BACK AT THE BARNYARD
(Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, September 29, 2007-November 12, 2011)
Omation Animation Studio, Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Chris Hardwick – Otis, Sheep, Boil the Chick, various
Leigh-Allyn Baker – Abby, Etta, Sheep
Jeff Garcia – Pip
Tino Insana – Pig
Cam Clarke – Freddy, Sheep
Rob Paulsen – Peck, Sheep, Skunky, Tony Twocheeks, Pizza Twin, Joey the Cow, Max, various
Dom Irrera – Duke
Wanda Sykes – Bessy
Fred Tatasciore – Farmer Buyer
Maria Bamford – Noreen “Nora” Beady, Jessica Allspice
Steve Oedekerk – Eugene “Snotty Boy” Beady, Nathaniel Randall Beady III, Pizza Twin
Barnyard followed Otis (Kevin James), a slacker cow (yes, who was a male—Oedekerk thought it was funny to give them udders) that was found and adopted by the farm’s leader, Ben (Sam Elliott). Ben tried to instill a sense of responsibility into Otis, but he preferred to waste the day away hanging out with his friends: Pip the mouse (Jeffrey Garcia); dim-witted Freddy the ferret (Trevor Howard); intelligent Peck the chicken; (Rob Paulsen); gluttonous Pig the pig (Tino Insana); overzealous Duke the sheepdog (Dom Irrera); or Daisy (Courteney Cox), a pregnant cow that came to the farm and Otis fell for. After Ben is killed protecting the farm from coyote Dag (Dave Koechner) and his pack, Otis was elected the new leader. And, of course, he shirked those responsibilities allowing the coyotes to return and help themselves to his friends.
Oedekerk wrote, directed, produced and even voiced some characters in the film. It was the inaugural project of Omation Animation Studio, a division of his O Entertainment production company. The film was comparatively low-budget compared to other CGI features around the time, however that didn’t stop Oedekerk from courting the talent he wanted or ensuring every scene featured characters actually “living” in the backgrounds rather than the wide-open static spaces of the other movies. The result was over 180 characters being created and their animation being achieved with a process they used on Jimmy Neutron: motion capturing actors on a set in the studio. The film was released to theaters on August 4, 2006 by Paramount Pictures, and grossed over $116.5 million, despite lukewarm reviews.
Even before the positive box office, Nickelodeon had ordered a series spin-off of the film. Picking up where the story left off, Otis (now Chris Hardwick) was in charge of the farm and learning to balance that responsibility with his desire to just goof off and have fun—which often led to wild schemes that caused chaos for the farm’s residents and neighbors. Always with him or causing their own trouble were his friends Pip, Pig, Peck, Duke (all with their original actors) and Freddy (now Cam Clarke). Having none of Otis’ nonsense was sassy cow Bessy (Wanda Sykes, reprising the role), who served as the principal of the barnyard school and judge of their court. A running gag had Pip constantly vie for her affections, only to be repeatedly (and often physically painfully) rejected. Newly created for the series was Abby (Leigh-Allyn Baker), Bessy’s best friend who was athletic and allergic to petunias with an OCD for organization. She replaced Daisy and her calf, who went unreferenced throughout the show. Also missing were the coyotes, Ben’s old friend Miles the mule (Danny Glover), and Maddy (Madeline Lovejoy), a young chick that enjoyed playing with Otis.
Much like Toy Story, the animals had to constantly be on the lookout for human beings; acting like normal animals whenever they were around. Only the farm’s neighbor Nora Beady (Maria Bamford) was aware of their real nature. Taking a cue from Bewitched, she always tried to expose them to the world but was constantly thwarted in her attempts. Her husband, Nathan Beady III (Oedekerk), often tried to convince her she was mistaken.
