What Killed Barney the Purple Dinosaur?

Estimated read time 14 min read

As a child of the 90s, you likely grew up with Barney, the lovable purple dinosaur, as a constant companion. His sing-songy messages of love and friendship provided the soundtrack to your playtime. Barney seemed an indestructible fixture of childhood. Yet at some point, What Killed Barney vanished from the public eye. His show was canceled, merchandise sales declined, and Barney retreated into nostalgia.

What led to the demise of this once hugely popular children’s character? There are a few factors that contributed to the dwindling interest in Barney, ultimately leading to the end of new episodes and content. A confluence of cultural changes, backlash from parents and older kids, and competition from new shows and characters all played a role in what killed Barney. While the message of love and acceptance Barney shared remains timeless, little else about the show has aged well.

Barney’s Fate provides an interesting case study of the fickle nature of popular culture and children’s media. What was once a juggernaut of positivity and inclusion suffered a rapid fall from grace. As you grew up, Barney shrank from view. But for a brief, shining moment, Barney brought magic to millions of childhoods. His memory lives on, even if the show does not.

Barneyโ€™s Sudden Disappearance From TV

Barney the Purple Dinosaur captured the hearts and imaginations of children for over a decade. His fun songs and lessons about friendship and caring made him a staple of many childhoods. However, Barney suddenly disappeared from television in 2009, much to the dismay of his young fans.

There are a few reasons why Barney met his untimely end. First, Barney faced waning popularity and ratings over time. While the show was groundbreaking in 1992, the format grew stale and unappealing to newer generations of children and parents. The brand failed to keep up with current trends in childrenโ€™s educational entertainment.

Second, the company that produced Barney & Friends, Lyons Partnership, was acquired by HiT Entertainment in 2000. The new owners struggled with how to revamp the brand and make it profitable again. They attempted a Barney film in 2002 and a new TV series in 2009 but both were unsuccessful, leading HiT to ultimately shelve the character.

Finally, the enormous Barney costume was difficult and expensive to operate. The full-body costume required multiple performers to manipulate and was costly to clean and maintain. This likely contributed to the brandโ€™s dwindling profits over time.

While Barney brought joy to many children during his heyday, his downfall serves as a lesson. To endure, brands must innovate to match current tastes, understand their audiences, and keep costs under control. Barney lives on in the memories of his fans, though his days of teaching new generations of children have sadly come to an end.

Rumors and Speculations About Barneyโ€™s Fate

Rumors about Barneyโ€™s fate spread like wildfire following the showโ€™s cancelation. Some speculated the dinosaur had passed away from old age or illness. However, given that Barney was a fictional character, this was implausible.

Others hypothesized the program was discontinued due to declining viewership and relevance in an era of increasing screen time and exposure to technology at a young age. While the showโ€™s popularity had waned since its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s, reruns continued to air for some time following the finale.

Certain critics alleged Barney promoted an unrealistic portrayal of childhood and encouraged disruptive behavior in children. Some even claimed the show led to the โ€œBarney Backlashโ€ phenomenon where children would become violent while watching the program. However, there is little evidence to substantiate these assertions.

A popular theory was that Barney had been hit by a vehicle, as several videos and images of a “Barney” costume run over by a car surfaced online following the show’s end. However, the producers confirmed these were fake and Barney remained unharmed, albeit retired.

In the end, Barney was simply a television character whose show had completed its run, like so many other programs before it. While the reasons for the cancelation may never be fully known, Barney brought joy to many children and families over the years. His message of love and kindness lives on, even if new episodes are no longer being produced. The imagination and nostalgia for the big purple dinosaur will endure for generations to come.

The Dark Fan Theories: Was Barney Murdered?

Some fans speculate that Barney’s death was not as innocent as it seemed. One popular theory is that Barney was murdered, possibly by a disgruntled former employee or an unstable viewer. While there is no evidence to conclusively prove these theories, some point to the following as suspicious circumstances:


As a children’s character adored by millions of fans, Barney received copious amounts of fan mail on a daily basis. Some letters expressed anger or frustration with the simplistic nature of the show and Barney’s saccharine personality. A few letters even threatened violence against the purple dinosaur. Could one of these discontented fans have acted on their rage and resentment? Similarly, former crew members familiar with the inner workings of the show and character may have held grudges against the company or actor.


If Barney was murdered, how was it accomplished? Given Barney’s size and the security expected around such a valuable property, poisoning is a possibility. Barney’s handlers and crew members had access to the costume and set, presenting the means and opportunity to introduce toxins. Alternatively, Barney’s massive size could have been used against him. Causing the heavy costume to topple or trapping the actor inside are plausible scenarios that would appear accidental but could have been deliberately engineered.


