Jonny Quest Character Design

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So we come to the part where we have to start making the main characters. We'll start with Race.

Now, the problem (as illustrated below) is that Race never looks quite the same from one shot to the next.

Clearly, Race looks totally different in these two shots yet we know with certainty that it's Race because of his ever present red flap shirt, even though it occasionally changed into a T-shirt, sometimes in mid-story. In retrospect, I think the reason the characters all have distinctive attributes, such as Race's red shirt/white hair, or Jonny's turtleneck with Conan O'Brien coif, or Haji's turban or Dr. Quest's goatee, is so that there is something that will carry over from one scene to the next, regardless of what particular artist was drawing them at the time. According to the documentary about JQ, the Hanna Barbara animators were not very proficient in drawing human form and had trouble following master artist and JQ creator Doug Wildey's reference drawings. The HB animators were far more comfortable with stretchy, rubbery characters like Yogi and Boo-Boo. Thus, Race was Race, as long as he had white hair and a red shirt. So we have to decide which "look" to settle on for Race.

Most JQ fans know that Race was based on Jeff Chandler (even if many aren't old enough to know who Jeff Chandler was), the white haired, testosterone god of machismo in many a B movie back in the 50s. He even had the prerequisite red shirt! So I decided to try and combine the different looks of Chandler and the multiple Races found throughout the original JQ series to form our "Generic Race" for the purpose of the title sequence. I look at it this way: If it wasn't important to the Hanna Barbara artists for Race to always look the same from scene to scene, then why should I be held to a higher standard? ;)


To start my version of Race, Brandi located a generic soldier figure that had a fairly "clean" head. His hair line is too high and his nose and eyes would be perfect if Paul Newman were reading for the part of Race but, alas, they will have to be altered during scuplting.


Unfortunately, his neck and body were less than desirable. So I had to mate his head to a different body. Their coloration was also different but, as both were going to be painted later, that didn't matter.



I applied Super Sculpey to his head to extend his hair line down onto his forehead.
The Hair Club for Men should consider Super Sculpey. Much more durable and you never have to wash it.


I also applied Sculpey to areas on his face to chisel his cheekbones, widen his jaw and added a clef chin, ala Mr. Chandler.  Because his head was filled with hot melt glue, which has a very low melting point, I could not put the head in the oven to harden the clay. As an alternative, I left the head about 4 inches away from a 40 watt bulb overnight and that cured the clay without melting the hot melt glue, which anchors the wooden peg that allows the head to be attached to the body. You will notice that I have colored his eyes black with a felt tip pen. Though they will be painted over later, the original eyes looked very realistic and were destracting during the sculpting process.

This is because the eyes of the cartoon version had no white areas! To simplify production, they just painted flesh tone across the entire face, including the lips and the eyes. This is fine for a cartoon but if I were to do that with the puppets, it would look very strange; like someone had drawn two black dots on their eyelids that you only saw when their eyes were closed. This seems like a minor thing but the eyes are so much a part of the "character" of a person that even if Race were sculpted as a perfect match to any single cartoon version, the mere presence of white around his iris would make him look totally different. So this became one of several things to overcome in the challenge of making him look acceptable as Generic Race. The other problem is one of purportion. In general, most of the heads in the JQ cartoons are about 10-15% larger than they should be (with some of the characters, like Haji, with enormous Mars Attacks size heads!)

Anyway, here are some photos of the completed Generic Race.
(Click on each photo for larger views.)

I should point out the shirt was made from scratch by one of my employees, Tabby Bomer. I think she did a fine job. It should also be noted that sometimes Race's sleeves were short sleeves above his elbow and sometimes they extended below the elbow, like a Capri version of a sleeve. I opted for the Capri version, as it conveniently hid the joint on his elbow! As an afterthought, I even added the inverted "V" into his sleeve with Photoshop for the picture on the left. I will need to have Tabby make the "V" alteration for real on the shirt before animation.

You'll notice that the eyes of Generic Race are in different positions for each photo. This is because only whites of the eyes were painted and the dark, round corneas were put in with Photoshop. I found this necessary as his eyes need to move and he also needs to blink on occasion. So adding them in Photoshop was just easier than trying to insert small orbs that I could move during animation. Of course, his eyes make him look a bit like Dr. Manhattan but thank the animation gods for small acts of mercy; at least he keeps his pants on*.

(* see: Watchmen)


Now we come to the build for Jonny Quest.

This is what Jonny looks like in the opening title sequence.


But, as is typical with all the characters in this series, Jonny has a few other looks as illustrated by these black and white model sheets that the original artists used as a reference for the series.


Here are some other looks in color, as well.

Jonny's age seems to range from about 8 years old to maybe as old as 12. Within the series, his size ranged from fairly small to kind of lanky. As with Race, I decided to average the look a bit but I tend to favor the "younger" Jonny as seen in the color model sheets.


To start, I purchased a couple of off the shelf girl dolls with faces that were a good starting point for Jonny (left) and Hadji (right). Girl dolls have soft features that lend themselves to creating the look of a young boy.

The first order of business is a hair cut!
Also, the torsos were cut down and mounted on wooden supports to facilitate sculpting.


Jonny has a very distinctive "upturn" at the end of his nose. So a bit of Super Sculpey was used to modify his snout.


Likewise, clay was added to lower the eyelids, extend his ears and to build up mass for that ultra-boss, Franky Avalon coif.


This is the final sculpt before painting.


Jonny with a coat of off-white spray latex primer.

Me hand painting Jonny's head.
Working with the larger dolls was a nice change from the 1/6 scale madness over the last year.
(click on photo for larger view.)


And this is the final with full "Marx Action Figure" paint and eyes added via Photoshop.
His head was reduced in size and body fitted with the pre-requisite black turtle neck, straight from Steve Job's wardrobe.


And now it's time for Hadji!


Here's what Hadji looks like in the cartoon title sequence.


As with the Jonny build above, we start with a girl doll and cut the hair. Super Sculpey is used to extend the ears.


Brandi then gives the doll a cap of clay as a base for creating the turban later.


I decided to use clay for the turban rather than cloth for a couple of reasons. One is that I wanted the finished character to have the typical "action figure" look, which meant that Hadji would have a plastic turban just as Jonny had plastic hair. The other is that Hadji's turban has a very specific shape. I found that trying to use actual cloth was very, very problematic as duplicating the familiar folds of the turban were next to impossible. The use of clay meant I could match the forms pretty closely and also end up with a solid figure to grab during animation.


To create the look of fabric in the clay, I pressed coarse burlap against the clay surface, which left an impression.


While I finished the sculpting, Brandi searched through a bag of "jewels" looking for just the right stone for Hadji's headpiece.

Costume jewelry sanded and shaped was fit into an appropriate gold frame.


Here's Hadji with no paint.


Next is a primer of spray latex.


Me giving Hadji the final paint job.


And this is the Hadji final, complete with a custom jacket made by my wife, Annette.

Thanks for looking!


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