1964 is the year and “Jonny Quest” is the cartoon for this week’s “Saturday Morning Cartoon” entry. The series is about a blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid named Jonny Quest, who travels around the world with his Dad, bodyguard, best friend, and dog. The cartoon ran for the 1964-65 season on ABC’s Friday Night lineup. It then ran in syndication for 2 decades before being revived and remastered – twice – in the 1990’s. Of the original Hanna-Barberra cartoons, only it and The Jetsons have appeared on all 3 major networks – a cool factoid!
I remember watching the second revival in the mid-to-late ’90’s. However, I chose to go back to the original run and review one of its episodes.
Ep. 24: Terror Island
“Jonny Quest” has one of the craziest intros to a cartoon I’ve ever seen: tigers, panthers, pterodactyls, spider robots, jets, mummies, and tanks, just to name a few of the things found in the first 60 seconds of every episode. Go, look it up… but don’t forget to come back!
Okay, thanks for coming back. Now, for the rest of the episode:
There are 5 main characters in the series: Jonny Quest; his father, Dr. Benton Quest; Jonny’s friend, Hadji (who might or might not have mystical powers); Benton’s friend, and Jonny’s protector, “Race” Bannon; and the Quests’ dog, Bandit. A 6th, the mysterious Jade, appears sporadically.
The episode starts in a lab/warehouse, somewhere in the Orient. A scientist is calling for a service elevator when something starts pounding on the walls. The elevator doors open, the scientist looks in… and runs away, shrieking. This comes out:
The scientist runs to an office, finds a gun – loaded – in a drawer, and starts firing.
The scientist wisely runs away, as the bug turns to the camera, then breaks through an outer wall of the building, wandering into parts unknown.
A few side notes, at this point:
- The animation still holds up, over 50 years later. People and creatures look and move relatively realistically.
- Throughout this episode, there is a LOT of gun-pulling, gun-firing, and things getting shot. While I don’t personally mind it, I’m not sure if it would fly in today’s culture and society.
We see the bug again: it stops at another building, grabs a guard, and… we don’t see the guard again. Was he eaten? Thrown out of the way? We never know, because the next scene shows an empty-clawed Bug walk into the ocean.
MAINLAND HONG KONG
We meet up with Dr. Quest and Race, being pedaled along in downtown Hong Kong. Jonny, Hadji, and Bandit are in another cart, except Jonny is pedaling the cart, while the driver is a passenger. Jonny is flying along, to the horror of his Dad and Race. Despite their warnings, Jonny and gang pedal right off into the harbor. Back at the yacht that the Quests apparently are staying on, Jonny and an innocent Hadji are admonished for Jonny’s lack of listening skills and braking skills; they are confined to their rooms until further notice, probably costing them a chance to see the Chinese New Year’s celebration.
Turns out, Jonny and Hadji weren’t really punished. They are next seen on a street corner, watching the Celebration with Race, Doc, and Bandit, who is fighting a losing war with firecrackers. Afterwards, they have dinner at a restaurant, where the hostess offers to take their picture. They get a copy… but she gives a copy to 2 shady individuals, standing outside a back window of the restaurant. Uh oh.
Back on the yacht, Hadji and Jonny pry Bandit away from admiring their copy of the picture. Once everyone is asleep, a boat is seen approaching the Quest Yacht, with more shady individuals swimming behind it. They enter Doc’s room and kidnap him! Bandit hears someone on the boat and starts growling, but Jonny and Hadji basically ignore him; Race wakes up too late. Not very attentive, folks.
Race races off – pun intended – for answers. He meets up with Jade, a mysterious woman who seems to know everything that goes on in Hong Kong, good or bad. She denies any knowledge of Dr. Quest’s kidnapping, in which Race immediately believes her. However, she agrees to help find him… “but it’ll be expensive”, she states. She will meet with Race again in 1 hour.
Jade asks various people bu they have no answers. Finally, some very skeezy dude claims to have knowledge but his memory’s “a little fuzzy”; Jade pays him, to clear his memory. He gives her some info before his memory gets fuzzy again. Jade plays along a 2nd time but “clears” his memory a 3rd time with a snub-nosed pistol. He tells her everything he legitimately knows.