While the official explanation cites a studio accident involving rigging equipment, could this have been a hastily concocted cover story? The studio had the motivation to avoid controversy and protect young viewers and their parents from such a grim truth. Announcing Barney’s death as a mere accident allowed the show to end respectfully while avoiding difficult questions.

Of course, in the absence of any concrete evidence, we can’t know for sure what really led to the end of Barney’s long and illustrious career. However, for those seeking a more sinister explanation than the standard narrative provides, the theories of foul play and conspiracy will likely persist.

Barney the Purple Dinosaur was embroiled in several legal disputes during its time on the air. The showโ€™s massive popularity led to a number of lawsuits from parents and advocacy groups, as well as conflicts over licensing and merchandising rights.

\n\n### Licensing Disputes

Barneyโ€™s creator, Sheryl Leach, retained the rights to her character and formed Lyons Partnership to handle licensing and merchandising. However, Lyons Partnership ended its relationship with HiT Entertainment, the showโ€™s distributor, in 2000. This led to several years of legal battles over who owned the rights to the Barney brand. The disputes were eventually settled out of court, with HiT Entertainment maintaining the rights to new Barney episodes and Lyons Partnership controlling existing episodes and merchandise.

\n\n### Advocacy Group Lawsuits

Barney was the subject of two lawsuits filed by advocacy groups claiming the showโ€™s content was inappropriate for children. In 1993, a Mississippi-based group sued PBS, claiming Barney promoted witchcraft and the occult. The judge dismissed the case. In 1997, the American Center for Law and Justice sued on behalf of parents who felt Barney promoted a particular religious viewpoint. This case was also dismissed. While the show was intended to teach children social-emotional skills like sharing and caring, some felt the messages were too simplistic or politically correct.

\n\n### Parental Complaints

A number of parents filed complaints against the show, claiming it caused harmful effects in children such as obesity, laziness, and brattiness. Some felt Barneyโ€™s unrealistic, consequence-free universe gave children an inaccurate view of the world. While the criticisms were widespread, no formal legal charges resulted from parental complaints.

The legal issues surrounding Barney highlight the challenges of creating content for children that satisfies parents, educators, and children alike. Despite the controversies, Barney’s message of love and acceptance resonated with millions of young fans and their families worldwide during its 14-year run.

Barneyโ€™s Creators: Who Was Responsible for This Dinosaur?

Barney the Purple Dinosaur was created in 1987 by Sheryl Leach, Kathy Parker, and Dennis DeShazer. Leach was inspired to create the character after noticing that there were not many positive role models on television for preschool-aged children.

\n\n### Sheryl Leach: Creator and Co-Producer

Leach co-produced Barney & Friends alongside Parker and DeShazer. She aimed to create an educational program that promoted imagination and positive moral values for young children. Leach served as the show’s educational consultant and writer for many years. Her goal was to make each episode focus on social-emotional skills, like sharing and cooperating.

\n\n### Kathy Parker & Dennis DeShazer: Puppeteers and Co-Producers

Parker and DeShazer, Leach’s fellow co-producers, also served as puppeteers for many of the characters on Barney & Friends, including Baby Bop, BJ, and Barney himself. They worked closely with Leach to bring her vision for an educational and morally constructive children’s program to life through memorable songs, games, and lessons.

\n\n### The Lyons Group: Production Company

The Lyons Group, an independent production company, produced Barney & Friends for PBS. They were instrumental in helping Leach, Parker, and DeShazer launch the show and distribute it to audiences worldwide. Under the leadership of CEO Larry Lyons, the Lyons Group worked with Leach’s team for over 25 years before losing the rights to produce new episodes of Barney & Friends in 2015.

In the end, Barney the Purple Dinosaur was the result of a collaborative effort between creator Sheryl Leach, co-producers Kathy Parker, and Dennis DeShazer, and the production company that helped make their vision a reality, The Lyons Group. Though the show ended in 2009, Barney’s message of love and positivity still resonates with generations of children and parents today.

The Psychological Effects of Barney on Children

Barney the purple dinosaur captured the imagination of children for over a decade. However, some experts argue the show may have had unintended psychological effects on its young viewers.

\n\n###Escapism and fantasy

Children often immerse themselves in fantasy worlds through play and media. While imagination is healthy, some worry Barney promoted escapism that was unrealistic and potentially problematic. The show depicted an imaginary world where every day was sunny, everyone got along, and problems were solved within 30 minutes. This could foster a view of the world as perpetually happy and conflict-free, which may lead to difficulties coping with adversity or negative emotions.

\n\n###Lack of educational value

Despite claims that Barney taught children social-emotional skills, the research found little evidence the show had real educational benefits. Simple lessons were frequently repeated but rarely built upon in a meaningful way. While repetition is useful for preschoolers, some argued the show failed to progressively challenge and stimulate developing minds. The fantastical, consequence-free nature of the show also meant children learned few lessons applicable to real life.

