Animation Planet Lance Falk Interview

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The following appeared in Animation Planet #2. It was recovered from here.


This JQ themed interview with Yours Truly is from Animation Planet # 2. It's a great magazine and I highly recommend it. The interviewer, Bob Miller is a great guy and writes regularly for a number of animated puplications. He's also an actual industry professional.

I thought I'd post this after the issue in question went off the stands. This is also uncut and unedited. The magazine is still well worth finding because it has an attached interview with our Producer, Davis Doi (Not to mention a lot of OTHER swell articles). Okay, this'll take a few postings, so let's go!

Lance Falk Interviews

Conducted November 17, 1996, 1:00 P.M. Sportsman’s Lodge, Studio City, CA

Miller: This is November 17th, 1996, and we’re talking with Lance Falk. What are we going to see in Jonny Quest upcoming episodes?

Falk: For starters, we gave the team back that gorgeous Dragonfly jet. The one with the huge tail fin from the Classic opening credits. There’s a fellow named Corbin who’s in the first JQ ever. He’s Race’s boss at Intelligence One and is going to make an appearance…sort of. Glenn Leopold, (our Story Editor) wrote a pair of Pasha the Peddler episodes. Pasha is Hadji’s Mentor and adopted Father from the Classic series.

Miller: You have the guy who did the original voice on that?

Falk: No. The first Pasha voice was Jessie White, a great character actor. But that was thirty years ago. This time around we used Maurice LaMarche. Maurice is also The Brain from "Pinky and the Brain" . Kind of neat because our Hadji, Rob Paulson also plays Pinky. We also brought back my favorite character: "Jezebel" Jade. I just love her. She was Race’s on-again-off again girlfriend.

Miller: You mean she’s not his Wife in this version?

Falk: No, no, no. Our Jade’s the same as in the Classic series. There have been several interpretations of the Jonny Quest show over the years. Every version has a different approach and they all contradict one another . We chose Jade from the Classic series. In the TV Movies done a few years back, ("Jonny’s Golden Quest" and "Cyber Insects"), Jade was a very Americanized Redhead who was once married to Race. I was allowed to change her back into a sultry Eurasian spy who’s a bit shady. Her new episodes, one written by me and another by Sean McLaughlin (with a polish by me) are practically sequels to Classic Jade episodes. Not plot wise, but in terms of character and her relationship to Race and the rest of the Quest team. My Producers, Davis (Doi), and Larry (Houston) were very supportive. Glenn (Leopold) too. We all agree that the first version of the character is by far the most fun.

Miller: Will she have her sultry voice like she did in the Original?

Falk: We’re using a different actress and I’ll tell you, I like voice she has now even better. In sixty-three, Cathy Lewis did a neat Mae West sort of voice, but our current Jade practically smolders. The new voice actress is Tasia Valenza. If you want "sultry", you won’t be disappointed. We loved her performance. Our voice director, Kris Zimmerman kept teasing us poor guys in the director’s booth, "Is it getting hot in here?" every time Tasia did a scene. We brought her back for another because she was so great as Jade. You’ll be seeing a lot more of Jessie too. She’s terrific. I think she adds a nice spin on the Jonny / Hadji relationship because these boys are a little older and beginning to notice girls. Jessie was actually introduced in one of the shows done in eighty-six. She was originally the daughter of Simon Bradshaw, a colleague of Dr. Quest. Then, in the TV movies, she was the daughter of Jade and Race. According to that version, Jade and Race were married at one time and had her. We threw that out. Jade would never get married to anybody.

Miller: Where does Jessie come from now?

Falk: The new version for her is the best and I hope it sticks to the Jonny Quest legend. Apparently, Race was briefly married to a South American archaeologist by the name of Estella Velasquez. This was years and years ago before the Classic series took place. Jessie’s been with her mother most of the time until recently. She spends a lot more time with her dad now, which is fine by us. We love her. Jessie just may be the only character in all of fiction with two Fathers and three Mothers, all biological! Jennifer Hale, Jessie’s voice actress, does a dynamite job with her and really brought her to life for me. To tell the truth, I was resistant to Jessie at first because she wasn’t in the Classic show. But when I heard Jennifer, then saw Jessie animated by Mook studios, I was won over. She’s become a true part of the Quest family for me and it’s a pleasure putting her into the thick of the action. I shouldn’t hold it against Jessie that Doug (Wildey, the creator of the JQ show) didn’t invent her.

Miller: Will we see Dr. Zin?

Falk: You better believe it. Jonny Quest without Dr. Zin is like James Bond without S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Zin is the arch foe of the Quest team. Zin was the only recurring villain from the series. He was in four of the original twenty-six and he’s in four of our twenty-six. The Peter Lawrence / Takashi team didn’t want to use him, but try and stop us. I should add that our Dr. Zin, like Jade, is the version from the Classic series. Glenn Leopold wrote a few great Zin shows. There’s one called "Nemesis" which is a real blow-out. Clyde Kusatsu did a solid, sinister job with his voice. Our last show of the current crop is one of my stories. It has Dr. Zin, Jade, and lots of Zin’s Robot Spies. I’m glad that Peter Lawrence opted not to use Zin first.

Miller: Because?

