Saturday, February 6, 2010

A MODEL QUEST FAN

Good greetings from Palm Key my fellow Quest fans, we have a rare honor in this current post: a guest blogger by the name of Matthew McWhirt. What part does Matthew play in the legacy of Jonny Quest?

Matthew contacted me through this blog and I asked if he'd like to share his story, because it deals not only with the legacy that has become THE ADVENTURES OF JONNY QUEST, but with his own relationship with the true father of Jonny Quest, Doug Wildey himself.


But I've already said enough, let's welcome Matthew, and let him tell his story in his own words:


I was like so many kids in 1964. One early evening on prime time television something happened that forever changed me. Jonny Quest premiered and its profound effect on me made school, albeit kindergarten, seem like the most pointless task anyone could indulge in.

I should be on adventures I thought. I never went on many real adventures. Growing up in small town Indiana meant that you walked a flat Earth with convenient paths laid out in precise grids and the only place where escape was found was the baseball diamond.

Twenty five years went by and in a time before VCR's and DVD's no mater how old I got whenever for whatever reason Jonny Quest would rerun I would be there to watch it before it disappeared again.

I grew up and I went to film school. While in film school I was introduced to something called silicone and resin and I learned that things could be made using these things. I ended up returning to Indiana, and in the back of my mind I thought, if I was not creating something for film, I wanted to create something.
I learned of the "garage kit" hobby, when going to sci-fi and horror cons in California. I struck gold when I discovered, while I was away, that a movement had started in Louisville Kentucky.

Wonderfest had been born -- and I attended the second one while slowly putting together what would become my model company, The Shape of Things. I was a company in time for Wonderfest Three, and the garage kit hobby was booming.

All the lost Aurora monster models and their future offspring were being born from beautiful, sandable, buildable resin.
Sculptors were being discovered, and garages were becoming messy mosaics of dripped and splattered resin. It was in mid 1993 when I decided to make the jump toward getting a license, and going for my dream project... a Jonny Quest model kit.

Matt McWhirt is my name and this is the true story of how the Jonny Quest model kits came to be against all odds -- and the true hero that really made it all happen.

THE LICENSING DANCE

The process of licensing a property is a dance, and if your an upstart with no shoes, its tough to get on the dance floor. At the time of the license, Turner owned Hanna-Barbera, so when proposing a license, you find who owns the rights and make contact.

In the case of the Quest license, it was negotiated in New York and then handed off to Hanna-Barbera in California. The contact was made because my friend Mike at Action Kits International, known for the Dark Shadows models and the Toxic Avenger Model, had had previous contact.I hope Mike forgives me omitting his last name but I could never spell it and almost cannot pronounce it. So I called and the dance began. It was simple we had to make an offer. In 1993 Jonny Quest was pretty much considered a dead property. Turner was more interested in why I did not want to go after a better license.

Well, I gave them an offer and there was a counter, and it was accepted. It was like getting the dance with the girl, but Dr. Zin was the director of the band, and he cut the song short. After Turner was paid, I began work on designing the model and the concept.

My college friend Kevin Butterfield, worked on the design and the concept art. It was submitted, and I faced hurdle number two: Turner did not understand the concept of a model kit, and panicked because they thought I was making statues.
Well, phone calls , explanations, sketches and a lot of time on the two year license, was getting gobbled. Finally realizing I was persistent, I was handed off to Hanna-Barbera.
I was selling my blood to get the project moving and Turner (Dr. Zin) handed me over to the Lizard Men, who immediately stonewalled the concept for irregularities in designs.

They did send me all of those model sheets you see floating on the web and at times on Ebay, because they thought I did not get the show.
The thing is, no one understood this was a concept. My para power ray gun was about to be aimed at Hollywood, and then I came up with a clever plan.


GET ME DOUG WILDEY

I proposed to them, the idea of getting Doug Wildey involved -- and amazingly I got his number. More amazing still, was that Doug Wildey called me, before I called him, to find out just what some guy in Indiana was trying to do.

He critiqued the concept and he really only had two beefs. One: Dr. Quest had a bazooka lying next to him which according to Doug he would never have.

Two: He also wanted to know why I wanted to represent the Invisible Monster episode and do the rocket belts. (The truth is, the footprint on the base was thought of as an adventure that never happened. Maybe a Dinosaur or maybe something else).

I wanted the models to bring some life, to what to me had always been an on going story. The great thing about talking with Doug, was he never once thought of me as a little fish or a dreamer. He listened to what I wanted to do, and he offered help. And he created the box art which became the concept for the models.
He left Kevin's design of the idol head exactly as it was drawn, and I love that part of the original concept remained. The project was moving forward.