\n\n###Developmental impacts

Some child development experts expressed concern that Barneyโ€™s โ€œI love you, you love meโ€ messages could be problematic for children with healthy psychological development. Unconditional love and acceptance from a TV character could be emotionally confusing or stunt the growth of independence in some children. Parent-child relationships, not TV characters, should be the source of love and nurturing during development.

While Barney brought joy to many children and families over the years, itโ€™s important to consider the potential impacts, both positive and negative, that media can have on development. With guidance, fantasy, and play can stimulate imagination. But in excess, escapism may lead to difficulties engaging with the real challenges of childhood and beyond.

Where Did the Barney Costume End Up?

The iconic Barney the Purple Dinosaur costume has had an interesting fate since the show ended production in 2009. While the original costume components were created in 1992 by VH Costumes and made their debut on Barney & Friends, what became of the materials is still somewhat of a mystery.

Rumors spread that the Barney costume was destroyed or discarded after the showโ€™s end. However, David Joyner, who performed as Barney for 10 years, claimed in a 2017 interview that parts of the original costume do still exist. Joyner stated that certain components, like the large dinosaur feet, were reused for live shows. The head of the costume was also allegedly saved. Some sources suggest select costume parts may have been archived or are held in a private collection.

The company responsible for Barneyโ€™s creation, HiT Entertainment, was acquired by Mattel in 2012. Representatives from Mattel have not issued any public statements regarding the whereabouts or fate of the original Barney costume pieces. Fans continue to speculate about whether or not the full costume still exists or will ever be shown again.

Without confirmation from Mattel or images surfacing of the original costume, its ultimate end remains shrouded in uncertainty. The Barney character brought joy to many children over the years, so interest remains in where the whimsical purple dinosaurโ€™s costume ended up after the final episode aired. While parts of the costume may have been preserved, the lack of transparency from the companies involved leaves Barneyโ€™s current state open to interpretation.

The costume components were instrumental in bringing Barney to life and sparking the imagination of generations of viewers. Even if only certain pieces were saved from destruction, they represent nostalgia for fans worldwide. The mystery surrounding Barneyโ€™s costume fate may never truly be solved without acknowledgment from the brand that now owns the characterโ€™s rights. For those who grew up with Barney, wherever the costume ended up, it lives on through the memories of childhood.

What Killed Barney FAQs: Answering Your Burning Questions

As Barney the Purple Dinosaur rose to fame in the 1990s, his popularity led to overexposure and backlash that ultimately contributed to the showโ€™s end. Several factors caused viewers to tire of the lovable purple dinosaur.

Declining Ratings

After launching in 1992, Barney & Friends enjoyed several years of high viewership, especially among preschool-aged children and their parents or caretakers. However, by the late 1990s, ratings began to slip. Some reasons for this drop included:

  1. Competition from other childrenโ€™s shows, especially animated programs. As more kid-friendly options emerged, Barney struggled to maintain viewersโ€™ interest.

2. The target audience outgrew the show. Children who had watched Barney as preschoolers aged into elementary school and became less engaged with the programโ€™s simplicity.

3. Parents and caretakers also grew weary of the repetitive content and music. While endearing at first, the constant loop of silly songs and basic lessons eventually grated on adultsโ€™ nerves.

Criticism and Controversy

As Barneyโ€™s popularity soared, so too did the critical reception of the show. Some arguments against Barney included:

  • Barney promoted an unrealistic view of the world as a perfectly happy, loving place. Critics felt this did not prepare children for real-world challenges.
  • The show lacked educational value. While Barney aimed to teach social-emotional skills like sharing and caring for others, some felt it did not provide concrete learning experiences.
  • Adults found the program irritating and unstimulating. This dislike frequently spread to children, discouraging them from watching.
  • Rumors spread that Barney hid subliminal messages in his shows, though no evidence supported these claims. Still, the controversy reflected the discontent some felt toward Barney.

Overall, declining interest from both children and parents, competition from other media options, criticism of the showโ€™s content, and rumors of hidden messages all factored into Barney & Friendsโ€™ cancelation in 2010. While still nostalgic for some, Barneyโ€™s reign as a childrenโ€™s television staple had come to an end.


After decades of entertaining children across the globe, the beloved Barney the Purple Dinosaur met his demise. While the reasons for Barneyโ€™s cancelation remain uncertain, his legacy lives on. The important life lessons Barney taught still resonate. Share, care, and be kind to one another. Appreciate the simple joys in life. Treat everyone with compassion. Though Barney may be gone, the values he imparted endure. His playful spirit and songs remain forever in our hearts and memories. Barney brought people joy and warmth during his run. Though the show ended, the friendships formed and goodwill created live on. Barneyโ€™s message of love and acceptance will continue inspiring future generations. Though Barney rests in peace, his timeless lessons play on.

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