Falk: You’d have to ask him about that. It makes no sense to me. I’m just glad we had a blank slate to play with. We were able to give Zin a little back story while being careful not to contradict the Classic shows. Like I mentioned, I’m also bringing back Dr. Zin’s Robot Spies from the Classic of the same name. I’m sure the readers out there remember that supremely cool giant spider-eyeball thing. It gave me nightmares as a kid and I loved it! The Classic title was "The Robot Spy" and my sequel title is "The Robot Spies". Just the way the sequel to "Alien" is "Aliens" . Any excuse to homage ‘Iron’ Jim Cameron. If you were scared by just one Robot Spy, wait ‘till you see a half-dozen in action! In the same episode, we’ve staged the ultimate showdown between Dr. Quest and Dr. Zin. This is what their relationship have been leading up to. If the same bad guy keeps coming, there’s a point where you need to deal with this guy once and for all. He endangers your family. He’s not merely a threat to the Government, it’s personal. Sooner or later it’s coming down to a showdown. And it’s better to fight on your own terms. Hopefully, you’ll glimpse a side of Benton Quest never seen before. An aggressive, active, man of action. More like Race Bannon than himself.

Miller: So, in this final episode, what’s the big kicker?

Falk: I always felt that the real home of the Quest Family is on Palm Key, a private island in Florida. They don’t feel right anywhere else. So, after much badgering of our Producers, I was allowed to thoroughly blow-up that ridiculously stuffy Maine mansion which was their base of operation for the current crop of episodes. At the end of the show, Race says, "Maybe we could take the Florida Compound out of mothballs" and Dr. Quest laughs back, "Race, you read my mind" Of course, these characters are expressing my personal sentiments. If I have anything to say about it, all further Jonny Quest stories will show Palm Key as their permanent base. As it should be.

Naturally, that means tossing out all those gorgeous background drawings and paintings of the Maine place and doing new and improved designs for the Florida location, but I know Jonny would have wanted it that way. (laughs)

Miller: So when is this episode going to air, in May?

Falk: Late March or early May, probably. It’s the last new episode unless Hanna-Barbera decides to do more. I’m up for it. Let’s hope they are.

Miller: Any other special shows you’d care to name?

Falk: Well, the real labor of love is an episode called "Nuclear Netherworld". It’s probably the episode most like a Classic JQ out of all fifty-two of the current shows. We’ll meet Jonny’s grandfather for the first time and it was my pleasure to base him on Doug Wildey, the real creator of the Jonny Quest series, back in 1963. Sadly, Doug passed away a few years ago and we dedicated the episode to him. Artist Dave Stevens knew Doug very well and based a character on him in "The Rocketeer" (Peevy, portrayed in the film by Alan Arkin). I agree with Dave that Doug was a wonderful character and a wonderfully sweet guy. He’s also a very entertaining personality, perfect for an adventure series. I figured if Dave could use him for his Graphic novels, then I could certainly use him for a show that he created. I recently showed the episode to Doug’s widow, Ellen and she seemed to like it quite a bit. Her opinion of that particular one is very important to me. For the record, Granpa Doug is Jonny’s late maternal-side grandfather. If we get to do more episodes, I promise to tell the definitive story of Jonny’s mom and what happened to her.

Miller: Oh, I see. So it’s not what was told in the Comico comics version in the second issue?

Falk: No. I liked Bill Loebs JQ comics a lot, but I see the story as more ‘adventury’ than her dying in a hospital. It was a wonderful, heartwarming story, and it supports the Classic series continuity somewhat, but not 100 %, which is what I’m trying to do. I’m also disregarding the version in the (TV Movie). "Jonny’s Golden Quest" is a nice "what-if ?" story but not canonal. Race Bannon was assigned to the Quest team by Intelligence One specifically because Jonny’s mother was used by an enemy to get at Dr. Quest. Race is around to keep the same thing from happening to Jonny. This is all said by Agent Corbin in the very first Quest episode in 1963.

Miller: Now, the new series that you’re doing, are you going to bring back the Hoyt Curtin music?

Falk: I’m afraid not. As much as we love that old music, our twenty-six shows have to match-up with the earlier batch all under the title of "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest" and they hadn’t used them. The good news is that our music is great. Bodie Chandler has a terrific pool of composers and the scores feel like individual movie scores. Very little re-use from show to show. It’s nostalgically sad, I guess, but we are replacing the old music with some really great stuff. Maybe the old tracks would seem dated to our modern audience. All that Jazzy chase music.

Miller: Okay, tell us about yourself, how you got into the business, what you do.

Falk: Well, I was born in San Francisco in 1961. Like a lot of folks in this business, I’m a big fan of Science-Fiction, Comic Books, Cartoons, Etc. All the signs of an arrested development (laughs). I moved to LA in 1980, got a job at Hanna-Barbera in late 1984 right at the bottom, in the stock room. By ’86 I had worked my way up from PA (Production Assistant) into the art department.

My first show was actually the 1986 episodes of Jonny Quest under Jim Stenstrum. I owe Jim a lot for giving my big break. (Jim is also the art director for our new JQ’s, so I guess everything moves in circles!) From 86 through 94, I worked on lots and lots of H-B shows as a designer, clean-up artist, model coordinator, whatever.

Then, I did work on a short-lived show called "Capitol Critters’ with Producer Davis Doi. We worked well together and when he got his next show, SWAT Kats, Davis was nice enough to give me a crack at writing it. I got to write six episodes in two years and it was a great experience. SWAT Kats has a lot of the same crew as the current Jonny Quest team, Davis, Myself, Glenn, Jim, Tony (Sgroi, character designer), Vic DalChele (storyboard supervisor), Etc. We make a good team.

