Every now and then for whatever reason (you can't define inspiration) I'll jot something down in a notebook, to look up later on youtube. Hey, it gets me through the day. Anyway, for whatever reason, the other day I wrote "Jonny Quest." I vaguely remember being entertained by the cartoon on Saturday mornings, the one day I was allowed to simply go downstairs and watch television without bothering my parents. It's a wonder I survived my Amish beginnings.
Now, I know the show was created in the late 60s and then simply ran ad nauseum for years on whatever network would pick it up - though I haven't seen it recently. So I figured youtube was as good a place as any to find it. And find it I did.
Good lord was this show awesome.
And by awesome I mean violent, raw, scary, thrilling and kickin. "Kickin" as in it may have had the best cartoon soundtrack I have come across. This show had it all, and quite possibly holds the answers to what makes me who I am today.
Rather than waste it in a Good, Bad, Beautiful, I thought this needed its own post. There's so much going on - and that's only in the opening credits of the show. Honestly, I can't think of a more action packed 45 seconds of entertainment. But I'll let you be the judge. Take a look on the flip side...
Not your average start to a child's cartoon, right? I count 2 explosions, 6 gun shots, and 10 acts of violence/aggression - and that's in 50 seconds. Thankfully, they slow it down when introducing the characters, or I'm not sure my head could take it.
But let's break it down as only we know how here at The Popcorn Trick...
The show Jonny Quest was about a scientist and his son who travel the globe battling...um...things (creatures, robots, evil doers, etc.) with the aid of a secret agent (Race Bannon - quite possibly the greatest name in the history of names. You know what exactly the type of guy you're getting with a name like Race Bannon), an Indian kid adopted by the good Dr., and a dog. Obviously the dog is there for comic relief/to get into situations in order to be saved, but still, the inclusion of Bandit almost invokes my rule of "never watch a show/movie that exploits innocent animals to tug on the heartstrings of the audience." It's why I will never watch I Am Legend or King Kong. Quest gets a pass because even the devious creators of this show would never kill an animal. I don't think.
No one is going to mistake what the show is about after watching the opening credits. What you see in the first 50 seconds, is what you get for a half hour. And I don't want it any other way.
We start off immediately on an off-colored note, with a number of natives chasing what may or may not be a minority through the jungle. We'll see more of the natives in the closing credits, so don't you worry. That scene cuts to a screaming dinosaur bird, that does nothing more than scream and scare the bejesus out of everyone. It really comes out of left field, and continues to do so. A little animal montage of a panther and alligator is thrown in for good measure before we suddenly see 2 army guys sitting in a trench unloading an M-60 on a mechanical Daddy Long Legs.
As far as opening credits go, this is what we in the industry call a left turn. No where was this scenario set up. I love it. And I can imagine my 6 year old mind orgasming over it...in a completely innocent 6 year old way.
And we're just getting warmed up, as the driving cocaine beat of the music suggests at this point in the credits.
The M-60 had no effect on giant Daddy Long Legs, but the tank and mortar shells certainly do. Explosion #1 and mechanical Daddy Long Legs is a mess of brilliant flashing colors.
Yet there's no rest for the weary here. New scene - new enemy. We're transported to...oh let's say Egypt for argument's sake, inside some sort of tomb with a giant mummy walking around looking pissed. It's also one of the scarier mummies I've ever seen. Bursting through a timber door that may or may not have entombed him (I hope not, since it hardly seemed to slow the mummy down) he is met with a barrage of gun fire from two guys suited up in biohazard gear, apparently under the impression that becoming a mummy may be contagious. Note we have yet to see one major character from the show yet.
The mummy, angered either by the gun shots or saddened by the fact that there are guys invoking early 80s doctors' practices of dealing with GRID patients, does what any normal misunderstood creature would do. He grabs the nearest Shriner and lifts him over his head. Oh but look, Race Bannon is there sans containment gear (he's the Matthew Modine of this bizarre And the Band Played On interpretation) shooting his gun and causing a lot of rubble to fall on the mummy and presumably kill him! That the Shriner is also underneath that rubble is an unfortunate but common occurrence in times of war. And I assume that fighting mummies would cause an act of war be declared.
Before the next Jonny Quest adventure, we enjoy a slight reprieve of men in orange suits floating over an alien landscape in giant hovering coffee mugs. Never seen again, I certainly don't trust 'em. Especially when immediately following their arrival we cut to a giant vulture/turkey buzzard/turkey (seriously, bird experts, what is that?) swooping down to grab Bandit.
