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Adventures in Odyssey (AIO), or simply Odyssey, is an Evangelical Christian-themed radio drama/comedy series created by Focus on the Familymarker in 1987. The series centers on the fictional town of Odyssey, and in particular, an ice-cream emporium named 'Whit's End,' and its proprietor, John Avery Whittaker. This lead role was originally played by Hal Smith through 1994, and then by Paul Herlinger until 2008. Because of small health issues, a mutual decision was made by Herlinger and the crew to replace Herlinger with another voice actor. In September 2009, Andre Stojka took over the role. The show's daily audience averages around 1.2 million within North America. The Odyssey series also includes several spin-off items, including a home-video series, books, and several computer games. John Campbell composed music for over 300 episodes of Adventures in Odyssey.

History

In 1983, Focus on the Familymarker began creating several short dramas for inclusion in the ministry's daily half-hour radio show; these radio dramas were commissioned by Focus on the Family founder and then-president Dr. James Dobson as an alternative to Saturday-morning cartoons. This effort culminated with a 13-week test series titled Family Portraits which aired in early 1987. It was created by Steve Harris and Phil Lollar, who set it in a small Midwest town they called Odyssey. The test episodes engendered a favorable audience response, and led to a continuing radio program in November 1987, called Odyssey USA. The title was later changed to Adventures in Odyssey in order to "increase international appeal."

The goal of the Odyssey staff was to create a "values based" radio show with production values comparable with or surpassing those of most mainstream audio dramas. While the show aimed to promote Christian values, according to Odyssey's co-creator Phil Lollar, the goal was not to be "a preaching program" but to be an "entertaining program." Large amounts of work were put into each individual story; for the first few years, each thirty-minute episode typically took over one hundred hours to produce.

Several well-known voice actors were brought in to provide the lead roles. Hal Smith voiced the lead character John Avery Whittaker in one of his favorite roles. The rest of the original "key" characters were voiced by Katie Leigh, Will Ryan, and Walker Edmiston, who, along with Hal Smith, had all previously worked together extensively at Disney. When Hal Smith died in 1994, Adventures in Odyssey was left without its main character and Focus on the Family considered canceling the radio show. After a search that lasted over two years, a replacement voice was finally found in Paul Herlinger that sounded close enough to Hal Smith; Paul Herlinger voiced the main character from 1996 until 2008.

Since Spring 2008, Adventures in Odyssey has been on "hiatus," with no new episodes scheduled to air until September 2009. The show is being adapted into Spanish audio and Hindi live-action videos, with plans to create Mandarin Chinese audio as well.

Popularity

By the end of its second year in 1988, the show was on 634 radio stations (and only in North America). As of 1995, it was the second most popular Christian radio show in the United States. By 2002, the show was on over six thousand stations worldwide.

The radio episodes have also been widely released on both cassette and CD collections; by 1992, almost a million cassettes had been sold. Odyssey episodes have also been released annually (since 1990) as promotional items through Chick-fil-A.

Criticism

Adventures in Odyssey has been occasionally criticized for being old-fashioned and out of sync with modern life and the lack of racial diversity in Odyssey has also raised complaints. In addition, the show has been subject to some negative feedback for bringing up topics such as abortion and the Vietnam War in a children's program - although an advisory warning is typically provided at the start of such episodes.

Characters



Episodes

Adventures in Odyssey has released over 600 episodes to date, and has released 50 albums.

Spinoff products

Aside from the radio drama, Adventures in Odyssey has begun many spin-offs and special series, including an Official Odyssey Podcast, 17 animated videos, Eugene Sings! and Eugene Sings! Christmas, and two edutainment computer games, in addition to the two book series created as spin-offs to Adventures in Odyssey, Passages and Kidsboro.

Video series

The first Adventures in Odyssey video was released in 1991. This series was created following the success of Focus on the Family's previous video project, McGee and Me. Originally, the Odyssey video series was created by a separate staff from that of the radio series and each episode had a budget of about $400,000; by 1998 over 2 million Odyssey videos had been sold. There are currently 17 episodes in the video series and several attempts have been made to place this series on television.

Computer games

Christian video game developer Digital Praise has released 3 computer games based on the series, Adventures in Odyssey: The Treasure of the Incas, Adventures in Odyssey: The Sword of the Spirit, and Adventures in Odyssey: The Great Escape. Will Ryan, Katie Leigh and Paul Herlinger voiced the main characters of the games.

Eugene Sings!

Eugene Sings! and Eugene Sings! Christmas are Adventures in Odyssey musical albums from Tyndale House and Focus on the Familymarker. Both feature songs written and sung by Will Ryan, voicing Eugene Meltsner from the series.

See also



References

  1. Consisting of 13 'Animated DVD's and 4 'New Series' animated DVDs — Whit's End CDs DVDs


Further reading

  • Adventures in Odyssey: The Official Guide : ISBN 1589974751
  • The Complete Guide to Adventures in Odyssey : ISBN 156179466X


External links




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