Jonny Quest was Hanna-Barbera's first adventure television series, airing on ABC primetime on early Friday nights in 1964. Doug Wildey created the characters and produced character designs for the series. The series is about a young boy named Jonny Quest and his adventures with Dr. Benton Quest, his scientist father; Roger "Race" Bannon, who is Jonny's trainer/bodyguard; Hadji, Jonny's adoptive brother and best friend from India, and Bandit, his adorable little dog. Together, the five of them fight monsters and madmen all around the world.
Inspired by radio serials and comics in the action-adventure genre, it featured more realistic art resembling that of comic books, characters, and stories than Hanna-Barbera's previous animated television programs. It was the first of several Hanna-Barbera action-based adventure TV shows – which would later include Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Birdman and the Galaxy Trio.
After spending two decades in reruns, during which time it appeared on all three major US television networks of the time, new episodes were produced for syndication in 1986 as part of The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera's second season. Two telefilms, Jonny's Golden Quest and Jonny Quest vs. the Cyber Insects, a comic book series, and a more modern revival series, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, were produced in the 1990s.
The Quests have a home compound on the island of Palm Key in the Florida Keys, but their adventures take them all over the world. The Quest team travels the globe studying scientific mysteries, which generally end up being explained as the work of various bad guys. Such pursuits get them into scrapes with foes that range from espionage robots and electrical monsters to Egyptian mummies and pterosaurs. Although most menaces appeared in only one episode each, one recurring nemesis is known as Dr. Zin, an Asian criminal mastermind. With yellow skin and a diabolical laugh, Zin was an example of the Yellow Peril villains common in Cold War-era fiction.
The idea for Jonny Quest came from Joseph Barbera's desire to create an action-adventure animated television series, something not very common at the time. Inspired by the popular comic strip Terry and the Pirates, the studio began developing a series based on the radio serial Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy in 1962. Doug Wildey, fresh off of working on Cambria's Space Angel, came into the studio and met with Barbera. Shortly after, Barbera asked Wildey if he would help design the Armstrong project. Wildey agreed, and worked on it for about three months. Wildey read science magazines like Popular Mechanics to get an idea of what could realistically happen within ten years, which is how long he predicted the show would last, and based many of the show's elements on it.
Unfortunately, negotiations with the rights holders of Jack Armstrong broke down sometime later that year, and it was decided to change the project into an original concept. Barbera once again asked Wildey to help with this new show, which he agreed to do, creating the concept later that night. This new show, given the working title of The Saga of Chip Balloo, was inspired by not only Jack Armstrong and Terry and the Pirates, but various adventure films and the spy atmosphere of the James Bond film Dr. No, a favorite of Joe Barbera. The character of Dr. Zin was also inspired by the film. The character of Jonny, not yet named Jonny, was inspired by multiple things: the films of Jackie Cooper and Frankie Darrow, and a character from an unsold comic strip Wildey did. Jonny's father, Dr. Quest, was based on a character Wildey drew in a comic based on The Saint. Race was based on both the main character of Terry and the Pirates and actor Jeff Chandler. Possibly due to one of his friend's toy factory making a ton of bulldog plushes for a deal that fell through, Joe Barbera pushed for Jonny to have a dog, but Wildey resisted, preferring a more exotic animal like a monkey or a white cheetah. Wildey eventually relented, and Dick Bickenbach, who worked on Hanna-Barbera's more cartoonish shows designed Bandit. Seeing that Jonny only had a dog to talk to, Wildey pushed for a boy around his age to talk to. Wildey also "wanted to use a minority character other than the typical black kid from the ghetto which so many others had used in comic strips and comic books all the time", opting instead for an Indian kid, creating Hadji. Jade's concept art seems to imply she was meant to have a bigger role. 
With the characters and their relationships finished, all Wildey had to do was find "just the right names". The name Quest was taken from the L.A. phonebook due to its adventurous sound, and Joe suggested the name Jonny, short for Jonathan. The name Race Bannon was from two unsold comic strips of Wildey's, one with a character named Stretch Bannon, and another with a character by the name of Race Dunhill, which he combined. The show was retitled Quest File O-37, inspired by James Bond's 007, then finally Jonny Quest. According to Joe Barbera, the promo film was a huge success, and it "blew (the advertisers) out of the screening room, and they bought the series right away". ABC was also seemingly impressed, and picked it up for the 1964-65 series.
The brief sequence shown during the closing credits of two men on a hovercraft fleeing from natives who throw spears at them as they return to their airship was from the promotional film for the aborted Jack Armstrong cartoon.
Jonathan "Jonny" Quest
Jonny is an eleven-year-old American boy who lost his mother at an early age. Though unenthusiastic in his schooling, he is adventurous and generally athletic, with a proficiency in judo, scuba diving, and the handling of firearms. He takes on responsibility willingly, attending to his studies, and treating adults with respect. His voice was provided by actor Tim Matheson.
Dr. Benton Quest
Dr. Quest is Jonny's father and a US government scientist, considered to be "one of the three top scientists in the world," with interests and technical know-how spanning many fields. Raising Jonny and Hadji as a single father, he is conscientious and kind, though willing and able to take violent decisive action when necessary for survival or defense. Benton Quest was voiced by John Stephenson for five episodes, and by Don Messick for the remainder of the series.