Miller: Before you went with Jonny Quest, what are the titles of the shows you wrote for SWAT Kats?

Falk: "Destructive Nature", "Chaos in Crystal", "Metal Urgency" (With Eric Clark) for season One. In the second year, I did, "Cry, Turmoil!", "When Strikes Mutilor", and my personal favorite, "Unlikely Alloys". They were all done under Story Editor Glenn Leopold, he was pretty patient with someone as green as myself. He taught me a lot. After SWAT Kats, we all thought we were the obvious team to go on and do Jonny Quest, but someone in management picked another group for the job so I ended up at Warner Bros. Working on Pinky and the Brain and Animaniacs. That was a fun gig. I got to work for all the Directors and Producer at one time or another over a year and a half. Lots of shows including the Pinky Christmas special which won an Emmy. I’m proud to be associated with those shows as I am with SWAT Kats. Last December, Davis gave me a call and said "I know you’re happy at Warner, but would you be interested in a writing job on Jonny Quest ?" You see, H-B gave Davis twenty-six Jonnys to do and he had to build a crew from the ground up. On SWAT Kats, I just wrote on the side. My day job was getting the model designs together. Davis was offering a full time writing job which is quite a step up. I decided to push my luck and ask if I could also be trained in other areas of production. Music, Sound Effects, Editing, that sort of thing. Taking the raw footage and making a final film from it. I wanted to learn the things that I was never exposed to. In effect, I want to attend "Producers School". He readily agreed and I took the job. I share an office with Jim Stenstrum and get to peek over his shoulder at all the character designs. I’m probably kind of a pain, but he puts up with me with his usual good humor. Davis has been great in offering me opportunities, and I try not to let him down. So far so good. I got to write eight Jonny Quests and Story Edit another. Though Glenn is the Story editor and our most prolific writer.

Miller: Didn’t he write the ones during the Peter Lawrence era?

Falk: I think he wrote a few under that regime, but I’m more familiar with our batch of shows. He wrote some killer shows for our side. A nice thing is that Glenn’s are very different in flavor than mine. He can do great Stephen King type Ghost stories and I’ll do all-out James Bond type action stuff. (Though Glenn is no slouch there either, just see "Nemesis") Our third main writer was Michael Ryan. He writes the Questbytes at the end of most of the episodes and four shows on our side. Michael has a good understanding of all that Virtual Reality stuff and so he was essential because we had to deliver a certain amount of VR shows. I can’t speak for the others, but I had a lot of trouble dealing with that stuff on a conceptual basis. Mike was a real help. I tried to do all traditional stories but eventually, it was only fair for me to do two VR shows. They came out pretty good, though, being a traditionalist, I prefer the real world for Jonny adventures. That’s just my opinion, you understand.

Our last two writers were Sean McLaughlin, who I mentioned as the writer of a great, very traditional Jade episode. ("Diamonds and Jade") Last, but not least, is Bob Goodman who did a real creepy hi-tech monster episode. ("DNA Doomsday") Bob would have written more for us but, fortunately for his career, he was promoted at Warner Bros. to a staff writing job on Superman and Batman. In fact, Bob’s script for the Parasite episode of Superman got him the Jonny Quest gig.

Miller: Any last thoughts for now?

Falk: If you like the Classic Jonny Quest show, you’ll find ours a real descendent of that great show. If you like the Peter Lawrence / Takashi shows, you’ll love ours which are similar, but better, I think. I should also mention that Mook Studios in Japan is animating our batch of shows. They did the sharpest SWAT Kat episodes and they’re kicking butt on our Jonnys. We couldn’t be happier.

Miller: Excellent. Okay Lance, thanks a lot. * * *

Miller: Okay, today is November 22, 1996. We’re talking with Lance Falk. Lance, what episodes did you write for the new series?

Falk: First I wrote one called "Rock of Rages" I felt like I’d been waiting thirty years to write a Jonny Quest, so it was really a labor of love. ‘Rock’ was designed to be a very generic Classic-type Jonny episode. A monster story with some James Bond type stuff for Race to do. It deals with the Golem, an ancient Hebrew legend. Mark Hamill was the villain. He did a great job and being a Star Wars buff, it was cool to work with him.

Second for me was "Race against Danger" More of a high-tech action show. The best bit is a flashback sequence of young Race Bannon on his first field assignment. We get a glimpse of Dr. Zin back when he had hair! It was originally called "Race against Death", which makes more sense, but someone got cold feet about the word "death". "Death" is still how it’s referred to in my head and around the office.

Next was "Undersea Urgency" which was a shameless James Cameron homage. Aliens meets the Abyss . It’s a pretty intense episode told in real time about a creature attack on a prototype underwater city. We got Peter Jurasic (Londo from Babylon 5) to do a voice for it.

Then, "Nuclear Netherworld" which I’ve already mentioned. Jonny, Hadji, and Bandit share an adventure in the American Southwest with Jonny’s Grandpa, Doug. Ed Asner voiced the villain and Jerry Doyle (Garibaldi From Babylon 5) was his ill-fated assistant.

Next were my two Virtual Reality episodes, "Otherspace" and "Thoughtscape". I tried to get away from "the video game turned dangerous" VR plots that had come before. "Otherspace" is an Outer Limits type of story about cracking a dimensional gateway. It was written as a VR episode but got changed into a traditional animation show. (for reasons too complicated and painful to go into!) If I had known this going in, I would have preferred to do a more traditional travelogue style Jonny story. Carl Lumley and Shari Belifonte did dynamite guest voice work in this one.