We see Dr. Quest in a lab, tied up in a chair. The kidnapper, a Dr. Chu, shows him his latest work: giant bugs and animals! Dr. Chu is using bacteria to enlarge these beings and wants Dr. Quest to help; Dr. Q refuses because the wastes from Chu’s work is seeping into the marshes, possibly enlarging other life forms. Dr. Chu then gives Dr. Q 3 hours to “decide” before he’s fed to his giant creatures.
Dr. Quest just ignores the fact that DR. Chu is evil – he refuses to help because of side effects.
Meanwhile, Race returns to Jade’s place, only for Jade to not be there. Instead, she left a note, saying she will take care of things and find Dr. Q. Race returns to the yacht, tells Jinny and Hadji what he found out, and decides to go after Dr. Quest, himself.
Moments later, Race is seen in his souped-up powerboat, deep in the marshes… and he knows that Jonny and Hadji are hiding on board. Strangely not upset, he just tells them to guard the boat while he goes inland.
Race is next seen moving inland, when he suddenly stops and hides behind a tree. Walking by is the bug from the beginning! Even worse, another Giant Spider follows shortly behind. What likely saves Race’s life: the Bug and Spider start fighting! The noise of the battle – mainly the squeaking of the Spider – attracts the attention of the Boat Guarders. What do they do? Abandon the boat and rush off into the marsh.
Another disobeying by Jonny and not-innocent-this-time Hadji.
The bug fight might be over, because Race is now shown at the enemy compound, where Dr. Quest is being held. He knocks out 2 guards, then gets into a firefight with 4 others. He somehow shoots down a wooden water tower, spilling the contents onto the enemy soldiers.
The Giant Bug walks by the compound, which Bandit sees and starts barking at. Race, meanwhile, blows up a jeep full of guards with a grenade. Yes, he feigned surrender, pulled a grenade, and the jeep blew up.
Dr. Quest now has 5 minutes to decide.
Race tries to cut his way through a locked fence but is moved aside, as Expert Bulldozer driver Jonny Quest smashes through the fence. Race appreciates the help but orders the group back to the pier. We’ll see if they listen.
Time has run out for Dr. Quest: Dr. Chu starts raising the gates that block the cages where the Giant Bugs are housed. Before Chu can make any progress, Race enters a pulls a gun on him. But alas, Race himself is stopped: while he’s untying Dr. Quest, a guard that was stationed outside the room pulls a gun on Race. But alas, the guard was stopped: he was knocked out by Jade. But alas, Jade was kinda stopped: Dr. Chu escapes, but not before he opened the cages the rest of the way. But alas, the Giant Creatures were stopped, as Expert Bulldozer Driver and Disobeyer Jonny Quest crashes through the wall, killing the Spider and stunning/possibly burying the Giant Lizard in the next cage.
The Quest group escapes on the ‘dozer, being pursued and shot at by Dr.Chu and other soldiers. The pursuit continues on the water, as the Quest group load onto a boat. Suddenly, a an even bigger Giant Lizard emerges, Godzilla-like, from the marsh, ending the chase. It smashes the boat but Chu escapes again, running to a power station. The Lizard chases him, runs through some high tension power lines, and presumably electrocutes itself and Dr. Chu, who was standing by a fence.
The group is heading back to the Quest yacht. Jade again announces that her help will be expensive. Race gives her a “payment”: a kiss. Jonny and Hadji disapprove, as the episode ends.
But wait, there are end credits! They are as strange as the beginning credits!
I had forgotten just how annoying Jonny Quest was, especially in the 1960’s version. His constant disobedience nearly got himself, Hadji, and a cart driver killed at the beginning, nearly got Bandit killed by a Giant Bug, and put Race and others in harm’s way. And yes, he did say the day, but that’s not good enough.
Annoyances aside, it wasn’t a completely bad cartoon episode. The voice acting was better than some cartoons I’ve reviewed. The animation was good; the plot was ‘meh’. I’m not sure if this episode would make a Top 10 list of the ones that I’ve watched and reviewed.