Judge Mike Rubino prefers Jonny's "fake" adventures.
"This place has more wires than the White House!"—Race Bannon
In the mid-Nineties, Turner Entertainment bought Hannah-Barbera and relaunched the venerable animated franchise, Jonny Quest, as a hip, realistic adventure show. Unlike that previous show and its fake-o journeys into the heart of pulp madness, this is The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.
Facts of the Case
The Jonny Quest franchise may have been roughly 30 years old at the time The Real Adventures came on the air, but our hero has only aged to 14. We find Jonny, along with his adopted pal Hadji, still going on plenty of adventures together…but this time they're joined by a new face, Jessie Bannon.
That's right, stalwart family guardian Race Bannon (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2) has a child. She's a little bit smarter than Jonny, and just as adventurous. Together, these three get into all sorts of trouble. Some of that trouble even takes place in Quest World, the virtual reality universe created by Dr. Benton Quest, Jonny's father.
Included in Season 1, Volume 1 are the first 13 episodes.
The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest debuted in 1996, a couple years after shows like Fox's Spider-Man hit it big by combining CGI with traditional 2D animation. There was Spidey, swinging through a boxy, three-dimensional Manhattan without a care in the world. It was impressive back in the day, although I fear that my memory of that show won't hold up. The same is true for The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, a show I watched and enjoyed back when it was on the air, but now find dated and awkward.
The show has tremendous production values; that's for sure. It has fantastic voice talent like Robert Patrick and George Segal, and a pretty hardcore score as well. Unfortunately, the show's adherence to gritty realism means it doesn't always feel like good ol' Jonny Quest. For one, the show's exceedingly violent. That's not really a big deal nowadays; although, when you see a guy choke on gas and crack his head through a windshield, you may be caught off guard. The realism also means that the adventures aren't necessarily as exciting as watching Race and Jonny shoot lasers at a giant spider-eye ball. Then again, if the show was just this sort of real-life adventuring, it may have been a good kind of different; they just had to thrown in that CGI and gunk it all up.
The most awkward part of the show is its unsettling reliance on the CGI "Quest World" universe. It's not bad enough that the animation can sometimes feel jagged and choppy against the digitally painted backgrounds, but then the characters enter Quest World and the whole thing looks like an extended scene from The Lawnmower Man. Jonny, Hadji, and Jessie are constantly jacking in to the virtual world to fight their arch nemesis, Dr. Jeremiah Surd, who's completely paralyzed and can therefore only exact his revenge on them via the interwebs.
The 13 episodes on the disc range slightly in their topics and locales, but the writing remains solid throughout. Kids nowadays may find a good deal to like about this show, but it's always quite possible that they'll be instantly turned off by the extremely dated CGI portions.
Warner Bros. and Hannah-Barbera have released, however, a fairly good treatment of the show on DVD. The picture and sound are about as good as they'll get (there is still some color flickering, and the previously mentioned pixilation). There is a pretty extensive 15-minute featurette on the second disc called Jonny Quest Returns. Plenty of the corporate and creative minds behind the show are interviewed, and much is made about the mature update the characters received. It's a nice little bonus feature.
The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest isn't a disaster by any means. It's got a great cast of voice talent, and plenty of cinematic garnish; however the show's insistence on "keeping it real" and forcing in all this trendy CGI didn't help it age well. For fans of all things Quest, you'll certainly be picking this up (and future volumes). If you really want to relive the glory days, however, go back to the original series.
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