A History of Jonathan Park: Exclusive Interview with Co-Creator Pat Roy

Even if you’ve only heard the show once, you doubtless know the line, “This is our Father’s world! God created it. We can explore it. So liv...

Even if you’ve only heard the show once, you doubtless know the line, “This is our Father’s world! God created it. We can explore it. So live the adventure!” Although, many are familiar with Jonathan Park (the creation-based audio adventure series, most popular among homeschool families) few know the story behind the program. Fewer still, are aware of the couple who first created Jonathan Park, over 15 years ago.

In this exclusive interview, Pat Roy shares rare insight on how, together with his wife, Sandy, the couple found the inspiration to produce Jonathan Park, and the adventures the Lord blessed them with along the way.

“In the Beginning…”

Who and/or what inspired the characters/storyline behind Jonathan Park?

Pat Roy:
When Sandy and I were first first brainstorming story ideas for children, we knew that we had to have a boy, a girl, a cave, a dog, and dinosaur fossils.

Dave Phillips is a Professor of paleontology. We asked him if he had to chose one dinosaur graveyard in the nation, which one would he pick for a story? He suggested a site that wasn’t really talked about too much in creation circles at that time -- Ghost Ranch. When I started investigating the area, I saw there was a little town called Abiquiu nearby.

Pat Roy and crew in the control room at ICR

When Sandy and I investigated that area, we saw all the ranches located there. It was then that we knew the story needed to center around a ranch in the Abiquiu area. By the way, as we drove around the Ghost Ranch area, we took my red 4 x 4… and that also played into the story. We also saw how the ranches were just below Abiquiu Reservoir, and got the idea for the water spilling over the dam and threatening the ranches below.

The Eagle’s Nest/Junior Response Team were fashioned after the neighborhood gang I grew up with. There was definitely an Eddie, Thad, Timmy, and Mike. Their real names were David, Michael (brothers), Alec, and myself. A lot of the way the Eagle’s Nest interacts in the story came from my wonderful childhood friends!

What inspired you to create a radio drama?

Pat Roy:
At the time Sandy and I worked for the Institute for Creation Research. During that season, there weren’t many products to teach children about creation, and we noticed that they were the ones that needed the information the most. We desired to reach families. Since Sandy and I both had a background in radio, and we love telling stories, we prayed about starting a creation-based radio drama. It still amazes us that the Lord granted us the desires of our heart!

Real-life Adventures!

What real-life experiences inspired you during the creation of the program?

Pat Roy:
Trust me, when you’re writing an on-going series, everything that happens in your life becomes a potential line of dialogue or theme in your story. Whenever something unexpected would happen in our lives, Sandy would always look at me and say, “That’s copy!”

I can say that much of Kendall’s lines were based on real conversations I had with people. The way that the Park and Brenan families responded to their situations mimicked how our family would react.

Script to Novel... Novel to Script...

Which was written first: Jonathan Park and the Secret of the Hidden Cave (Novel), or The Adventure Begins (Audio Drama)?

Pat Roy:
We wrote the story first as a radio script. Then we turned that script into the full-blown manuscript that eventually was published as a book by Master Books. Then we took the book manuscript, and re-adapted it back into the two- part audio drama, Jonathan Park and the Secret of the Hidden Cave. That was a huge undertaking because the book manuscript was way too long to be a two-part radio drama, so we had to actually change the story a bit to make it fit into an hour (two half-hours).

At the Institute for Creation Research

Do you have any specific memories from the years at ICR which involved audio production or writing?

Pat Roy:
Absolutely! Those are some of my fondest memories. No one on our team had ever produced a radio drama. We would start-off every day praying for wisdom on how to complete each step of the production. At any given time, we had four of us working on audio production at the same time. We would work long hours in the same room, and we got to know each other very well. We spent a lot of time praying, joking around, and just growing as friends.

From left to right, actors Sherry Evans (Angela Park), Frank Montenegro (Dr. Kendall Park), Joseph Alm (the first Jonathan Park) and Anna Rapp (Jessie Brenan)

I remember when we held our first auditions in the ICR “Theater Room”. Our first Jessie auditionee screamed, “Jonathan. help, help, I’m falling!” That first little actress belted it out! The only problem is that we forgot to tell the scientists that we were holding auditions, so a bunch of scientists sprung from their surrounding offices to help the screaming girl!

It was great being part of the bigger team at ICR. I loved working with men like Dr. Henry Morris, Dr. John Morris, Dr Gish, Dr. Vardiman, and so many others. The whole ICR staff seemed like family. It was truly a time that I will always cherish.