Roger T. "Race" Bannon
Race is a special agent / bodyguard / pilot from Intelligence One. Governmental fears that Jonny could "fall into the wrong hands" resulted in Bannon's assignment to guard and tutor him. Race was born in Wilmette, Illinois, to John and Sarah Bannon. He is an expert in judo, having a third-degree black belt as well as the ability to defeat noted experts in various martial arts, including sumo wrestlers. The character was voiced by Mike Road, with his design modeled on actor Jeff Chandler. The name is a combination of Race Dunhill and Stretch Bannon from an earlier Doug Wildey comic strip. The surname Bannon is Irish (from 'O'Banain') meaning "white".
Hadji is a streetwise, eleven-year-old Calcutta orphan, who becomes the adopted son of Dr. Benton Quest and is also Jonny's best friend. Rarely depicted without his bejeweled turban and Nehru jacket, he is proficient in judo, which he learned from an American Marine. The seventh son of a seventh son, Hadji seems to possess mystical powers (including snake charming, levitation, magic, and hypnotism) which may or may not be attributed to parlor trickery. The Quests meet Hadji while Dr. Quest is lecturing at Calcutta University; he saves Dr. Quest's life (by blocking a thrown knife intended for the doctor with a basket lid) and is subsequently adopted into the Quest family. Though slightly more circumspect than Jonny, he can reliably be talked into participating in most any adventure by his adoptive brother. He is voiced by Danny Bravo. In the sequel series The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, Hadji is revealed to be an Indian prince, and is given the last name Singh.
Bandit is the name of Jonny's pet, a small white dog. He has been so named because his eyes have a black, mask-like coloration around them. This coloration is occasionally instrumental in foiling antagonists. Though unable to speak, in the manner of some other Hanna-Barbera cartoon dogs, he seems uncannily able to understand human speech and is capable of complex facial expressions. Don Messick provided Bandit's vocal effects, which were combined with an archived clip of an actual dog barking. Creator Doug Wildey wanted to have a monkey as Jonny's pet, but he was overruled by Hanna-Barbera. Wildey has also said that Bandit was intended to be a bulldog. However, Bandit does not actually conform to any breed standard. His tail is too long for any bulldog variant. He is too small to be an English Bulldog, unless he remains a puppy throughout the series. His ears are floppy, so he does not conform to the breed standard for a French Bulldog. In many ways he resembles a pug, except that pugs have a distinctive curved tail.
As the first major studio devoted to television animation (with other studios, such as Warner Bros. and Disney, devoted to animated films for theatrical release), Hanna-Barbera developed the technique of limited animation in order to cut corners and meet the tighter scheduling and budgetary demands of television. As opposed to full animation, this means that characters generally move from side to side with a sliding background behind them and are drawn mostly in static form, with only the moving parts (like running legs, shifting eyes, or talking mouths) being re-drawn from frame to frame on a separate layer.
This was particularly true of Jonny Quest. The series' visual style was unusual for its time, combining a fairly realistic depiction of human models and objects with the limited animation technique (although not so limited as that of Hanna-Barbera's contemporaneous daytime animated programs). The series made heavy use of rich music scores, off-screen impacts with sound effects, reaction shots, cycling animations, cutaways, scene-to-scene dissolves, and abbreviated dialogue to move the story forward, without requiring extensive original animation of figures. For example, objects would often reverse direction off-screen, eliminating the need to show the turn, or a running character would enter the frame sliding to a stop, allowing a single drawn figure to be used.
Jonny Quest first aired 18 September 1964 on ABC in prime time, and was moderately successful in the ratings, despite positive reviews from critics. Ratings dramatically decreased however when the show's timeslot was swapped with The Flintstones from Friday night to Thursday night 24 December 1964 since The Flintstones was being beaten by The Munsters on CBS in the ratings. Due to the lackluster ratings and either ABC or William Hanna not wanting to put up the money needed to fund another season, around $64,000 per episode, the show was cancelled after one season.
Like the original Star Trek television series, this series would be a big money-maker in reruns, but this avenue to profits was not as well-known when the show was canceled in 1965. Reruns of the show were broadcast on CBS' Saturday morning schedule from 9 September 1967 to 5 September 1970, then on ABC from 13 September 1970 to 9 September 1972. The show was broadcast on NBC as part of The Godzilla Super 90 starting 8 September 1978, before being given its own slot 8 September 1979, where it ran until 5 April 1979. The show would once again air on NBC from 12 April 1980 to 6 September 1981. This makes it one of the few television series to air on all three of the major national broadcast networks in the USA. The show was offered in syndication from the 1982-83 season through the 1984-85 season, before its addition to The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, also in syndication, with an additional thirteen episodes produced. Reruns aired on Cartoon Network from its launch 1 October 1992 until 5 May 1996, where the show was removed to prepare for the upcoming The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. Ultimately however, the show would be added again in either late 1996 or early 1997, where it ran in varying time slots until some time in 2000. When Boomerang launched 1 April 2000, Jonny Quest was aired until 2014.
- Sennett, Ted. The Art of Hanna-Barbera : Fifty Years of Creativity. New York, Ny, Viking Studio Books, 1989.
- Barbera, Joseph. My Life in 'Toons : From Flatbush to Bedrock in under a Century. Atlanta, Ga, Turner Pub. ; Kansas City, Mo, 1994.
- Korkis, Jim. Amazing Heroes #95, 15 May 1986.
- Broadcasting Magazine March 12 1982 pg 102
- Broadcasting Magazine February 13 1984 pg 112