Steve West was hired to sculpt the models of the diorama. Rick Wyatt was hired to make a larger stand alone of Bandit. Jonny had already been started even though, the concept had not been approved.I spent time on the phone with Doug Wildey, talking about the show and listening to stories that are well accounted in the documentary linked here on this blog. I remember him telling me, the rocket belts were used as a device to cheapen the animation to move the characters faster and with fewer drawings.


He talked quite a bit about the cost of the show, and keeping the artwork up to a respectable level. He also shared with me his dislike for Bandit

I really think sometimes, had Bandit not been on the show, we might have seen more action and more adventure.

I mentioned to Doug that I wanted to premier the first kit at Wonderfest in May of 94, and I asked him if he would be my guest there. He was surprised to hear the offer. He wondered if anyone would be interested in having him as a guest, and I was certain the fans would love to meet him.

So the deal was struck: he was coming and even announced in an early show flyer. Doug never had to be interested in the models, he never had to call this unknown upstart, he could have blasted me for getting the concept wrong, but he seemed to have genuine interest and he helped me.

During the time we worked together, Hanna-Barbera and Turner backed off and it was beginning to look like the models would be realized and premiered. And with its creator, and at one of the best conventions for the imagination in America.

Then sadly, I heard that Doug had passed away.

(Doug Wildey at work in a photo circa 1960s)

The models were still moving, but the sinister forces were back at work to slow the project. I was living a dream and now I was thrust into an uphill battle that I had to win.

I wanted to make it happen because I was in so deep, and because I wanted to do something that was not only a tribute to Doug Wildey, but would do him justice.

ENTER HANNA-BARBERA

Bandit was approved and we went forward as a prepaint. Three of the models were approved, but an artist on staff from Hanna-Barbera was determined to thrust his own ideas into the mix.

He suggested Dr. Quest should have a wallet...things like that...I eventually won because I kept saying the models were to represent Doug Wildey's artwork.THE REAL HERO IN ALL THIS, IS DOUG WILDEY

I cannot stress that enough. He kept the project moving even after he was gone, and for that I will always be grateful. As things were coming together, I faced the problem of distribution and production.

I was helped by Bob Chapman of Graphitti Designs, and because he thought it was worthy, the doors of distribution opened -- as well as the kits being cast in cold cast porcelain.
At the time, everyone loved the word cold cast, and those who bought models or statues, wanted that word in place as a marketing tool. The kits went forward and were marketed all over the U S.

Bandit sold well and saved the project from being a loss. The model kits were unevenly distributed. Large numbers of Jonnys and Races were sold, but far fewer Hadji's and Dr. Quests, so the odds of making a complete diorama from the 200 sets that were produced are pretty small.
As I look back on all of it, I would do it over for sure: all the headaches and troubles with the villains along the path of this adventure, were worth fighting with, and I am very proud to say with almost nothing, with little help and against the odds, the pieces made it out there.

It has been sixteen years now. I am waiting patiently for Sideshow to produce a set of pre-painted pieces and the long talked about live action movie.

IN LIFE THERE ARE MANY ADVENTURES

Now at fifty I can honestly say, that one of the best ones I was ever on, was with Jonny Quest. And I had my very own Race Bannon watching my back, Doug Wildey himself.There was other help along the way, proving that you will always meet Pasha the Peddlers along life's journey......but dang.............no Jezebel Jade in this story.

Chris here, again.

Thanking Matthew for taking us on his adventure with Jonny Quest. For taking the time to lend his own voice to this blog, and for creating some of the most memorable and beautifully executed pieces of Quest merchandising, ever.


Of the kits, I have only collected Jonny, but it does sit in a place of honor in my home. And I'd also like to thank Matthew for bringing more of a sense of community to this blog.


If any others have stories to share, tidbits or secrets about the Quest mythos, please think about sharing it here. Lets get as many voices to chime in here, as would like.

The boys who created the Quest documentary which started this blog, said they searched far and wide for those who had actually worked on Quest at Hanna-Barbera back in the 60s -- but could never find anyone to share specific memories.

Did any of you out there, lend their talents to the production of those classic episodes? Do we have any employees of Hanna-Barbera, during the 60s? Maybe the Quest show informed or shaped your life in some way you'd like to share.

This might be a great place to do that.
You can email me at the address provided in the ABOUT ME profile, on this blog page.

Finally, another big thank you to Matthew McWhirt, for his storytelling skills and
for taking the time to share with us his part in The Adventures of Jonny Quest.

Best wishes from the sandy shores of Palm Key, Chris.


3 comments:

  1. Love this series...I just recently acquired a set of these kits...minus the stand alone Bandit.

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  2. I have just started getting into figures and would love a set of these. Have there been talks with Moebius Models? They will be releasing the Dragonfly Jet from JQ next year so if they have the license, maybe they can reproduce the figures either in plastic or resin. Might be something worth exploring.
    Philp

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  3. Cannot wait for the sst kit.Been searching for one for years..

    ReplyDelete