Just when you thought that Jem and the Holograms was a signal that Hollywood has officially run out of 80’s/90’s cartoons to turn into live-action movies (I’m still waiting on Bravestarr, people!), along comes Warner Bros and Robert Rodriguez to promptly dissuade of that notion! Deadline is reporting that the Machete and Spy Kids helmer has been tapped by WB to direct a live-action feature film based on classic cartoon Jonny Quest.
The original Hanna-Barbera cartoon actually aired back in 1964 and featured the titular young boy as he accompanied his genius scientist father, bodyguard/government agent Race Bannon and Jonny’s best friend Hadji on adventures all around the world. The Adventures of Jonny Quest aired for just one season though, as it was cancelled for being too expensive to produce due to it’s much more realistic art, which went hand in hand with the show’s writing which was far more mature than the usual Hanna-Barbera fare.
The show was revived in the mid-1980’s though as The New Adventures of Jonny Quest, which was a much more more kid-friendly version and featured far less of the violence that sometimes crept into the original series. This series would run for just 13 episodes, but would result in two animated TV movies. Proving the character’s longevity though, 1996’s The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest would see the character returning to TV screens again thanks to new rights holders Turner Entertainment and their highly ambitious “Year of Jonny Quest” that would see a new cartoon, classic episode re-releases, animated movies and even a live-action movie.
In this new contemporary take, Jonny and Hadji were redesigned (Japanese/Korean animation was a huge influence) and aged up to be older teens, and the show also harked back to the more adult themes and occasional violence of the original series, but avoided all the antiquated racial/sexual prejudice that was found in the 60’s version. This would be my first real exposure to the character, and it’s exactly because of that more mature tone and writing that I absolutely loved it. And why hated to see it flounder in its ratings (despite strong critical reception), causing its cancellation a year later with many of Turner’s plans going unrealized.
But once again, Jonny Quest couldn’t be kept down, as the character was kept alive in syndicated reruns, comic books and other media until today. And in all that time, that aforementioned live-action movie was stuck in development hell. First Richard Donner wanted to take a crack at it, then Peter Segal tried and failed. At one point, a version was in development that would see a young Zac Efron as Jonny with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Race Bannon, but that also fell apart. Something, I’m sure, that WB hopes and prays won’t happen again.
This time around, Rodriguez will be helming and co-writing the script for this new version with Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, The Lone Ranger), based off a previous screenplay draft penned by Dan Mazeau that actually ended up on 2008’s Black List (in other words, it’s actually kind of good). And out of all the filmmakers that have tried to pull this off, I think that Rodriguez may just be the best fit. He’s best known for his mega-successful family friendly adventure fare like Spy Kids, as well as violent, stylized works like Desperado and Sin City, and Jonny Quest basically sits somewhere in the middle of those two approaches.
The question now just remains, which version of Jonny Quest Rodriguez wants to make? Personally, I’m hoping for the latter Real Adventures version, not just because it’s the one I grew up with, but also because I think it has the best contemporary fit and would maximize Rodriguez’s skill set. There’s a host of new young, talented actors that have been cropping up on casting lists all over the place lately, so he would also have no shortage of teenage leads to pick from (Jurassic World and The Kings of Summer‘s Nick Robinson immediately springs to mind).
Whomever the cast, and whatever tone they go for, I just hope that they actually make this movie now. 19 Years is a damn long time to wait. Also, they better damn well use that kickass theme song!
Last Updated: May 28, 2015