Steve Oedekerk, the writer and director of the animated comedy "Barnyard," has one thing in common with his film's principal character, a happy-go-lucky cow named Otis (voiced by Kevin James): They both were adopted.
The adoption plot line "organically happened" while he was writing the script for the film, which opens Friday.
"I was halfway through the movie, and it was then I wrote an argument between Otis and his father, Ben. I went, 'Oh, my God, I am writing a story about myself and my dad.' "
"Barnyard" tells the story of how Otis, the ultimate party animal, must step up and become an adult after Ben (Sam Elliott), the rock-steady bovine who makes sure the barnyard operates smoothly, is killed by coyotes.
"Everyone has those moments when they have a decision to make," says Oedekerk. "Who am I going to be and what will I do to define what I am?"
The computer-animated film, which is being spun off as a weekly series for Nickelodeon, marks Oedekerk's debut as a feature animation director.
The former stand-up comic has written such hit comedies as "Bruce Almighty," "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and "The Nutty Professor" and doubled as writer and director of "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" and "Nothing to Lose."
On the animation front, he received an Oscar nomination for producing "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," which he co-wrote, and created short film spoofs starring animated thumbs.
"If you look at everything I've done, it's very eclectic," he offers. "I tend to get bored with things very quickly. I will definitely never be the guy who does the same movie six times in a row."
"Barnyard" took three years to make at Oedekerk's Omation Studios in San Clemente.
Oedekerk's mandate to the film's production designer was to create characters with simple lines.
"That is probably from my personal love of original classic animation," he says. "For me, the fun twist was let's make it feel like it's real. So it's textured really authentically and it's lit well. It feels like a real place, but more like a living storybook."
-- Susan King