Road to Avonlea
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|Road to Avonlea|
season 2 intertitle
|Created by||Kevin Sullivan|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||91, plus a TV movie. (List of episodes)|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original channel||CBC Television
The Disney Channel
|Original run||January 7, 1990– March 31, 1996|
Road to Avonlea is a Canadian television series first broadcast in Canada between January 7, 1990 and March 31, 1996, and in the United States starting on March 5, 1990. It was created by Kevin Sullivan and produced by Sullivan Films (later Sullivan Entertainment) in association with CBC and The Disney Channel, with additional funding from Telefilm Canada. The Disney Channel began airing the series in the United States on March 5, 1990, and continued airing it into January 1997.
The series was loosely adapted from a number of books by L.M. Montgomery, primarily (at least initially) the books The Story Girl and The Golden Road, both of which feature the character of Sara Stanley, as well as the characters of Felicity, Cicely and Felix. However, these books, while set in Prince Edward Island, were not set in the village of Avonlea, and a number of the series' episodes and situations were adapted from stories recounted in Montgomery's Chronicles of Avonlea and Further Chronicles of Avonlea.
Other characters are sourced from other Montgomery works. The frequently seen characters of Rachel Lynde and Marilla Cuthbert were only briefly mentioned in passing in Chronicles of Avonlea -- instead, they initially appeared as full-fledged characters in Montgomery's debut novel Anne of Green Gables. (These characters had also previously been featured in Sullivan's 1985 television adaptation of the novel. They were here played by the same actors, Patricia Hamilton and Colleen Dewhurst, who played the characters in the telefilm.) Finally, the characters of Davy and Dora were originally from Anne Of Avonlea, a sequel to Anne Of Green Gables.
Later episodes in particular included many leading characters that had no direct basis in Montgomery's written work. As well, Montgomery's most famous character, Anne Shirley (i.e., Anne of Green Gables herself) never appeared on Road To Avonlea, although she was referred to on a very few occasions.
Some episodes of the show were turned into the independent books by different authors. There have been around 30 titles released.
In the United States, its title was shortened to simply Avonlea, and a number of episodes were re-titled and re-ordered. When the series was released on VHS and DVD in the United States, the title changed from Road to Avonlea to Tales from Avonlea.
The series is set in the fictional small town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island, in the early 20th century (1903–1912). There, 10-year-old Montreal heiress Sara Stanley (Sarah Polley) is sent by her wealthy father to live with her two maiden aunts, Hetty and Olivia King, to be near her late mother's side of the family after a series of promiscuous scandals involving eligible bachelors. The show's focus shifted over the years from Sara's interactions with locals, to stories about the King family. Later seasons of the show focused more on residents of Avonlea who were connected to the King family. Sarah Polley left the show in 1994, returning for one guest star appearance in the 6th season and one in the 7th season.
Following the series proper, a reunion movie called Happy Christmas, Miss King (aka An Avonlea Christmas) was produced in 1998.
- Sara Stanley (Sarah Polley): An adventurous 10-year-old girl used to fine living in Montreal, including a nanny, must learn to adjust to Avonlea's simpler life. Her mother, Ruth King--sister to Hetty, Alec, Roger, and Olivia--died of tuberculosis when Sara was a toddler. When Sara's father runs into trouble, he arranges to have Sara and her nanny, Louisa, stay in Avonlea for a while. Sara stays without her nanny and lives with her single aunts, Hetty and Olivia, at Rose Cottage. In seasons 3-5, Sara mostly concerns herself with matchmaking in Avonlea, which causes much controversy within the conservative hamlet. After season 5, Sarah Polley left the show. In the middle of season 6, Sara makes her long-awaited re-appearance, and both Louisa and Aunt Hetty start planning her future without consulting her. But Sara, yearning to become a writer, has applied to a prestigious writing school in Paris. In the end, Louisa and Hetty accept Sara's plan. Sara later returns for Felicity's wedding in the series finale, but doesn't appear in the reunion film, An Avonlea Christmas.
