The Robot Spy (Jonny Quest)
The Hanna-Barbera animated series Jonny Quest (1964-1965) might be the finest action cartoon ever made (for my taste it’s right up there with the original Peter Fernandez Speed Racer series). The Robot Spy episode is a sci-fi treasure chest. This classic cartoon was no doubt inspired by b-movie flying saucer and alien gems from the 1950’s!
A strange hovering saucer with a hemispherical canopy appears across the landscape. A terrified driver spots the craft on a two-lane road. The craft quietly lands behind the government-secured Quest Laboratories. An eerie purple glow emanates from the saucer. Is this an alien invasion? I love the craft. It looks and moves like 50’s saucers and reminds me of Exeter’s Metalunan ship from This Island Earth (1955).
Dr. Quest is working on the top secret Para-Power Ray Gun, a directed power siphon that has the ability to suck energy from recipient targets. The research is so important military troops are stationed around Quest Labs for security. Even Race Bannon is on alert.
The canopy to the saucer opens. The saucer houses a four-legged “daddy longlegs” automaton with antennae and a glowing central cyclopean iris. The Robot Spy is equipped with an articulated extension sucker arm that flattens an onlooking soldier. Whap! The Robot Spy is searching for the Para-Power Ray Gun.
Check out this art work. The animation and use of color and shading is gorgeous. I don’t think there’s ever been a design quite like the Robot Spy. The articulated ball robots used by Syndrome in The Incredibles (2004) may have taken inspiration from the Robot Spy (director Brad Bird is a fan of Jonny Quest and this episode). Man, it moves too.
Surprisingly, Hadji and Jonny have minor roles, but Bandit has a big part toward the end.
Aha! The evil Dr. Zin. Who else could’ve conceived of such nefarious a plan? Dr. Quest and Race are in for it now.
Of course Quest outwits Zin.
But Zin will return!
Jonny Quest: The Complete First [and only] Season is available on DVD. This is a 4-disc set with all 26 episodes from 1964-1965, with an interesting bonus disc with lot’s of supplements.
They don’t make cartoons like they used too.