Up to date information about children's entertainment – film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Happy 20th Birthday Barney

Barney celebrates his 20th birthday this month as one of the most successful shows in children’s television. The show, aimed at preschoolers, features the title anthropomorphic character Barney, a purple dinosaur who conveys learning through song and dance with a friendly and upbeat attitude. Barney was created in 1987 by Sheryl Leach and Kathy Parker both of whom I met years ago just before their successful launch into public television. They had created a series of home videos, Barney and the Backyard Gang, starring Sandy Duncan in the first three shows. It wasn’t until the series was launched on Public Broadcasting Service as “Barney & Friends” in 1992 that Barney hit the big time – becoming phenomenally successful, not just on television but in licensed products as well. Today, Barney & Friends is now shown worldwide – from Latin America to Africa. The Spanish language version is called “Barney y Sus Amigos.”

Barney & Friends was the first TV show to use the word edutainment to describe itself. Blending entertainment with an educational focus, it strives to address a preschooler’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs. Most importantly, Barney is known for his unconditional love he offers to his friends, both on-screen and off. Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing none other than Barney himself. Here is what he shared:
RL. I wish to extend my best birthday wishes to you, Barney on your your 20th birthday. You have become quite the TV star, haven’t you. How are you going to celebrate this birthday?

B. (Chuckling) Thank you Ranny. My friends and I arecelebrating by taking a big purple bus tour to travel all across thecountry, visiting Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and Toys R Usstores. We’re going to 20 cities altogether and we’re half way done,with ten more still to go. It’s really wonderful because we get to seeour friends at the hospitals. If we can, we’ll do a show or visit thekids in their rooms. Our next appearance will be at the Big Apple Circus in Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta, Georgia on Friday February 8.

RL. I remember meeting Sheryl Leach years ago when she first introduced you to the world. How has your live changed in the last 20 years.

B. Not really that much. I have lots of new friends. But, one thing I’ve found out is that every generation is pretty much the same – everyone likes to have friends.

RL What have been the highlights of your last 20 years? What is your favorite thing?

B. Every time I get a hug – that’s my favorite thing.

RL. PBS has been a great home for your TV show. To what do you attribute your success?
B. By success, do you mean that I have lots of friends and I am loved and can be loved? I think success is also doing what you do best – because everyone can be themselves. That’s what I do. We’ve had lots of good friends on the show who have talent such as dancing and singing and we like to show them doing those things. But mostly, we just like to get together, have fun and, along the way learn other things like counting and singing.

RL. There are so many cycles and trends that influence entertainment. Something that’s hot one year is old the next. How do you deal with that?

B. You know about Riff, right? BJ and Baby Bop’s cousin. He’s with us now and he loves music. He’s in our anniversary show. He makes music out of different things, like the wind blowing through the rain or on the rooftop. And, of course imagination is a very special thing and we use that to visit lots of different places like India.

RL. You’re not just on television, you have live road shows, an internet site, I think you have downloadable programming. how do you keep up with it all. How many people are involved in helping you do what you do?

B. I really don’t know much about that. I pretty much have fun with my friends and have a lot of people around me using their imagination to make things happen.

RL. You are such an upbeat personality. What advice do you have for young people today, some of whom might have some tough things to deal with. How can someone keep such a positive attitude towards life like you do?

B. You know the reason I have a positive attitude is because I know I am so loved. If each child could remember how much they are loved, they would be happy.

RL. So, there you have it, friends: Remember how much you are loved and it will make you happy. From a Dinosaurs’s lips to your ears . . .
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