Obviously, Bandit is not going to die; he's listed in the credits for Christ's sake. Still, the look of evil on the turkey buzzard (really, it looks like a turkey, right? But I can't and won't believe the animators were tripping enough to get away with drawing a psychotic looking turkey swoop dive and grab a dog. Even if it is a pug. So until I'm proven wrong, I'm going with turkey buzzard), coupled with the look of fear on Bandit's face as he's picked off the ground like I pick an olive out of an Outback Steakhouse side salad is the sort of thing that will keep me from sleeping tonight. His small little pug legs betray him. It's quite sad. Had he been a border collie I no doubt he would have been able to run away. I have to imagine that scene alone is why I will never watch I Am Legend.
(Seriously, why kill the dog in I Am Legend? Fuck you if you haven't seen it and are screaming for a spoiler alert. If you couldn't figure out they were killing that dog when you saw him in the trailer then you're an idiot. You wanna know why they killed the dog? Because we, as a society demanded it. Because the story was about "the last man on Earth" they certainly couldn't show gore by killing another person so early in the movie; there weren't any to kill off. But that explanation wouldn't satisfy the gore hounds that go to movies these days. The people that pay the Will Smith paychecks and buy the producers' gas for their diamond planes. So something needed to die.
And so concludes my Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes morality moment. Back to the Quest.)
Luckily, the bird/dog confrontation is quick and again we can feel content with the fact that they're not killing a supporting star of the show - at least until February sweeps. Something my 6 year old mind only had a rough grasp of (I knew about May and November; I could never remember the February sweeps). Slithering snakes of indeterminate species transition us into what may be the weirdest shot of the entire credits montage (and that's saying something) and also the most mysterious. Two creatures, possibly from the dragon family are seen trudging through a swamp. I say dragon because I think I can make out a forked tongue that keeps sticking out as they chomp their mouths in a sign of aggression, suspiciously looking as though they're chasing something. Weird, but not Mummy picking up a Shriner weird - except for the fact that each dragonthing is LEASHED. Either they're pulling a sled, or are being held back by a giant type being. Either option is at play as this is still Jonny Quest!
We never find out the dragonthings mystery as we now find Race Bannon getting ready to swing off what appears to be a raised sunken pirate ship. It's a little unclear in the 2 seconds it's on.
Bannon swings from the deck, through a shipyard, the docks, possibly a small town and then another 400 yards to knock either A) a guy dressed in a frog (aka SCUBA) suit; B) an actual frog creature; C) a "handsy" uncle; or D) all of the above. Mission accomplished. This appears to be the start of the climactic battle scene of the opening credits, as the J. Quest molester's partner (or the original guy is just really really fast) is seen back on board the raised pirate ship firing off a technically advanced cannon of some sort. Shooting at what, we don't know, we only see the beam phaser off into the distance.
Dr. Benton Quest (making his first appearance in the credits), has a technically advanced cannon of his own - and isn't afraid to use it. I can't believe he's down at the docks though, as his cannon is large and bulky; moving it from place to place would require at flatbed of considerable size at the very least. So don't ask me where Dr. Quest is during this whole fire fight. Maybe Race is calling him in for an air strike or something, and he's hanging out back at the base where there's a plethora of cannons that shoot cool.
Whatever the case, Benton strikes a direct hit on the pirate ship, decimating it completely in the credit's second large explosion. And finally, we can slow down. We're 50 seconds in and haven't had a chance to catch our breath. The next 35 seconds (an eternity in Johnny Quest credits time) is spent introducing the characters onboard what I can only guess is the Quest jet. You might think it's enough time to get in 15-20 introductions with the breakneck pace that has been established, but no, just the 5 main characters, in order of appearance on the plane:
- Jonny Quest
- Dr. Benton Quest
- "Race" Bannon
So there you have it - a deeper look into what I consider one of the most influential shows of my childhood. I'll never forget the invisible monster (and the noise it made when it was close) this team defeated with paint and possibly electricity - either using an electric fence, or a net. It's a little hazy in my head, being I last saw this show 30 years ago. Don't hold me to specifics, just enjoy the show for what it was, lament in the fact that they don't mass produce awesomeness like this for kids' consumption anymore and enjoy this little bonus of closing credits action without my longwindedness...
Johnny Quest closing credits:
(and yes, I realize I just wrote 2000 words on 1 minute and 24 seconds worth of cartoon, but seriously, they really pack a lot in there - and think of it this way - I was really close to deconstructing the end credits too)