Adventures in OdysseyEdit
Adventures in Odyssey (AIO), or simply Odyssey, is an Evangelical Christian-themed radio drama/comedy series created by Focus on the Family in 1987. 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. 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.
In 1983, Focus on the Family 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 through 2008. Because of health issues, a mutual decision was made by Herlinger and the crew to replace Herlinger with another voice actor.
Consequently, Adventures in Odyssey took a long "hiatus," with no new episodes planned while the staff searched for a new actor to voice Mr. Whittaker. In September 2009, Andre Stojka was selected as the third actor to voice Mr. Whittaker and only months later, on 2 February 2010, Paul Herlinger would die from his illness. In March 2010, new episodes started as Album 51, Take it from the Top, premiered. The show is being adapted into Spanish audio andHindi live-action videos, with plans to create Mandarin Chinese audio as well.
By the end of its second year in 1988, the show was on 634 radio stations 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 and 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.
Main article: List of Adventures in Odyssey charactersA wall in the real-life Whit's End at theFocus on the Family visitor's center showing the Adventures in Odyssey voice actors, challenging viewers to match them with the characters.*John Avery Whittaker, voiced by Hal Smith (1987–1994), Paul Herlinger (1996–2008), and Andre Stojka (2009-)
Main article: List of Adventures in Odyssey episodesAdventures in Odyssey has released now over 700 episodes to date, and has released 54 main albums and many other special collections.
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! andEugene Sings! Christmas, and three edutainment computer games, in addition to the three book series created as spin-offs to Adventures in Odyssey, Passages, Kidsboro, andThe Imagination Station.
The first Adventures in Odyssey video was released in 1991. This series was created following the success of Focus on the Family's involvement in Tyndale House Publishing's 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. The episodes were screened in Britain on Channel 4 in the mid-1990s.
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 Family. Both feature songs written and sung by Will Ryan, voicing Eugene Meltsner from the series.