- Henrietta "Hetty" King (Jackie Burroughs): Staid, humourless, middle-aged Avonlea schoolteacher and eldest, hence- head of the King family. She lives at Rose Cottage with her sister, Olivia, and their niece, Sara (daughter of their late sister Ruth). In later seasons, Hetty quits teaching to write, then later returns to teaching. While Sara is in Europe with her nanny, Hetty takes in Mrs. Lynde and the twins, Davy and Dora Keith. In the reunion movie, Hetty plans a holiday concert with her students, but she is badly injured before the big night and Felicity takes over the concert. While Hetty's in the hospital, she learns she has a cancerous tumor and must have a risky operation. The tumor is successfully removed and Hetty is able to attend the concert in good health.
- Olivia King Dale (Mag Ruffman): Hetty's youngest sibling. Olivia is more affectionate to Sara, and more sensitive and social. Most of her experiences throughout the series involve her social dealings with other Avonlea citizens. She eventually marries Jasper Dale and leaves Rose Cottage, but before this she works as a reporter for the local paper, which is how she becomes acquainted with Jasper, who does the photography for her stories. When they marry, Jasper and Olivia have a son, Montgomery, and later adopt a baby girl, Alicia, from one of their employees at the cannery. Olivia is the doppelganger of Alice Lawson (also played by Mag Ruffman), the daughter of Mr. Lawson of Lawson's General Store. In the reunion movie, Jasper misses the ship to Avonlea and Olivia begins to question their marriage and considers leaving him and staying in Avonlea. When Jasper sends her a music-box for Christmas, she realizes she still does love him and decides to go home to London.
- Alec King (Cedric Smith): Sara's uncle, firstborn-son and brother of Hetty, Olivia, Roger, and Sara's mother, Ruth. He is a farmer and lives with his family at King Farm, next door to Rose Cottage.
- Janet King (Lally Cadeau): Alec's loving but independent-minded wife. She is mother to Felicity, Felix, Cecily, and Daniel King. She has a sister, Abigail McEwen.
- Felicity King Pike (Gema Zamprogna): Alec and Janet's eldest child and elder daughter. She often insists on taking on adult responsibilities and feels superior to her younger siblings and her cousin Sara. Throughout the series, she wants to be a wife, a teacher, and a doctor; eventually she runs the Avonlea Foundling Home. She grows close to Gus Pike, starting in Season 2. Gus is her first kiss, and later she accepts his marriage proposal--only to learn that he was lost at sea. Later he's found alive and blind; Felicity brings him back to Avonlea and marries him in the series finale. In the reunion movie, Gus has regained his sight and gone to fight in the war, and Felicity realizes she's expecting their first child. 
- Felix King (Zachary Bennett): Alec and Janet's mischievous, troublesome older son. He befriends Izzy (Isolde), daughter of Mr. Pettibone, the widower schoolteacher who takes over after Hetty retires. In later seasons, Felix and Izzy's friendship turns into romance.
- Cecily King (played by Harmony Cramp, and later by Molly Atkinson): Alec and Janet's quiet younger daughter. The actress switch occurs when Cecily becomes ill with tuberculosis and goes to a sanitarium in the United States. She's more interested in farmwork than her brother Felix, and Alec considers leaving the farm to her.
- Daniel King (played by Alex and Ryan Floyd): Alec and Janet's youngest son; he is born at the end of Season 2. He often annoys his siblings and cousins.
- Rachel Lynde (Patricia Hamilton): Avonlea's local busybody and self-appointed moral guardian; her character originally appeared in Anne of Green Gables. In the beginning of the series, Rachel lives with her best friend, Marilla Cuthbert, at Green Gables. After Marilla's death, Rachel suffers a stroke and moves in with her friend (and sometimes enemy), Hetty King, and they raise Davy and Dora Keith.