Other characters included Farmer Buyer (Fred Tatasciore), the owner of the farm whom Otis frequently tricked away with prank phone calls so that they could operate in peace (in the film, he would always be knocked unconscious when he saw the animals being themselves); the five sheep (Hardwick, Baker, Clarke, Paulsen and Jeff Bennet) that Duke was charged with watching and were always outsmarting him to escape; Etta (Baker), the lead hen; Skunky (Paulsen), Pig’s pet skunk and best friend; The Jersey Cows: Eddy (S. Scott Bullock), Igg (Maurice LaMarche) and Bud (John DiMaggio), who enjoyed pranking humans and ignoring rules; Tony Twocheeks (Paulsen), a gopher who frequently conned people into buying stuff from him; Everett (Lloyd Sherr), the farmer’s old bloodhound and the oldest resident; Bigfoot (Dee Bradley Baker), the mythological creature who managed to become a celebrity; the Pizza Twins (Paulsen & Oedekerk), unintelligent twin brothers who frequently delivered pizza to the farm; Joey the cow (Paulsen), Macy the Sheep (Maile Flanagan) and Boil the Chick (Hardwick), three children who attend school in the barnyard in Peck’s class; the vet (Audrey Wasilewski & Julia Sweeney), a female veterinarian who came to the farm to maintain the animal’s health; Root (Nathaniel Stroman), Peck’s rival who held a weekly talent show; and Eugene “Snotty Boy” Goldner (Oedekerk), the Beady’s bratty nephew who enjoyed antagonizing animals and Mr. Beady when Mrs. Beady wasn’t looking.
Back at the Barnyard debuted on Nickelodeon on September 29, 2007. The majority of episodes were broken up into two story segments, with a couple spanning a full half-hour and some segments airing independently of each other. Whenever an episode was running short, a filler segment hosted by Pig was inserted covering a variety of things like “viewer mail”, medical advice or makeovers. The series was written by Jed Spingarn, Gene Grillo, Aaron Hilliard, Luke Del Tredici, Chris Painter, Brandon Sawyer, Andrew Nicholls, Darrell Vickers, Jessica Gao, Sam O’Neal, Neal Boushell, Adam Cohen, Joel Bergen, Alex Muniz, Lazar Saric, Tom Sheppard, Dan Serafin, Ned Goldreyer and Teresa Trendler, with Oedekerk and Hardwick contributing a script each themselves. Because it was computer animated, they were able to reuse the assets they had developed for the film in the show, saving time and money on character design and set building. Additional character designs were handled by Mark Beam, Phil Cruden and Bill Schwab. Cruden, along with his company Go For Launch Productions, also handled the production design for the series as they had for the film. The theme was written and performed by Michael Fitzpatrick and Mickey Petralia, with the rest of the series’ music done by Guy Moon.
While the show performed well enough to receive a second season, it didn’t continue to live up to Nickelodeon’s expectations. The show was removed from the network with just 8 episodes left to air, which they would eventually do almost a year later on sister channel Nicktoons. 52 episodes aired in all. In 2008, a video game based on the show was developed by Firemint (now Firemonkeys) and released by Play THQ for the Nintendo DS. Back at the Barnyard: Slop Bucket Games (Cowlympics in Europe) was a collection of mini-games unlocked by completing fetch quests around an overhead 3-D render of the barnyard. It contained limited voice acting from Hardwick, Insana, Irrera and Julie Nathanson.
Beginning in 2008, Nickelodeon released several compilation DVDs containing 4 episodes each: Escape from the Barnyard, When No One’s Looking and Cowman, the Uddered Avenger. Additionally, Lights, Camera, Moo! and Club Otis were released overseas with bonus SpongeBob SquarePants episodes. A digital-only DVD, Nickelodeon Shocktober! Vol. 2, was also released to iTunes containing “Barnyard Idol / The Haunting”. 2011 saw the release of the complete first season, with the second coming a few months later (preceding the airing of two episodes). In 2012 digital-only DVDs were made available on iTunes: On Your Marks, Get Set, Go! containing 2 episodes from season 1, the Orange Collection containing 8 episodes from season 1 and Nickelodeon’s Christmas Stocking which included “It’s an Udderful Life”. The complete series was made available to purchase for streaming on Amazon Prime.
“The Good, the Bad, and the Snotty / Escape from the Barnyard” (9/29/07) – Otis tricks the farmer off the farm so he can have a birthday party, but the farmer hires Snotty Boy to look after things. / The appearance of a grill has the animals worried they’re about to be eaten so they attempt to escape.
“Wild Mike’s Dance Party” (2/25/09) – Otis frees Wild Mike for a dance party, but he escapes and ends up captured by humans.
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