Barney the Dinosaur was a sensation, the king of children’s entertainment in the 90s and early 2000s. Children around the world tuned in to Barney & Friends, billed as an entertaining and educative show. Many kids loved the ever-smiling purple and green T-Rex – and, as highlighted in Peacock’s I Love You, You Hate Me, many disliked the character as well.
If you grew up watching Barney the Dinosaur, you’d struggle to understand why people vilified a children’s programming character. I Love You, You Hate Me shows that Barney had a dark side but doesn’t answer why Barney became the target of such an unrelenting hate campaign.
Barney the Dinosaur was canceled due to insistent hate and countless lawsuits
Despite the absence of social media in the 90s and early 2000s, Barney the Dinosaur’s case shows that ‘cancel culture’ isn’t a contemporary phenomenon. A closer look at what happened to Barney the Dinosaur shows the character was ‘canceled’ using the tools available to people at the time.
In 1997, San Diego Chicken ran sketches that showed Barney getting ruthlessly beaten up. Barney’s haters created websites like 150 Ways to Kill the Dinosaur. According to the Peacock docuseries, one of the first websites created was named ‘alt.Dinosaur.Barney.die.die.die.’
It alleges there was a game called ‘The Jihad to Destroy Barney,’ whose purpose was to facilitate the extinction of Barney the Dinosaur. ‘Barney Bashing’ became a national phenomenon, with people posting videos of Barney the Dinosaur toys being blown up, run over, shot, and burnt.
Barney blows up became a YouTube niche, and cults promoting the end of Barney sprung up online. Intriguingly, Sheryl Leach, the character’s creator, said she ignored the hate. Tommy Avallone, the director of I Love You, You Hate Me, told Fox News Digital:
“Sheryl was always someone who ignored the Barney bashing. If we were making a doc that was just called ‘I Love You,’ I’m sure she would be in it. But because we explored some of the hate [and] where some of the heat came from toward Barney, I think there was no way she was going to be a part of that project.”
Avallone said people had different reasons for hating Barney, including jealousy. “There’s not one main reason some people hated Barney,” he said.
PBS didn’t give a reason for its cancellation of Barney & Friends in 2009. However, we suspect that the unending public animosity against the character, the expensive copyright infringement lawsuits, and a shift in children’s entertainment preferences compelled PBS to retire Barney the Dinosaur.
Barney the Dinosaur might return thanks to a project by Daniel Kaluuya
Daniel Kaluuya is working on a project that would see Barney the Dinosaur return onscreen. Kaluuya told Entertainment Weekly in 2020 that the film might be heartbreaking. He explained:
“Barney taught us, ‘I love you, you love me. Won’t you say you love me too?’ That’s one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn’t true? I thought that was really heartbreaking.”
In July 2022, Kaluuya talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the project’s progress, saying the movie was in early development and writers were reworking the script. He also spoke about his motivation for creating a live-action Barney the Dinosaur film:
“My last number of films have been so aligned to kind of what I stand for as a man. But there are a whole lot of things that I do as a man. I love kids’ films. How did everyone get into films? Watching kids’ films. I don’t want to restrict myself to the limitations of what I’m perceived as.”
Bob West, the man who voiced Barney from 1992 to 2000, said he’d like to be involved in Kaluuya’s live-action film. West told NBC News that the production team hadn’t contacted him, but he was interested in talking to Kaluuya about voicing the character in the movie. Bob added:
“I have a vested interest in seeing that the tradition of the character is honored. But on the other hand, I totally understand the impulse to expand the character and bring in new subject matter.”