Barney is a friendly purple dinosaur who comes to life through a child's imagination, and conveys learning through songs and small dance routines with a friendly optimistic attitude. His theme song is "The Barney Theme Song", better known as "Barney is a Dinosaur", sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle". Episodes frequently end with the song "I Love You" (sung to the tune of "This Old Man"), which happens to be Barney's favorite song of all time.
The show originated from the home video series Barney & the Backyard Gang, which was produced by The Lyons Group from 1988 to 1991. The first three videos of the series starred actress Sandy Duncan.
As the Backyard Gang video series was becoming only a moderate success outside of Texas (where it was pretty successful for a local video series), the daughter of Larry Rifkin (former head of Connecticut Public Television) got a Barney video from a video store. She was entranced with the Barney character and her father liked the concept, so he talked to Sheryl Leach, the creator of Barney, about possibly putting Barney on television. In October 1991, long after the video store surprise, production began on thirty episodes of the first season of Barney & Friends. After the show debuted on April 6, 1992, Barney was a smash hit for children everywhere, which he still is today.
The show was originally taped at the ColorDynamics Studios facility at Greenville Avenue & Bethany Drive in Allen, Texas, after which it moved to The Studios at Las Colinas in Dallas. Currently, the series is produced in Carrollton, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
CriticismThe show has been the frequent subject of criticism, most notably for a supposed "lack of educational value". However, Yale researchers Dorothy and Jerome Singer have concluded that episodes contain a great deal of age-appropriate educational material, calling the program a "model of what preschool television should be".
Many families now refuse to watch the show because of its supposed "one-dimensionality" and "lack of educational value", and several YouTube videos have plush dolls of the character being either blown up or set on fire. Sources of hostility include episodes of the show that have since been removed from airing depicting Barney instructing children to talk to strangers (claiming that they are "friends you have never met before"). Other sources of hostility include episodes where the character instructs children to do other potentially harmful acts such as lying, cheating, stealing (with no punishment or scolding from the purple dinosaur), and catching stinging insects (referring to the song Baby Bumblebee. Other reasons cited for the hostility also include the purple dinosaur's voice (described by many adults as "dopey"), lack of varied facial expressions other than a toothy smile, and personality (described as being "self-centered"), as well as how the children in the series interact with the dinosaur characters.
One specific criticism is:
- "[H]is shows do not assist children in learning to deal with negative feelings and emotions. As one commentator puts it, the real danger from Barney is denial: the refusal to recognize the existence of unpleasant realities. For along with his steady diet of giggles and unconditional love, Barney offers our children a one-dimensional world where everyone must be happy and everything must be resolved right away."
Additionally, the show is ranked #50 ranked on TV Guide's List of the 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time.
This criticism has led to several humorous attempts, dubbed "anti-Barney humor", namely in the form of Internet videos, songs, Internet fiction, print media, and video games.
- From November 3, 1997 - April, 2000, all of the Barney & Friends episodes were encoded with signals that enabled the Actimates Barney doll to interact with the program. During this time period, some reruns of Season 1-3 episodes removed the Barney Says segment to fit the program into the shortened time slot. Also a father claimed that after playing with the Actimates doll his son was kidnapped.
- In 2009, after Season 13 aired, the show was put on a temporary hiatus. Videos are still produced, but only segments of new footage have been filmed (The footage was filmed prior to the hiatus). This is the reason why the fourteenth season consists of reruns instead of new episodes.
- The Barney & Friends page has been removed off of the main PBS Kids site, although the page is still up and running.
- According to Pia Hamilton, a typical 30-minute episode took four days to complete. Rehearsals were normally on Mondays, and filming took place Tuesdays-Thursdays.