I’ve got to tell you as a kid, I had all kinds of problems but I had an escape, one that was vitally important to me, especially as a young child. It was an escape that gave me hope and dreams, and it came in the form of a television show, a cartoon. It was a show that left a lasting impression, and provided a positive contribution to my life. The program was Johnny Quest. As an adult, now approaching 50 those memories and love of Johnny Quest was rekindled with the release of the Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection DVD of “Johnny Quest, The Real Adventures.” This 13 episode DVD set includes all of the programs from Season One, Volume One of that show. I am sure Warner Brothers knows of the impact the original Johnny Quest had on millions of youngsters like myself which is one of the reasons for the updated versions of the series. The exploits of Johnny, his dad Dr. Benton, special agent “Race” Bannon, his adopted brother Hadji, and their faithful dog Bandit is all there. There is also a new addition to the crew, we have in the new series a sister named Jessie.
In the new updated version of Johnny Quest while the colors in the animated prints are better than I remember in the old story, there is obviously a lot of computer concepts used in the animation. It is obvious there is an attempt to update the stories for a more contemporary audience as would be expected. The series uses stories in narrative form. It is one of the attributes as a youngster that I appreciated with the original series. We don’t have short two or three minute animation stories, we have upwards of a full 30-minute story more adult oriented than for small children. Comedy, while used at times, is not the premise of the stories. Instead, there is adventure, mayhem and more. It is a concept that would translate well into live action but to my knowledge has never been done. There is talk of making a life action film but as of this writing no additional information could be found. It is a shame if this doesn’t take place as Johnny Quest may be among the most adaptable animated series of all time to live action.
This DVD set includes 2 DVD’s with a total of 13 episodes. There is a special feature with the DVD set titled “Johnny Quest Returns, Modernizing a Classic for a New Generation of Fans” that is well worth watching. The packaging is colorful and gives hope to the story lines contained in the DVD set. We see stories making an attempt to reach out to a new generation. Those story lines take us from jungle explorations, to the edges of space. In many ways, it takes the same route as many of the older Johnny Quest stories. Unfortunately, the story lines are not nearly as developed on a consistent basis as the old television show from the 1960’s. One of the things the new series does that seems to get lost is its attempt to address current world issues, whether, global warming, or the destruction of the seas. Unfortunately, the attempt at making this series more “educational” causes some of the great components of the old television series to get lost. For fans of Johnny Quest, it wasn’t so much about making political statements or educating us as it was about helping us grow up and crossing over into adulthood.
One of the attributes of older Johnny Quest I liked is it didn’t pretend that younger kids couldn’t understand the concept of death, of tragedy, or difficulty. As a pastor I have had recent discussions with a few folks about the concept of growing in faith. The reality is Johnny Quest was a perfect illustration of a child’s need to grow into maturity. While various cartoons dealt with fun, Johnny Quest helped transition one from childhood to young adulthood. Johnny Quest used animation like this to help bridge and build gaps. While the new adventures fall short in my opinion, it is still a process that if parents or adults sit with their children can be used to help point out some of the needs a child needs to transition.
While I am a huge Johnny Quest fan, I like the older versions far more than the newer ones. Maybe it is just a nostalgia thing but I don’t think so. I was looking forward to this DVD set. I had high hopes and unfortunately, it just didn’t deliver. The stories seemed rushed, the character development was poor, and while the line between reality and animation was as close as ever, the first season just don’t succeed in delivering the things fans of Johnny Quest are accustomed to. It seems as if there is so much of an emphasis on drawing a new generation of Johnny Quest fans, that they have forgotten the old fans like me. It is clear production problems had an impact here as later episodes moved more away from the “futuristic” Johnny and more back in line with the “traditional” Johnny. That doesn’t save this first boxed set though, in fact, I don’t think much could save the first season. It is sad, because of the poor quality of story and adaptation; it is likely few new followers stuck around. For those of us remembering the old Johnny Quest, that is a shame. That Johnny had a lot to offer.
On a scale of 1 – 10, When you take the 5 old characters, add in a new sister, and take that away from ten, you have a rather disappointing 4
Here is a clip from the new series on DVD. Just double click on the video, if the video don't appear, just click on the link:
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