I have dealt with Road to Avonlea for years. I have learnt many interesting things about the series during this time. You can find out about Avonlea mainly from the Internet and mailinglists. I decided to share these information with you. Here it is !
The original locale of the series is Prince Edward Island. Creators made an effort to work at low cost, so only a few shots were taken on original locales... :-( The most part of the shooting was taken in Ontario (Canada) on the continent, near a town called Uxbridge, but some scenes were taken at Pickering Village Museum as well. Pickering is not far from Uxbridge. King farm and the Avonlea church are existing estates at Uxbridge. King farm is property of a family called Nesbitt and it is a private territory. Sullivan Entertainment rent this farm for the filming and gave it back to its owner after filming RTA. Unfortunately it is not public now... The original name of the church is Pine Grove Church and anybody can visit it in the real life, because it is a church at present as well. Most of the buildings are "shells" and "fronts" only. After shooting finished the set was demolished on 14th-15th February, 1996... :-( Although a few scenes were made on original locations, some beautiful shots were taken on the Island. These shots were scenes about the land, where no actors and actresses were needed or actors and actresses appeared in the far distance, so they were substituted with doubles. Doubles were cheaper than moving the whole crew to the Island. White Sands Hotel is a real hotel, its original name is Dalvay-by-the-Sea, and Gus Pike's lighthouse is also a real building. It is at Sea Cow Head.
Although Avonlea is a fictitious town, it was based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's real experiences. The author spent her childhood on Prince Edward Island at Cavendish. She has figured lands and characters of her novels about Cavendish and the people living there. Maud had lived at her relations in Green Gables house located in the town for years. That house is a museum now and lots of fans visit it every year. In the past the building was damaged by fire but it had been repaired.
Road to Avonlea and Anne of Green Gables (both of them are closely connected with each others) has lots of fans around the world. Road to Avonlea was shown in 140 countries with a huge success. Montgomery and Anne is great favourites of the Japanese. There are Japanese fansites on the Net also. Tourism is the main source of income of Prince Edward Island and it is based almost only on Montgomery and Anne. Tourists come from all over the world visit the Island for the sake of Anne and Avonlea. There are Anne festivals on Prince Edward Island in the summer for the tourists.
The Canadian company, Sullivan Entertainment, made films from several works of Lucy Maud Montgomery and (in my humble opinion) considerably contributed to popularization of her and her works. The relatives handling the legacy of Lucy Maud Montgomery and Sullivan Ent. do not agree in some questions... :-( Copyright problems delayed the premiere of Anne 3 in Canada and in other countries.. I don't know who is the blame in this quarrel but I think both parties have to say thank you to the other side. Personally I consider Kevin Sullivan a great man. Sometimes Anne and Avonlea movies are far away from the original storyline but still he made a pretty great home movie in our world full of blood, war and violence.
They did not plan to make such a long series (RTA consists of 91 episodes) but they had to make new episodes one after the other because of huge interest and success. ;-) Kevin Sullivan would have liked to finish RTA after the Home Movie of the fourth season but they continued shooting and made 3 other seasons. In my humble opinion the last 3 seasons were not as good as the first 4 ones. The last episode of Avonlea was aired on the Canadian TV on 30 March 1996.
Sullivan Entertainment had problems not only with heirs of Lucy Maud Montgomery but with the crew also. For example they offered Michael Mahonen, who played Gus Pike, a low salary for acting in Happy Christmas, Miss King, so he refused to play the role...
Sarah Polley, key figure of Road to Avonlea, lost her mother like to her character, Sara Stanley.
Diane Polley was member of the crew during shooting of the first season, then died of cancer during the second season.
Sarah handled this situation as an adult, continued working and it was not needed to cancel shooting because of her.
(Later, in episode Home Movie Sara was talking about her mother...
Those episode was written for Sarah to
mourn her own mother:
Please watch the episode )
She was the main character during the first 4 seasons (in the first 52 episodes), played in EVERY episode, except only one
(Incident at Vernon River). Then we could not see her for a long time
because of a serious spine warp (she underwent a surgery), and then she finally left the series...
She came back in the last episode for a short scene but she did not play in the Christmas movie
Home Movie in Season 4 of Avonlea, it's one of my favorite episodes.
But it was also specifically written for Sarah to mourn her own mom.
For a while Sarah was famous for her political scandals (for example she lost one or two of her teeth on a demonstration) but nowadays it seems she is not such a hard activist.
Cecily I. vs Cecily II.
Harmony Cramp was the lovely, blonde Cecily King during the first 5 seasons, then much to fans' astonishment from 6th season's episode call Christmas in June creators of the series gave the role to Molly Atkinson. Fans guessed for years why creators changed the kind, cute but very silent young girl to an elder actress... Then during Avonlea Convention 2004 event Harmony Cramp herself answered this question. The anwser was very simple: writers of the series would like to develop Cecily's character, they wanted to give her a bigger role in the upcoming episodes, and they thought they needed another actress. Molly Atkinson is a very talented actress, but lots of us miss Harmony...
Episode How Kissing Was Discovered has a remarkable scene close to
the end of the episode. Andrew and Felix are quizing Gus about his journeys around the world and what it's like to be on his own.
The scene originally had Gus go into more explanation of what it was like, but Mickey Mahonen thought it would be more effective
if the extra dialogue were removed. So he swallowed hard and said
lonely. This one word meant more than a whole dialogue.
By the way this scene is one of Mickey's favourites.
source:Sharing Michael Moments
In 2003 some American fans found out to organize a meeting, a convention for the fans of the series. After long months organization the event, called Avonlea Convention 2004 (AvCon 2004) was born. This convention was a 2 days long event held in Toronto where American, Canadian and Hungarian fans could meet each other, the director of the series, Kevin Sullivan and actors. R. H. Thomson (Jasper Dale), Harmony Cramp (Cecily#1) and Michael Mahonen (Gus Pike) attended the event.
After the success of AvCon 2004 another event was organized for 2005, called
AvCon 2005. This event was a 3 days long convention because there were side-trips
on the first day. Fans could visit places where RTA was shot: Pickering Village Museum, Pine Grove Church,
King Farm. This year
Mag Ruffman (Olivia Dale), James O'Regan (Abner Jeffries) and composer John Welsman were the guests from the staff.
Then we missed one year (actually there was a reunion in 2006 organized by the Royal Ontario Museum), then in 2007 fans could reunit under AvCon 2007. On the first day we visited filming locations and Sullivan Entertainment filming studios guided by Dan Matthews. Several guests attended the second day of AvCon. Fans could meet Kevin McCabe (writer of a LMM book), James O'Regan (Abner Jeffries), Ian D. Clarke (Simon Tremayne), Mickey Mahonen (Gus Pike) and composer John Welsmannel. On the third day we had our regular Avonlea-auction in Royal Ontario Museum, then Mag Ruffman (Olivia Dale) and director Kevin Sullivan talked about the series.
AvCon was organized the last time in 2009, then the organizers thought to step down for some reasons.
There is an official website of the international Avonlea Conventsions, this is AvonleaConvention.org. You can find there the pages of the previous AvCons and a message why the organizers stepped down.