There's been talk of a live-action adventure starring Hanna Barbera's great boy explorer for a good long while—back in 2009 Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson signed on as Jonny and Race Bannon—but nothing's ever happened. Wrath of the Titans' screenwriter Dan Mazeau, who is also on the Quest quest, explains why.
As always, big-budget movies like this have a ton of moving parts, and they all have to align in just the right way. And according to Mazeau, that's been Jonny Quest's biggest hurdle:
"It's difficult for a movie to come together. ... You have to get the right pieces. One of the challenges with Jonny Quest is that you have a lead who's a young kid. The movie stars that are young kids are few and far between. ...
"It's a cool one, though...I think it's something that could make for a real amazing movie if done right. Jonny Quest combines all this amazing wish fulfillment as a kid, but also there's real danger to it. There's real weight to it. People die in the Jonny Quest cartoons. I think Spy Kids was fun, but it's lighter than what Jonny Quest would be. Making sure it has a little edge to it was important to me."
Perhaps their biggest mistake is in thinking that whoever they get to play Jonny Quest needs to be a movie star. You find the right kid and then surround him with movie stars: It's what they're doing for Ender's Game, that other great previously unfilmable kid-centric work. Or you just bite the bullet and realize that you're going to have to make your own stars, which is what Steven Spielberg did with E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (and J.J. Abrams, in full Spielberg mode, did with Super 8).
There's always a way, you just have to want to make the movie bad enough to find it.