Johnny Quest Stop-Motion Surprise!

Roger D. Evans

Roger D. Evans

Jonny Quest was an American science fiction/adventure animated television series about a boy who accompanies his father on extraordinary adventures. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions for Screen Gems, and created and designed by comic book artist Doug Wildey.  Inspired by radio serials and comics in the action-adventure genre, it astounded viewers by featuring more realistic animation and action than had been seen on television up to that point, and it opened the the door for other shows such as Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Birdman and the Galaxy Trio – and ran on ABC in prime time on early Friday nights for one season in 1964–65.

Unfortunately the show was so expensive to produce that it only lasted that one season – but that one season was so popular in syndication for twenty years that Hanna-Barbera Productions produced a second season in 1986.  It had disappeared for a good number of those years, though – shortly after Johnny Quest aired, the network censors took notice of what was actually going into entertainment for children, and they started laying down the rules for future productions, most of which are still in effect today:

  • You could depict people shooting at other people, but you couldn’t show anybody being hit by a bullet.
  • You couldn’t show anybody dying on screen (though they often got around this by making the person “dying” a robot or android double).
  • You can have as much collateral damage as you wanted, so long as it was clear that nobody was being hurt (though people in the office buildings being destroyed when giant monsters fight apparently didn’t figure into this).

The show was the stuff little boys dreams are made of – action, adventure, and the hero was somebody our own age, and he always found a way to get out of whatever jam he was in, and always seemed to have a competency equal to the adults around him.   Somehow, Johnny Quest became one of our modern folk legends.

Most of us remember Johnny with fondness, but perhaps no one remembers him with more fondness than Roger D. Evans, a professional animator who, with some help from his friends, recreated the entire opening sequence from the show in stop-motion animation!

Says Roger about his creation:

In 1964, Jonny Quest aired to rave reviews as the first, adult action/adventure cartoon in prime time. It had cool jazz music by Hoyt Curtin and terrific, high contrast pen and ink design work by Doug Wildey. As an animator and long time JQ junkie, I had always wanted a set of Jonny Quest action figures but, due to high production costs, the show only lasted one season; not long enough to spawn any kind of serious toys or other merchandising tie-ins. So, almost 50 years later, I made my own. Here is my Valentine to one of the coolest, if not THE coolest, cartoons ever to spin up the imagination of a 53 year old man now going on six. Enjoy!

Stop motion animation, for those new to the term, is the use of articulated figurines in animation.  Each frame is set up one pose at a time, in sequence, and then a single motion picture frame is taken.  One frame might take ten to fifteen minutes to set up, meaning that if you got a full second’s worth of animation done in a day you were doing very well indeed.  Until about the late 80’s the Pillsbury Doughboy was done this way, and all the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials used this process as well. Stop-motion animation has been around since the 1850’s but was most famously used by Willis O’Brien for the original version of “King Kong” made in 1933.

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