Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (1996)

Even Jonny Quest had to grow up sometime.

The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, which anchored Cartoon Network's weekday Toonami block for 3 years (1996-9), was a troubled production behind the scenes. Cross-promoted and repurposed on sister networks TNT & TBS, which weren't afraid to run action cartoons back then, the series aired on a daily basis, the culmination of three years of preparation. However, the off-air issues led to a total overhaul of the series after the first 26 episodes aired.

Only one actor from the previous 2 series had returned, and that was Granville Van Dusen, who reprised his role as Roger "Race" Bannon for 2 episodes after the overhauling of the cast & crew. Prior to that, Robert Patrick ("Terminator 2: Judgment Day", among others) had been cast as Bannon, with game show host JD Roth (ex-Fun House) as Jonny, and George Segal as Dr. Benton Quest. By that point, Don Messick, the definitive Dr. Quest, was in failing health, and even though his predecessor as Dr. Quest, John Stephenson, was still available, he wasn't contacted. For the final 26 episodes, John DeLancie (ex-Star Trek: The Next Generation) replaced Segal, and Quinton Flynn took over as Jonny. Rob Paulsen, who'd voiced Hadji in 2 TV-movies for cable, reclaimed that role for "season 2".

For the sake of perhaps gender equality, Jessie, rebooted as Race's daughter by Jezebel Jade (she was a scientist's daughter in the 1980's series), was added to the team, creating plenty of friction with Jonny, who hadn't yet gotten out of the "girls are icky" phase. Personally, I thought that maybe, just maybe, there was a way for Jonny to finally break the ice, but before long the series was out of production, and any thoughts of Jessie hooking up with either Jonny or Hadji would be left to the imaginations of fans and fan-fiction sites.

Following is a "season 1" open & close.

It is this series that gave someone the impetus to mount plans for a live-action movie with Zac Efron ("High School Musical") as Jonny, but that never got past the talking stage, and likely would've bombed anyway.

Rating: B--.

Edit: 11/13/14: I realized after posting that this was the 2nd review of this series. Hey, we can't always be perfect.


magicdog said...

I had trouble getting into this version of the show.

Partly it was the impetus of HB/WB to show off the fledgling CGI effects for "Questworld" in the early seasons. I'm still not a fan of it unless it's high quality and TV is a mixed bag for the medium. Secondly, the addition of Jessie. I don't mind her existing or that she's Race's daughter with Jezabel Jade (I always figured something like that would happen between those two eventually!) but that she was a regular and having been shoehorned into the formerly all male crew. I liked the dynamics as they were thank you very much!

I also wasn't crazy with Jonny having been aged to about 16, but I can understand why - someone was hoping sparks would fly between him and Jessie - something the prepubescent Jonny wouldn't do. TPTB probably thought aging the character would allow for him and Hadji to do more.

Doing a live action movie version of JQ could be tough - if they stick with a younger Jonny, there's things to consider - like puberty of the stars and work rules for underage actors. Harry Potter made it work, but only because the character was supposed to grow up as time went on. Jonny and his adventures were best done with him as a kid. Perhaps a new animated series or movie could work.

hobbyfan said...

I would do a new animated series, too. Considering that the Quests, or at least Dr. Quest, had been used on Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc., I'd think Mitch Watson would've had something in the pipeline, but after the way CN crapped on both SDMI & Beware the Batman last year, I think that may be backburnered, or given to someone else, especially considering that it's Jonny's 50th anniversary this year.

Jennifer Schillig said...

Actually, Jessie was only Jade's daughter in the two made-for-cable movies (which seemed to be attempted "reboots" anyway; Mrs. Quest was retconned as always having been alive--only to be killed off during the first movie--even though the original series confirmed she was dead). In JQ:TRA, she was Race's daughter by his former wife, a redheaded Argentinian scientist of some sort. The makers of TRA confirmed that the 80s series and the two movies were not to be considered part of the original series/TRA continuity, and I think it works better that way.

Personally, I liked the second season better than the first. It seemed closer in spirit (and appearance) to the original. Plus, you know, John De Lancie! He made a MARVELOUS Dr. Quest, and the character was written better for the second series than for the first.

Jennifer Schillig said...

ETA: Although the first season of TRA did have one advantage: the voice of J.D. Roth, who went to school with my sister in Cherry Hill, NJ. I can't help but wonder if that's why one of the first-season eps revolved around the Jersey Devil.

hobbyfan said...

Jen: Real Advs. is, I think, J. D. Roth's only toon credit. He's better known for kids' game shows (i.e. Endurance, Fun House).

DeLance was fine as Benton Quest, but what about Robert Patrick as Race?

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