egyptian desert! What set it apart from the typical Hanna-Barbera fare (especially as the years went by), was that the monsters (for the most part) were REAL!

    • The Jonny Quest reruns got put into the Saturday morning Superheroes (Space Ghost, Herculiods, Birdman, Galaxy Trio, Shazzan, Frankenstein Jr., and several others) lineup in 1966(?).

  • I still want someone to do a book on the art of Doug Wildey.

  • I’d like that too, just so long as it wasn’t one of those huge, overpriced “collector’s sets” that most of us couldn’t afford.

    Was it something like 25 – 30 years ago that Wildey did those wonderful comic book versions of several of the JONNY QUEST episodes? I wish he had done more! I’d like to see THOSE reprinted in some kind of anthology, too!

    • The Mystery of the Lizardmen was the only one done in 1965 by Gold Key. The Comico comic books weren’t released until 1986 or 1987. Comico did do four of the cartoon episodes; Issue 30 was The Invisible Monster, and then there was a three issue Classic Jonny Quest mini series. The Jezebel Jade 3 part miniseries is awesome because, it’s the story of how Race and Jade met. You can still get the Comico series for a fairly reasonable price, the artwork alone on the wrap around covers alone is worth the price.

  • l loved watching Johnny Quest in reruns even its continuation series in the 90s Johnny Quest The Real Adventures great shows.

  • I watched the original Jonny Quest (and the Real Adventures) on Cartoon Network all the time, to the point it became one of my most favorite shows Hanna Barbera had ever made. The classic series is my dad’s favorite cartoon series, so he also introduced me to it. In retrospect, I think Jonny Quest is one of the studio’s best. It demonstrated how Hanna Barbera could take creative risks and create any genre of series than just simply be limited to the funny animal character genre.

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