Who wrote the Study Guides?

Pat Roy:
I wrote the study guides for the first few albums. But then we hired Suzie Clark (an ICR graduate) to write the rest. She would take our scripts, and find creative ways to incorporate the information. She is a very creative person, and did a super job! Of course, like the scripts, we had a group of scientists that looked over the content.

The Changing Times

In what ways did the transition from ICR to Vision Forum affect the program?

Pat Roy:
Although Jessie was already a homeschooler, we made it so all the characters switched-over to homeschooling. Also, Mr. Phillips asked us for two things: create a team, and add a recurring arch-nemesis. From those two requests were born the Creation Response Team and Myles Morgan.

Do you have a favorite Jonathan Park album?

Pat Roy:
My favorite album (by far) is The Voyage Beyond. It was our first collaboration with the Riffenburgh Family. Each family wrote half the stories. We spent a fun week together brainstorming every scene in the album. I feel that it is also the tightest storyline of the series. I loved the character of Alexander Demarcus, and making him a Captain Nemo-like person. I enjoyed writing stories about the underwater adventures with the Manta submarine. I also love space exploration, so the stories about the race to be the first team to do a spacewalk was fun.

Actors Nazareth (L) and Duane Riffenburgh (R) voicing characters for Vol. 9

I also loved the sound design for that album. I told our producers to make the submarine sound like a starship. We also used actual audio from the NASA space program.

For me, it is definitely my favorite album. Everything just seemed to come together. The writing was good, the actors did a super job, and the sound design was the best.

Who is your favorite character to write?

Pat Roy:
Eddie, of course! I love writing the parts of the Eagle’s Nest. It reminds me of my childhood. However, Alexander DeMarcus was also one of my favorites. And Kendall was usually just expressing myself, and how I would say things.

My wife and I also loved writing Myles Morgan. If you listen to the series, he always popped-up at exactly the right moment, and had some dramatic entrance. The actor who played Myles -- Don Keesey -- did such a fantastic job. It was fun to write lines and see Don bring them alive.

In Album #10, I really enjoyed writing for Derek Dilts. Again, the actor was so talented, we could really push the envelope with his lines -- and it was a thrill to see the actor, Sean Conde Spellman, make them even better.

Do you have any special “behind-the-mike” memories?

Pat Roy:
I could actually write a book about this. It was a 15 year adventure! I have a thousand memories.

The team became such good friends, they felt like family. I watched the child actors grow up on the project. We went to each others’ graduations, weddings, birthday parties, etc. It has truly been amazing.

Frank Montenegro, the voice of Dr. Kendall Park

The one recording that stands out more than any other is the day we did Mystery at McBane Manor. The actors were in a particularly goofy mood. The whole day we laughed and laughed together. At one point, Frank Montenegro (Kendall) and Anna Frandsen (Jessie) couldn’t stop cracking jokes and giggling. There is one section of the recording in which the recorder rolled for 45 minutes while they tried to regain composure!

What has the Lord taught you through the Jonathan Park ministry, and how has your faith grown?

Pat Roy:
Wow! Too much to summarize here. But here are a few random lessons:

I learned that God works when and how He wants to -- regardless of men. Sandy and I set out to make two episodes. We had no idea that God was going to take us on a 15 year adventure.

I learned that it’s okay to dream big for God -- and then be willing to follow Him no matter where He calls you.

I learned never to give up -- and to persevere no matter how hard it gets.

I had my faith built-up every day during these 15 years. Daily, I was surrounded by the overwhelming scientific evidence for creation.

And finally, I learned that all things have a season. That God opens doors, and He closes them. He starts projects when He desires, and shuts them down according to His timing.

In Conclusion...

Pat Roy:
I just want to encourage young people to dream big for God! Use your talents for Him! Pray, and follow Him with all your heart, and I guarantee that He will take you on an adventure! Invest in eternity, and you will see God do things you never thought possible!

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” - Ephesians 3:20

Editor's Note: This is a guest post contributed by Andrew Riffenburgh and Jacob Solis.

Homeschooled from Kindergarten to 12th Grade, Jacob Solis' career with Jonathan Park first began in 2012, when he portrayed three minor roles in The Whispering Sphinx. In early 2014 he was blessed to serve as a creative consultant for The Journey Home and was cast in the role of Randall James that summer. Jacob lives with his parents, his twin brother Josh, and his five sisters in Fallbrook, California.

Andrew Riffenburgh loves radio dramas and has been a scriptwriter, sound designer and voice actor on both Jonathan Park and Creation Adventure Family. He works with his family and lives in the mountains of Southern California.


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