Odyssey Pictures has roped in “Hank the Cowdog,” launching pre-production on the feature animation project about a smart-alceck canine who heads security on a Texas ranch.Odyssey is selling international rights at the American Film Market and plans to complete “Hank” over the next year at a pair of Texas-based facilities — CAT Studios and ORG Studios. Odyssey acquired rights last month to “Hank the Cowdog” from Rising Star Studios based on the series of 58 mystery novels and audios written by rancher John R. Erickson. Odyssey CEO John Foster, a fellow Texan, was able to persuade Erickson to make the deal after the latter had spurned multiple offers over the years. “We hit it off pretty well, partly because we agreed that we’d keep the work in Texas and partly because he met my wife,” Foster said. “He began writing the books while he was on cattle drives in the Texas Panhandle.” Erickson began to publish short stories in 1967 while working full-time as a cowboy, farmhand, and ranch manager in Texas and Oklahoma, based on dogs Erickson worked with on the range. The “Hank the Cowdog” series has sold more than 7.5 million copies. “We’ve been approached by producers before, but Odyssey impressed us with their understanding of the genre and their solid sales and marketing strategy,” Erickson said, Dallas-based Odyssey is a 22-year-old company focused on co-financing and distribution features.