"Thoughtscape" is a Virtual Fantastic Voyage into Jessie’s mind by Jonny and his father to undo a brainwashing program by Surd. It was my pleasure to dispense with Surd once and for all in this show. Mike Ryan got to kill-off Ezekial Rage, which I wanted to do too, oh, well….

Then, I did a final draft polish on Sean McLaughlin’s "Diamonds and Jade". Which I also mentioned earlier. Shaun turned in what was asked of him, in a strong draft in record time, but we decided to change some of the action sequences around a bit. Shaun had such a good monster idea that we wanted to service it as best as we could. Since I’m such a fan of the Jade character, I got to do the retooling. I really think I kept the feeling of what he turned in. I certainly hope he does too. Shaun’s a good friend of mine. No matter how you slice it. ‘Diamonds’ is a solid, Classic-style episode.

"General Winter" is the return of Mark Hamill’s villain from "Rock of Rages" and my most Bond-like story. It has snow chases, Submarine combat, firepower galore, lots of running around, a big super weapon, and a hand-to-hand showdown between Race and his nemesis. Total Jonny Quest. I took it upon myself to kill General Vostok (Hamill’s character) because I didn’t want him around for other writers to misinterpret him in the future. Better to go in a blaze of glory. Mark seemed a little upset by his demise which was of course, very flattering. Clancy Brown was his sinister sidekick. Clancy is doing Lex Luthor for the Superman cartoon and is in a lot of great movies. A trivia note, it’s original title was "Cold War".

Miller: What was Mark’s character name?

Falk: General Vostok. He’s a de-frocked KGB thug and military strongman. Vostok wants to rebuild the iron curtain in a big way. He’s a good physical and philosophical foil for Race, who I see as the American-type hero.

Last, but not least is "The Robot Spies". Something I didn’t mention about this one before is a good part for Andreas Katsulas (G’Kar, also from Babylon 5). Kris Zimmerman, then Donna Grillo, who both did voice casting for the show let me request the occasional voice performer. A nice thing that they didn’t have to do. As you may have guessed, I’m a huge fan of Babylon 5. The sad thing about this episode is it was like putting fifty pounds of sugar into a ten pound bag. We had a lot of characters to deal with and a rather complicated plot. Unfortunately, because of those Questbytes, our stories run less than nineteen minutes. Not really that much time for this kind of show. This is sort of a movie idea shoved into less than twenty minutes. So we only have time for the basic plot points.

Miller: How about a two-parter?

Falk: That subject did come up but this was the last episode to be produced so there were no more slots for a second part.

Miller: That’s too bad.

Falk: Don’t fret. There are still some cool things in it, just not the texture and detail we wanted. Lots of action, though. That brings us up to date with my shows. You should talk to Glenn, our Story Editor. He did some cool shows too.

Miller: Well, I thought you were a Story Editor too.

Falk: Not really. I’m the lead staff writer and an Associate Producer (because of my art background). Glenn gave me notes and I was only too happy to indulge his experience.

Miller: So, you started out on the 1987 Quest, right?

Falk: Yeah. As a model clean-up artist.

Miller: So, why don’t you give a brief capsule summary of those shows up to now? A brief history of everything. Why were there changes? Why the differences? Well, like Hard Rock for instance. Why did they bring him in? And what was the problem with that?

Falk: First of all, you have to understand that Jonny Quest was always a complicated and costly show to produce. From 1963 right up to yesterday afternoon. It always will be. The Classic show rose to the challenge magnificently. Keep in mind, H-B was used to doing simple shows like Huckleberry Hound and Flintstones. The reason they stopped making the show in the sixties was that it was too complicated to be profitable for the time. Little did anyone know how well the show would do in reruns. More would have been made. A similar story to Classic Star Trek. I bet Paramount and NBC wishes that they did seven or more years of that version. (So do I!) In 1986, H-B decided to make an additional thirteen Quests for their Sunday syndication block: The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. Unfortunately, the show was done in the same production treadmill as Smurfs, Snorks and other shows like that.

Another factor was we were in a period where every revival of a classic show got stuck with a new sidekick character. Orbitty on the Jetsons, Scrappy Doo, Etc. This was probably a way of generating more story ideas and differentiating new versions from old ones. In Scrappy Doo’s case it worked out successfully, in others it didn’t. Jonny Quest was burdened with a big rock guy. It was a pretty wacky idea. Hard Rock followed the team around like a puppy dog. I’m glad I didn’t get to write any of those things because that character would have been difficult to do. He was more articulate than Dr. Quest, stronger than Race, more exotic than Hadji, Jonny and bandit came up to his knee and ankle, respectively. The whole cast was rendered superfluous by him. I’m of the opinion that Jonny Quest is a show with one foot in the fantastic, and one foot solidly based in reality. Hard Rock blew that all to pieces. Actually, "Rock of Rages" with the Golem, was an attempt to sort of tweak the nose of Hard Rock. I wanted to show how downright frightening a seven-foot tall rock creature is. A terrifying supernatural force, not a puppy dog.

In the late 80’s H-B made a pair of TV movies, "Jonny’s Golden Quest" and "Jonny Quest and the Cyber-Insects".