- Gus Pike (Michael Mahonen): A young vagabond who gradually earns the townsfolk's respect throughout seasons 2-5. A sailor, he is known for using Maritimer English. He leaves Avonlea for a time to find his mother, whom he'd thought was long dead. After word of a hurricane, he himself is presumed dead, but Felicity and Hetty find him along the eastern shore of the United States. He has gone blind and they bring him back to Canada for sight-restoration surgery, after which he marries Felicity.
- Eliza Ward (Kay Tremblay): Janet and Abigail's great-aunt has often visited King Farm and been eccentric and overbearing. Later in the series, she moves in with the Kings and becomes a more-permanent King Farm fixture and her wit and wisdom become indispensable to the King family.
- Jasper Dale (R.H. Thomson): A shy, stammering photographer and inventor who eventually marries Olivia. They buy the local cannery in later seasons; in the final season it burns down.
- Marilla Cuthbert (Colleen Dewhurst): Rachel's more-tolerant best friend and fellow character brought back from Anne of Green Gables. After raising Anne Shirley, she adopts the orphaned children of her distant relative Mary Keith, although Rachel is initially opposed to this. After Marilla's sudden death, Rachel continues to care for Davy and Dora Keith at Green Gables, but after she has a stroke, she, Davy, and Dora move to Rose Cottage with Hetty and Sara. (Seasons 1-3: character passes away after the actress's death in 1991.)
- Davy Keith (Kyle Labine): Marilla's orphaned relative who comes to live at Green Gables with his twin sister. Dora. Davy is wild and rambunctious, often getting into trouble. Later he, Dora, and Rachel move in with Hetty after Marilla's death and Rachel's stroke, and he and Hetty don't get along. He does not appear in "An Avonlea Christmas". In Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, Anne Blythe runs into Rachel Lynde, who tearfully informs her that Davy has enlisted.
- Dora Keith (Ashley Muscroft, Lindsay Murrell): Davy's twin sister who came to Green Gables with Davy after their mother died. Dora is sweet-natured and well-behaved.
- Muriel Stacy Pettibone (Marilyn Lightstone): Schoolteacher, recently promoted to superintendent; Hetty's rival. The two women truly are polar opposites. Her character originally appeared in Anne of Green Gables. Later in the series, Muriel moves back to Avonlea permanently, takes over the General Store from the Lawson's, and marries Clive Pettibone. She doesn't appear in "An Avonlea Christmas", but she narrates its beginning.
- Clive Pettibone (David Fox): Widower Clive moves to Avonlea with his 3 children to take over for Hetty as teacher at the public school. A former colonel, he's extremely strict with discipline-oriented activities. Soon after he arrives, he and Hetty are both revealed to be successful novelists writing under pseudonyms. Later, he is promoted to superintendent and marries Muriel Stacy.
- Isolde "Izzy" Pettibone (Heather Brown): Clive's youngest child, a tomboy. She quickly befriends Felix King and eventually becomes his romantic interest. As a child, she wants to be like her father and aspires to be a general in the British army. She has 2 older brothers, Morgan and Arthur.
- Arthur Pettibone (Zachary Ansley): Clive's eldest; much older than his siblings. Initially, he resents his father for his mother's death, but their relationship improves gradually after the family moves to Avonlea. For some time, he is Gus's rival for Felicity's affection. Somber, intellectual, and eccentric, Arthur studies to become a veterinarian.
- Clara Potts (Maja Ardal): One of the main town gossips, quite often seen with Eulalie Bugle. She's very fond of Felicity, who is her daughter Sally's rival. She originated in Anne of Green Gables; Marilla disliked her.
- Eulalie Bugle (Barbara Hamilton): Another town gossip, most often seen with Clara Potts or Rachel Lynde. She is introduced in season 3's first episode.
- Andrew King (Joel Blake): - Another King cousin sent to live on King Farm at the same time as Sara, in the first 2 seasons. His father is Hetty, Olivia, Alec, and Ruth's brother Roger; he and Ruth were born exactly 1 year apart.
- Peter Craig (Miklos Perlus): A hired hand about Sara's age who works at King Farm in season 1. He is the son of Maud Craig.
