When I watched Inception, after watching half the movie, I was pretty much convinced that this is a concept stolen from a Cartoon Network series named The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, which has a reality called the QuestWorld that seems to run on similar rules as the dream world in Inception:

  1. If you die in QuestWorld you are brain-dead in reality.

  2. QuestWorld would shape itself according to a person’s thoughts and dreams.

  3. People can enter other people’s dreams in QuestWorld.

Inception took it little higher by creating levels in dreams, an unlike QuestWorld it was not virtual. But still the basic concept remains the same.

  • 3
    Since Googling for Quest World doesn't bring up much, you're more likely to get intelligent answers if you explain what it was and why you feel the dream world conceit of Inception is similar enough to justify saying it was "stolen" from Jonny Quest. Dream worlds are a very common motif in science fiction and fantasy: Doctor Who has been mucking about with dream worlds repeatedly since the 60s--why not claim Jonny Quest stole the idea from there?
    – BESW
    Oct 30, 2013 at 6:43
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    Quest World is more of a virtual reality. with 90's graphics.
    – A.D
    Oct 30, 2013 at 8:57
  • @BESW a little bit more info on Questworld can be found in the old question: What is the Questworld?
    – phantom42
    Oct 30, 2013 at 11:04
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    More likely that Inception came from Scrooge McDuck - trouble distinguishing waking/dreaming worlds, the kick, imagination changing the dream world, getting stuck, a lost love... pretty close to the entire plot.
    – Izkata
    Oct 30, 2013 at 12:39
  • In addition to the Scrooge McDuck parallels, all three of your similarities can also be found in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
    – phantom42
    Oct 31, 2013 at 12:30

4 Answers 4


There is no reason to think Inception copied Jonny Quest...

... because they're both drawing on much older concepts which are common enough that everyone from Doctor Who to Scrooge McDuck has done it. The "basic points" shared by each are also shared by countless other intellectual properties dating well before Jonny Quest's 1996 debut. Let's look at your points. I'll stick to relatively recent examples as they're easier to find, but rest assured that most of these concepts go back to at least the 60s in their current form, and have their roots in mythology.

  • Dying in the dream is bad. TV Tropes has a whole article dedicated to this idea. Notable examples include 1984's "Neuromancer" novel, the 1989 "Shadowrun" RPG, and the 1984 Nightmare on Elm Street film. Notably, dying within a dream in Inception does not harm you: instead it pulls you out of the dream. The danger is killing yourself in the real world because you think you're still dreaming.

  • Dream weaving. The idea of being able to control the environment of dreams is very common, very old, and very real. In fiction, we can find it again in Nightmare on Elm Street as well as cultural touchstones like Buffy and Stargate SG-1. Inception is unusual in that once made, a world is usually difficult to modify on the fly; most versions of this trope have the dream world as utterly transmutable.

  • Sharing dreams. The very first known version of "Beauty and the Beast" has this. Star Trek has done it several times, and even The Powerpuff Girls have explored it. "Questworld" seems to be more like a shared virtual experience than a shared dream, which is the territory of Tron. Again, Nightmare on Elm Street is predicated on the idea that a person can enter someone else's dream.

I'd like to point out this article which, while less than scholarly, points out that a much closer parallel to Inception can be found in Scrooge McDuck than in Jonny Quest. I'll also mention that the Riddler invented a Questworld-like machine in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series. See also Total Recall, and a handful of episodes in X-Files and The Twilight Zone.

Does Questworld share similar traits with the conceit of Inception?

Yes, it does, because they're both drawing from the same well: unreal experiences shared by multiple characters, the effects of which can adversely impact the users' real-world bodies. It's a popular trope with roots in antiquity, which became increasingly common in the 80s and 90s.

Nolan was very upfront about his sources of inspiration (see below) and Jonny Quest doesn't seem to have been among them. There's no real reason for him to have avoided mentioning it while talking about his other sources.

In particular, I see no reason to single out Jonny Quest's version as THE sole inspiration for Nolan's film. They certainly don't seem to have enough specific similarities to make the accusation of Christopher Nolan "stealing" Questworld --especially in light of the fact that one of your points (dying in the "dream" is bad) is actually a major difference between the two works.

What WERE Nolan's influences for Inception?

In my above lists I deliberately avoided mentioning anything that I know Nolan has cited as inspiration for Inception.

He cites films like The Matrix, Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, and Memento (all released from 1998 to 2000) as direct inspirations. Paprika is a 2006 anime about entering the dreams of others, and he claims to have drawn heavily from that. Blade Runner, while not about dreams, is an influence because it shares the theme of being unsure what is real.

  • 1
    If my answer doesn't address your particular reasons for thinking Inception ripped off Jonny Quest, please edit your question to indicate the specific elements you find common to both.
    – BESW
    Oct 30, 2013 at 11:57
  • I updated my question..
    – DarkHorse
    Oct 31, 2013 at 7:18
  • @BESW.. You nailed it man! Thanks for the whole descriptive answer. I got all things right now.. :)
    – DarkHorse
    Nov 1, 2013 at 6:49
  • drawn heavily from that - some scenes in Inception are live-action version of scenes in Paprika, copied verbatim. Also, could you add a source for that claim about Paprika? I was just about to ask a question about Nolan ripping-off Paprika, before I found your answer. Feb 25, 2017 at 10:58
  • "He cites films like... Memento" — he directed Memento! What an arrogant fecker! Jun 13, 2020 at 14:10

Actually (as far as I know) they bought the rights of Paprika, a Satoshi Kon anime movie, in order to make a free representation of it (as happened with Perfect Blue, of the same author, and Black Swan).

  • 1
    Can you add a proof of that? Feb 25, 2017 at 10:57

There are many sources in both literature and cinema of similar plots. I don't think it is accurate to say that the concept was "stolen". Dream visitors (or invaders), nested dreams, controlled dream sequences appear many times in literature and cinema. The combination of three widespread story tropes, let's call them "recursive reality" trope, "dream within a dream" trope, and finally "dream walker" trope, gives the "Inception" story its unique flavor. For more details and examples see https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DreamWithinADream https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DreamWalker https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RecursiveReality

Besides the examples mentioned in the linked pages, as well as previous answers and comments, I'd like to mention a work of a great master of the cinema, Louis Bunuel. In his 1972 classic "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie", the five dinner guests turn out to be living a nested sequence of dreams, where the dream of the first is part of the dream of the next (they don't appear to be consciously choosing to enter another person's dreams though). It is another combination of the "Dream within a dream" and the "Recursive reality" tropes, without the dream walker elements.

  • 1
    This is an answer but more of a frame challenge than a direct one. It might be better if you edited this to say there doesn't appear to be any inspiration taken from Jonny Quest but it seems it was taken from...
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 13, 2020 at 9:44

The concept of Inception is taken from very a old Hindu spiritual script called Yoga Vasistha written by Valmiki.

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    Do you have a reference that this work actually influenced script wroters? Jan 11, 2014 at 15:20

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