Miller: Why were those made?

Falk: Probably an attempt to try the Movies for Television and Video market. My humble opinion is that those movies are neat, well done shows with a lot of care, nice production values, but not very Jonny Quest type stories. The character reinterpretations of Dr. Zin and Jade were somewhat bizarre. If I had no preconceived notion of the Jonny Quest universe, I probably would have loved them. When we made our batch of shows, those were more of less ignored as interesting side paths of the property. "What-If?" stories, if you will.

That brings us up to a few years ago. Ted Turner or Fred Seibert or somebody decided to do a real high budget, quality batch of JQs for the Turner stations.

Miller: Okay, Talk about the making of The real Adventures of Jonny Quest.

Falk: Well, I wasn’t there on the ground floor, much as I wanted to be. I interviewed for a writing job, didn’t get it. Interviewed for a drawing job, didn’t get it. I ended up at Warner Bros. And was called onto the project two years after it had started. I’m involved with the second half of the series, which will be the last twenty-six to premiere. Our batch is produced by Davis Doi and Larry Houston. Davis, as I said, did that wonderful show, SWAT Kats. I think it’s Hanna-Barbera’s best adventure show since the sixties, though it looks like our batch of Jonny’s will be even better. Larry Houston has done lots of adventure shows in the business. He came to us after producing the second season of Fantastic Four. If you’ve seen his episodes you know he did a terrific job on that series. Both guys are great to work for and really know their stuff. Story Editor Glenn Leopold has written hundreds of great cartoons and has worked with both Davis and Larry on a number of projects, SWAT Kats and F.F. among them. The four of us were sort of a brain trust on the back twenty-six shows. Right now (November 17th,1996: Ed.) about half of ours are in the can. The shows currently airing are from the other production team of Peter Lawrence and Takashi, which another pair of Producers (John Eng and Coz Anziolatti) had to finish up. What our team is doing is both similar and different from the shows currently airing. I should mention that John and Coz really had their work cut out for them and had to get twenty-six shows airable in a very short time. Mike Ryan was rewriting whole sequences to be redone from scratch. The episodes you see on the air were dramatically improved from what they could have been and if you like them, a heaping spoonful of your praise must be heaped on John and Coz.

Fortunately, the Executives at Hanna-Barbera, Fred Seibert, in particular, gave Davis and Larry a certain creative latitude in changing a few things about our shows. Our approach is a bit different, but it’s similar enough to the first batch to air back-to-back with them without confusing anyone. The things we wanted to do differently, we did differently. We changed the character designs somewhat. We changed the type of stories being told, and a few other things, voice casting, our overseas animation studios, and so on. I’d say, that if you put your finger on an overall difference between the two production groups, it’s that ours are a lot closer to the classic Jonny Quest show from the sixties, the original. I have to quickly add that we have a very modern element to our episodes too but a different flavor.

Miller: In what way?

Falk: Over all, it seems to me that the Lawrence shows are more mystery oriented, closer to X-Files than Indiana Jones. Lots of spiritual, mystical plots. Dr. Quest is a Phenominologist, investigating strange events. There are a lot of what I call "Scooby-Doo" stories, where the monster is really someone in a suit or a mechanical device. They uncover a lot of hoaxes. Our stuff is closer to "Jurassic Park" or a lot of other Michael Crichton projects you can name like "Congo". Closer in spirit to the Classic Jonny Quest, which was a slam-bang adventure show with real monsters. The other version has a lot of that VR stuff in it which we had to incorporate into our shows.

Miller: Because why?

Falk: Because our shows have to synch-up with their shows and we have certain obligations to the client who was sold on the whole VR thing and wanted it as an ongoing element of the show. I think the world itself is exciting enough but we tried to make the VR shows as cool as possible and in spite of the resistance, I think our VR shows are a h--- of a lot better and make more sense, story-wise. It wasn’t easy, believe me.

Miller: Do you know why Peter Lawrence moved the Quest compound up to Maine?

Falk: No idea. You’ll have to ask him. I just know why I blew it up into a million burning fragments. I had the opportunity, so I went for it. Like I said before, management was nice enough to let us change a few things as long as our shows wouldn’t be too confusing airing concurrently with theirs. Design, voice casting and so on.

Miller: Tell us about the first cast of the Real Adventures and then your cast.

Falk: I’d rather not talk too much about the other batch of shows. It’s not really for me to discuss. When we inherited the show, we just wanted to get the whole thing back to the way it was originally. Race Bannon for instance, had a real twang in his voice and we wanted to lose that. Robert Patrick (The Liquid-Metal guy from T2) is a fine voice actor (I got him for one of my SWAT Kats, which was his first cartoon voice) but we wanted the Classic Race. We got that from Sonny VanDusen and Robert Foxworth. We actually brought back Don Messic, the Dr. Quest from the classic series, but he was too ill to do the part, so we had a quick casting call and picked John DeLancie (Q from Star Trek) He did a h--- of an audition amongst some pretty fierce competition and nailed the job. Robert Foxworth actually came in to try out for Dr. Quest but we thought he sounded like a great Race Bannon. That’s how we found him. Robert’s recently been in Babylon 5 as General Hague and Deep Space 9 . Our Jonny, Hadji, and Jessie are Quinton Flynn, Rob Paulson, and Jennifer Hale. All experienced voice actors. Quinton was also Jonny Storm on Fantastic Four. He just seems like a Jonny, I guess. Actually, I think he looks like Jonny Quest, only in his twenties with darker hair. All five cast members were a joy to work with, real pros.