- Mr. Harrison: The next door neighbor of Green Gables who buys Green Gables after Marilla's death. He is first seen as an enemy of Mrs. Lynde, but later a love interest. He is mentioned in Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story when a horrified Anne, who realizes the new residents have basically destroyed Green Gables, exclaims "Mr. Harrison is going to get a tongue lashing the next time I see him!"
Through all seven seasons of Road to Avonlea, many big name actors made an appearance on the show, some multiple times. Among them:
- Frances Bay
- Bruce Greenwood
- Christopher Lloyd
- Christopher Reeve
- Diana Rigg
- Dianne Wiest
- Eugene Levy
- Faye Dunaway
- Jaimz Woolvett
- John Neville
- Jonathan Crombie
- Kate Nelligan
- Madeline Kahn
- Maureen Stapleton
- Meg Tilly
- W.O. Mitchell
- Michael York
- Ned Beatty
- Peter Coyote
- Robby Benson
- Ryan Gosling
- Sheila McCarthy
- Shirley Douglas
- Stockard Channing
- Treat Williams
- Zoe Caldwell
- Wayne Robson
The Road to Avonlea set was created in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada (the town where Lucy Maud Montgomery lived and wrote for a decade after moving from Prince Edward Island). The town of Avonlea was adapted from existing buildings and roads were painted red to emulate the red sand of the Island. Filming also regularly took place at Westfield Heritage Centre in Flamborough, Ontario. Photography and enhanced digital matter work married second unit scenes of Prince Edward Island with the Leaskdale location where necessary.
Sullivan Entertainment released all 7 seasons on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time between 2005-2006. In 2009, they began re-releasing the series in wide screen format. As of December, 2012, all seven seasons and the Christmas special have been released in widescreen format.
Awards and nominations
During Road to Avonlea 's seven-year run, it won and was nominated for numerous awards worldwide.
- 4 Emmy Awards: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Dramatic Series (Christopher Lloyd) - "Another Point of View", 1992; Outstanding Children's Program - "Incident At Vernon River", 1993; Outstanding Costume Design for a Series - "Strictly Melodrama", 1995; Outstanding Guest Actress in a Dramatic Series (Dianne Wiest) - "Woman of Importance", 1997.
- 16 Emmy Nominations
- 4 CableAce Awards: Best Dramatic Series, 1991; Best Dramatic Series, 1993; Best Dramatic Series, 1994; Best Writing in a Dramatic Series (Heather Conkie)
- 17 CableAce Nominations
- 18 Gemini Awards: Best Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score (John Welsman), Best Performance by a Lead Actress (Jackie Burroughs), 1990; Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Lead Actress (Jackie Burroughs), 1991; Best Leading Actor (Cedric Smith), Best Guest Performance in a Series (Kate Nelligan), Best Direction in a Series (Allan King), 1992; Best Actress (Jackie Burroughs), 1993; Best Guest Performance in a Series (Bruce Greenwood), Best Original Score, Best Actress (Lally Cadeau), 1994; Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Hamilton), Best Original Score, 1995; Best Supporting Actress (Kay Tremblay), Best Guest Actress (Frances Bay), Best Original Score, 1996.
- 6 Gemini Nominations
- 3 John Labatt Classic Awards For Most Popular Program in Canada (chosen by the public), 1990, 1991 and 1992
- The Disney Channel Magazine, Vol. 8, no. 2, March/April 1990: pp. 22, 27, 31, 36.
- The Disney Channel Magazine, Vol. 14, no. 6, December 1996/January 1997: pp. 28-29, 48.
- "Road to Avonlea Official Website". Roadtoavonlea.com. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- "Road To Avonlea - DVDs, Movies, Series, Box Sets". ShopAtSullivan.com. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- Official website
- Road to Avonlea - Official website
- Road to Avonlea at the Internet Movie Database
- Museum of Broadcast Communications information on Road to Avonlea
- Road to Avonlea section of The L.M. Montgomery Research Group