Hi I’m Kendra. You are about to travel to a place of wonder, excitement and discovery! Welcome to Adventures in Odyssey! In honor of the last month of summer for elementary, middle and high school as well as college students I decided to talk about one of my favorite audio series. The fact that Focus on the Family has produced this audio series for nearly 30 years demonstrates how many people enjoy and identify with the stories and characters from the fictional small town of Odyssey. Adventures in Odyssey has something for everyone from children to adults.
I remember being aware of the series for most of my life but it was not until in late elementary school that I began to listen it on a regular basis thanks to a local radio station. At 6:30 PM on weekdays (Mon. – Fri.) the station would air previously released episodes of Adventures in Odyssey while on Saturday at 8:30 AM they would aired the newer episodes. This radio station still maintains this schedule to this day and every now and again I tune it to hear the odd episode or two.
After being properly introduced to the series my family bought a number of AiO audio albums, which contain a set of episodes. One of the albums entitled “Countermoves” was recorded on tape cassettes, which I would listen to when I was younger to help me fall sleep at night. When I was older I would even listen to them in car as I drove to locations as part of my merchandising job since I had an older car with just a tape player (Oh the HORROR!). I still have this album, unfortunately I am short one tape because it got stuck in the tape player of my first car and after it was sold and exchanged for my second one I never saw it again. In light of this I am hoping to purchase a CD version of “Countermoves” sometime in the future in order to replace my incomplete cassette tape version.
Anyway enough talk about tapes and CDs, and let’s get to the amazing people behind the scenes of Adventures in Odyssey. This includes the amazing voice actors who have taken on the role of Whit’s End’s owner and operator John Avery Whittaker (or Whit to his friends) throughout AiO’s time on the air. The first voice of Whit to grace the airwaves was none other than Hal Smith, best known for his role of the town drunk Otis Campbell in The Andy Griffith Show. Upon his death in 1994, the search began to find an actor to voice the ice-cream shop owner. Two years later in 1996, Paul Herlinger became the second voice of Whit, and this was the Whit that I grew up with. Many people may unfairly compare him to Hal and while I do note some differences in performance, I believe Paul did an amazing job considering the big shoes he had to fill. Upon Paul’s retirement in 2008 (passing away only 2 years later), yet another actor by the name of Andre Stojka came in to take on the role of Whit starting in 2009 and is currently playing him in the series.
Of course AiO is not complete without its two other iconic characters who are employed at Whit’s End. Enter Connie Kendall voiced by Katie Leigh and Eugene Meltsner voiced by Will Ryan. Just like it’s hard to imagine Odyssey without Whit, it is equally hard to imagine not having Connie and Eugene working alongside him. Connie’s youthful enthusiasm and Eugene’s unsatiated thirst for knowledge give them an interesting dynamic to their relationship to Whit as well their relationship with each other…by that I mean friendship. Their voice actors Katie and Will are also good friends in real life and have recently wrote a book together called Adventures in Oddity in which they talk about their work both on AiO as well other projects which include Disney’s Little Mermaid, An American Tail, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and much more.
Besides the Whit’s End Trio as I like to call them there are a number of memorable characters that have been played by talented voice actors over the years. This includes actors have since passed on: Walker Edmiston, the voice actor for Whit’s friend Tom Riley and business rival Bart Rathbone, Dave Madden the voice actor for pragmatic window washer Bernard Walton, Alan Young who voiced Jack Allen a childhood friend of Whit and Janet Waldo who voiced Jack’s wife Joanne Allen (nee Woodston). Other talented voices who are still alive include Chris Anthony, Earl Boen, Steve Burns, Townsend Coleman, Corey Burton, Aria Cruzon, Jess Harnell, etc. Of course none of this would be possible without the talented directors, producers, writers and sound designers which include Phil Lollar, Chuck Bolte, Paul McCusker, and Dave Arnold just to name a few.
If you can’t already tell there is a lot to be said about this series and I have not even got into the stories yet. That will be saved for Part 2 coming up later this month. Hope you see then as we look at the episodes of Adventures in Odyssey.