Miller: Bandit?

Falk: We use Frank Welker for lots of miscellaneous background characters, animal and creature sounds and Bandit. Frank does something different in each episode and he’s also the voice of Surd.

Miller: People are gonna want to know why not use real dog barks for Bandit like it was in the original series?

Falk: Because Frank can do a perfect Bandit voice and take very specific direction. Frank is a real specialist in this sort of thing and voice doubles for all sorts of creatures. He voiced "Gremlins" in the movie of the same name and Darwin the dolphin in "Sea Quest" just to name two.

Miller: Any final comments?

Falk: Personally, I’m a huge fan of the Classic Quest show and it’s my favorite adventure cartoon ever. I don’t think anything’s come close, except for the current Warner Bros. Batman and Superman shows. Let me tell you, it’s been a dream job. And because I can, I’m dredging up just about everything from that classic show that they’ll let me. We have a lot of classic characters that the Peter Lawrence/Takashi team opted not to use. A nice mixture of exciting stories, from frightening supernatural stuff to over-the-top action. The thing I’m most happy about is getting to bring back characters from the Classic series. I also want to say that I’m really proud to be on the great team that Larry and Davis put together. They did it from scratch in a matter of weeks. I should probably mention some people. Tony Sgroi was our main character designer and one of the best around. He actually did layout on the Classic Jonny series. The guy’s my hero. Jim Stenstrum was the art director and gave the show a good solid look as well as designing the best monsters. We have a great design team. Jim fine-tuned just about every character and that’s why they look so sharp. Richard Ory and his guys did some cool vehicles and props. Vic DalChele supervised the storyboards and accomplished a mountain of high quality work. We all did good work and I hasten to add, four times faster than the other team. Davis and Larry are the best bosses one could hope for and they knew they needed to get the right people to do this Herculean job. Only the very best people can give you quality and quantity over such a marathon. Look closely at our end credits. Freeze frame them if you have to and remember those names. Everyone there is a hero. A Gmuer’s Background painters, Drew Gentle’s layout artists, Star Wirth’s Xerox department, Heidi Williams and Victoria McCollum kept the trains running on time. Allison Leopold’s Color key crew, etc. etc. Everyone rose to the considerable challenge and I wish there were space to mention them all, because I’m so d--- proud to work with them.

Miller: Can you say anything about why the old team left?

Falk: The Company line is "creative differences and failure to meet deadlines." I’d say that’s fair enough, charitable even. That’s probably all I’m allowed to say.

Miller: That’s what got you into the situation where you had to turn out so much material so fast?

Falk: In a nutshell.

Miller: Another question on my mind is about Dick Sebast. He was the first Producer, Right?

Falk: Dick was here very early doing some of the primal development work on the project. Management decided to replace him with Takashi but I don’t know the circumstances. Dick’s a nice guy. He did a few great Batman episodes.

Miller: What was the page ratio of the scripts?

Falk: We were shooting for thirty-five pages, but they always went a few over that. We had to trim even that when it was decided to put those non-sequiter Questbyte things in nearly every episode.

Miller: what’s in store for you for the future?

Falk: Well, Hanna-Barbera has been recently purchased by Warner Bros. So everyone’s in kind of a "wait and see" position right now. Personally, I enjoyed my time at Warners and I’m sure when the effects of the merger settle down, it’s going to be great around here.

They really place a high value on their talent. Both studios have seemed to like me in various capacities, so I’m pretty sure I’ll still be working here or there and I’ll be proud to do so. Hopefully with Davis, Larry, and the rest of our Quest team. I do have a few dream projects. I’d love to get my claws into some other classic H-B adventure shows like Shazzan, Herculoids, Mighty Mightor, Galaxy Trio, It would be a blast to dig those up and really sharpen them up. Mostly, I would love to do a Space Ghost show and treat him like a terrifying avenger of evil. Sort of a "Batman in space". I even have a pilot origin story roughed-out in my files. I think it would really kick-butt. Wish me luck! Meanwhile, I’m gonna be incredibly busy through March of this year, learning Post Production so I can’t really think about my next move.

Miller: thanks very much.

Falk: My pleasure Bob.

Ta da……..

Here's another one!

1. How did you decide that you wanted to write stories?

Well, that's a story in itself. Since childhood, I loved to draw for fun. (When Star Wars came along in my seventeenth year, that particular desire went into overdrive). When I got a drawing job at Hanna-Barbera in 1986 (designing stuff for the '86 version of Jonny Quest, ironically enough) it was a dream come true. There's nothing like making a good living by doing what you love. But after a number of years of non-stop drawing, I was getting less satisfied with the whole thing. Then I read the following: "When your hobby becomes your livelihood, it's time to get a new hobby". I suddenly realized that since getting the job, I no longer was drawing for myself. I had to draw whatever H-B needed of me in subject matter and even style. Still a great job but now I realized that I was not really expressing my own creativity. I think all creative types (If that isn't too much of a conceit on my part) need an avenue of personal expression to really satisfy those creative urges. A friend suggested trying to write something and I dove into it. It provided me with the same feeling I once got from drawing. (Which I still love to do. Don't get me wrong). Writing felt pretty natural and with the encouragement of those close to me, I kept at it. Now of course, I write for a living too, so, I'm sure I'll need another hobby in time! Not for a while though. I'm having a ball.

2. Where there any influences in your life that prompted you do begin writing?

Hmm, This may sound negative but my real inspiration was how much I hated the writing on Star Trek TNG. I'm a big fan of Classic Trek and all the new stuff is so damn dull to me. I would complain about it endlessly but kept watching with the same sort of impulse that causes people to rubberneck at a gruesome auto wreck! This relates to the first answer above. That friend (Chris Otsuki, now a writer/artist at DreamWorks SKG) said "Quit complaining and write one yourself!" Best advice I ever got. A strange story, but that's where it all started. If New Trek was good, maybe I would have never hit the word processor at all!

3. Did you ever write any other kinds of stories that were not made into cartoons, and if so, what were they like?

Yep. First I CO-wrote a Star Trek TNG with Chris. Then three more on my own. I didn't sell them but I did make to the pitch stage at Paramount. (not bad for the first few things I ever wrote) They turned me down because they found my stuff "Too combative" and "Too much like the Original Series" I took those comments as compliments! I've also written a pair of 40's style Radio Shows which were performed live at a coffee house. One was a Sci-Fi serial "Rocky Rogers, Rocket Ranger" the other was a Western musical "Saddlesore Sioux, Southwest Speech Therapist" They went over pretty well. I even had to step in and perform a few times when someone was ill. These were especially fun because there were no rules whatsoever. Sadly, the couple who ran the Radio Troupe moved up to Berkeley. The couple who owned the 40's themed coffee shop closed down and moved to San Francisco. Lastly, I did a Batman: TAS that didn't sell. It was good, but not great. I don't blame them for not taking it. They have plenty of top-knotch writers on staff. (Star Trek, on the other hand..........)

4. By watching cartoons, such as Jonny Quest, did that make you want to begin writing cartoons for tv?

Not really, though I've always LOVED cartoons and have never "Outgrown" them. In the early days, drawing seemed more interesting to me than dry words on paper. Now, I know better. Writing draws pictures in one's own imagination. Which is at least as satisfying.

5. What cartoons did you watch when you were younger?

Everything either adventurous of funny. I was never into "cute" even as a tyke. (Casper for example). JQ is the all time favorite, I also love all the other H-B adventure toons of my youth: Space Ghost, Herculoids, Shazzan, The Arabian Knights, Galaxy Trio, Samson & Goliath, Sealab 2020, Three Musketeers, Super Friends, Birdman, etc. non H-B adventure stuff like the Japanese toons by Tezuka like Speed Racer, Astro Boy, Marine Boy, etc. The H-B funny stuff (Flintstones, Yogi, etc.) never really did it for me as a kid (though I have a taste for them now). The funny stuff I liked was Warner Bros. all the way. Jay Ward stuff too. (Bullwinkle, Super Chicken, George of the Jungle, etc.) So it was H-B for action and Warners for laughs. Ironically, I currently split my time between writing for Jonny Quest at H-B and drawing stuff for Pinky & the Brain at W-B !

6. What other shows have you written for Hanna-Barbera or any other cartoon studio? and which one is your favorite?

I wrote six episodes of SWAT Kats for H-B. (They were "Destructive Nature", "Chaos in Crystal", "Metal Urgency", "Cry, Turmoil!", When Strikes Mutilor", and "Unlikely Alloys") I worked with a lot of the current Jonny Quest team on that show. I also wrote a "Goodfeathers" short for Animaniacs ("Boids on the Hood") It didn't turn out so good, I'm sad to say. The joke was sort of censored out of the cartoon, dispensing with the core of the idea. Oh well. Without a doubt, "Unlikely Alloys" is my favorite of the pre-Quest stuff. My best story for that show and the animation was especially terrific. It came out great.

7. Why did you decide to write Jonny Quest stories? Which episode that you have written for Jonny Quest is your favorite?

I was called by Producer Davis Doi and offered the job. it was an easy job to accept. A huge promotion to do exactly what I wanted on my all time favorite toon working for the best boss I ever had. A no-brainer decision. my favorite is the not yet aired "General Winter" I think it's my tightest script. I got to do the post production supervising myself (A first) and the animation is gorgeous. I haven’t seen it with sound effects or music yet, but I know it'll turn out great.

7. Why did you decide to write Jonny Quest stories? Which episode that you have written for Jonny Quest is your favorite?

I was called by Producer Davis Doi and offered the job. it was an easy job to accept. A huge promotion to do exactly what I wanted on my all time favorite toon working for the best boss I ever had. A no-brainer decision. my favorite is the not yet aired "General Winter" I think it's my tightest script. I got to do the post production supervising myself (A first) and the animation is gorgeous. I haven’t seen it with sound effects or music yet, but I know it'll turn out great.

8. Tell me a little bit about the procedures you use for writing your stories for Jonny Quest or other cartoons. Such as, information gathering, and developing a story line.

My head is full of Jonny Quest ideas. I could come up with 'em all day. The show is so well constructed that just about any adventure-type story would work for it. I just tell Davis, Larry, and Glenn (our two Producers and Story Editor, respectively) a few ideas and we all decide on a good one to do. If the story needs a little background , I go to Hillary Gillmartin (a real sweetheart) in the H-B research library and read up. "Rock of Rages", for example required research on Prague, The Czech Republic, The Russian Military and The legend of the Golem. I think research is a vital, responsible, and fun part of the job. Not all stories require research. "Thoughtscape" didn't, for example.

9. Do you get to watch the cartoons before they are aired, and if so, do you get to make any changes that you felt were done wrong in production?

I have imput before the show pre-production stuff is shipped to the overseas animation studio. (though, everyone does such a good job, I seldom feel compelled to say anything.) I go to the voice sessions and have a few small notes about how I think how a line should be read, but again, these people are pros and need little help from me to nail the intent of a line. Lately, I have been working with the "raw" animation footage from Japan. Editing, asking for animation changes, working with the music composer and sound effects people. Davis and Larry are teaching me Post Production every day now.

10. Do you use any viewer feedback in developing any new stories for your shows?

No. There's too great a time lag for this to be a possibility. By the time the first show is on the air, they have all been written.

11. What is you favorite Jonny Quest episode, either old or new? And why is that one your favorite?

The Classic. "The Robot Spy" wins hands down. It has everything. A lot of mood, a great, creepy creature, Hi-tech science, killer action sequences, Dr. Zin at his nefarious best. The only flaw is how Bandit acts so silly in it. It made a very strong impression on ten year old Lance.

12. Who's your favorite character in JQ and why?

Multiple answer here. When I was a kid, I liked Jonny and Hadji. Probably because I wanted to be them and the stories were told through their eyes. When slightly older, Race became the "Cool one". This was around the time, I started getting into James Bond (Connery, of course!) and James T. Kirk. Still my "trinity" of action heroes. I guess the current list would add Indiana Jones and animated Batman. Since writing the show, I've developed a real attachment to Dr. Quest. He has interesting traits. Brilliant, yet modest, Scholarly, yet Fatherly, Intellectual, yet with child-like wonder. An accessible, affable genius. Jessie’s really wonderful and the "missing piece" needed to complete the Quest family. I lover Bandit too, Jade, Zin, Pasha. Oh, don’t make me pick!

ALL these characters are very well conceived, have their own special charms, and fit together, nicely providing a great cross section of skills and personalities. They also work well in any combination. A testament to Doug Wildey (the creator of JQ) and, later, the architects of Jessie.

13. What age group are the shows that you write directed to? And if it is a younger audience, to you try to show any morals or lessons to learn in the show?

I try to please "Ten year old Lance" by asking, "What would have I liked when I was a kid". That's my audience.

As for morals? Hmm...Well I think that stuff works better in other shows. Preachy stuff gets in the way of a good adventure yarn, I think. Shows like "Captain Planet" are built for that kind of thing. We aren't. We only have nineteen minutes of screen time (Sometimes less) to tell a story, and "Pro-Social-Values" really get in the way. Still, obviously we try and exercise good judgment. Never showing a kid with a gun, for example. I also champion the idea of getting that bad guy. Evil must be shown as a dead-end path. The JQ show also emphasizes teamwork, family affection and self-sacrifice. The Quest team itself has a healthy respect for the places and cultures it interacts with. (and so do we. We do our homework when it comes to a real location) Basically, these are characters who are very moral. Hopefully, they lead by example. (This is how it worked for me as a tyke).

14. Do you feel that the classic Jonny Quest was too violent for TV and younger audiences, why or why not?

Preposterous. Kids know the difference between fictional and actual violence. All those censors don't give kids any credit at all. As an average kid, I knew it was just pretend. "A story for fun". Kids who've grown up on "Safe" shows like Smurfs and so on are immoral gang-bangers. My generation raised on the more, um, visceral stuff ended up as hippies! I'm sick of bad parenting pointing the finger at cartoons as a scapegoat for their own parental inadequacies. I know lots of GREAT kids who live for the heavier cartoon fare, The entire nation of Japan watches stuff much more intense than our shows. The last time I checked, we were the country with youth outta control.

15. Will you continue to write for Hanna-Barbera if Jonny Quest does not continue for a third season?

If they have a project for me, I will. At the moment, it doesn't look like they do. I have to begin job hunting soon. Of course, I'd rather write more Jonny's than any other job I can imagine.

16. Tell me your favorite story, whether it was one you read or one that was told to you? And why is it your favorite?

I'm not entirely sure of the parameters of this question, so I'll give you a multi-answer. Favorite stories in a few mediums. book-wise, it's Stephen King's "The Stand. or Dean Koontz's "The Watchers", the collected works of Harlan Ellison. Movies: Star Wars, Raiders, Aliens, T2, Goldfinger, Wrath of Khan, Dr. Strangelove, Clockwork Orange. TV: Classic JQ, Trek, Twilight Zone, M*A*S*H (first three years only), Hill Street Blues, Twin Peaks (first year)

My current favorite is Babylon 5. It's more like a huge novel then a TV show. From day one, show creator J. Michael Straczynsky has this whole thing planned out with a well defined beginning, middle, and end. Twenty six "Chapters" a year for five years. (and he's writing most of them!) It's a sweeping epic with roots in history, mythology, and just damn good storytelling. Action, intrigue, comedy, tragedy, romance, all play a part. It's not nearly as popular as it deserves. The crappy Star Trek Voyager gets better ratings! (but not for long, I’ll bet) Arrrrgh! I'm certain history will vindicate "The little show that could". Classic Trek didn't find any real popularity until it was in reruns. B 5 will have a similar fate, I'm sure. Huge "I told you so" popularity. All things considered, It's probably my favorite story and show of all time.

Best, Lancelot (thankful for the cut and paste function)

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