Barney & The Backyard Gang is an American live-action direct-to-video series that debuted in video retailers on August 29, 1988. Produced by The Lyons Group in Allen, Texas, the video series lasted until August 1, 1991 as it was succeeded by its television successor Barney & Friends. Aimed at children from the ages of 2-to-8, the video series was created by Sheryl Leach and co-created by Kathy Parker.
The series focuses on a six-foot purple tyrannosaurus rex named Barney, who comes to life, whenever he is needed, through the imagination of a group of kids, known as The Backyard Gang, springing up from a doll to full size. Together Barney and The Backyard Gang go on adventures through by using their imaginations.
The series made more than $3.5 million. The first three tapes alone sold 50,000 copies and the whole series would end up selling 500,000 copies. The series was a success across the US and Canada, but especially in the creators' native Texas.
In fall 1987, Leach was stuck in a traffic jam thinking about the lack of videos that held the attention of her 2-year-old son, Patrick. At this time, the only preschool aged programs around were Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, however, they appealed to a larger age range, rather than strictly toddlers. At the time, the only thing that could hold Patrick’s attention was a “Wee Sing” video. This prompted Leach to develop a show herself. Her initial thought was the notice of children carrying snugly security objects, such as blankets and teddy bears. Leach thought the idea of a talking blanket and teddy bear interacting with children were a neat idea, however, the blanket concept was too hard to pull off.
Sheryl Leach proposed a preschool video series, which eventually would be Barney & The Backyard Gang, to DLM, Inc (Developmental Learning Materials). At the time Sheryl Leach was working at DLM, Inc. as a writer. The board she proposed to turned her down. Owner of DLM, Inc., Richard C. Leach, who was Sheryl's father-in-law, agreed to back her with the project with $700,000 of his own money. Sheryl's idea was brought to production at The Lyons Group,
When Sheryl pitched Barney & The Backyard Gang to her father-in-law Richard, he asked that Kathy help to develop the character and show concept. Parker also had a 2-year-old child named Kaitlin. Both Leach and Parker began testing videos on their children, taking notes of what worked and what didn't work, as well as going to different preschools for research. The duo took inspiration from their own childhood programs like Romper's Room, Captain Kangaroo and The Mickey Mouse Club while also combining aspects of the then current kids' programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
From their research, around twenty essential concepts were devised, such as using live-action instead of animation so children could better relate, having children as role-models, featuring simple music and having a familiar setting. They also concluded that imagination needed to play a big role, as well as having loving messages.
The bear concept was eventually scrapped due to Leach's son having an interest in dinosaurs after visiting a Science Place exhibit.
After the initial concept was devised, The Lyons Group hired various local production crew personnel to help further develop the show. They hired Irene Corey Design Associates to build the dinosaur costume. After Irene Corey failed to deliver a plushy, huggable T-Rex costume that would be suitable for the producers' needs, producer John Grable reached out and hired friend Jamie Ruth Conner to serve as the series art director and to design a costume that would be more suitable for the character that was being developed.
After Conner's costume designs were approved by Leach and Parker, costume construction by Suzanne Lockridge took place. When Lockridge asked Conner what color to make Barney she replied, "purple of course!" Conner chose the purple, green, yellow color palate simply because that shade of purple happened to be trendy in the late 1980s.
A team was created to create a series of home videos called Barney & The Backyard Gang. The videos were sold directly to the public and became a success.
Public Broadcasting Service
On Super Bowl Sunday in 1991, executive vice president of programming for Connecticut Public Television, Larry Rifkin, rented the Barney video A Day at the Beach for his 4-year-old daughter Leora Rifkin, which they got from Prospect Video Store, in Prospect, Connecticut. Once they got home, his daughter couldn't stop watching the video. Rifkin tested the video on other children in the neighborhood to make sure the reaction wasn't unusual. Rifkin liked the concept, so he spoke with Leach and other creators about putting Barney on television. At the time, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting had been looking for something new, educational and lively to supplement the programs that were already on television.
In June of 1991, it was announced that Barney would have a new show debuting on PBS with a scheduled release for April 1992 with thirty episodes. A $2.25 million grant was given to The Lyons Group and Connecticut Public Television to produce the new show. One of the changes announced for the show was dropping the word "gang" due to it having negative connotations. In October of that year, production began on the new television show, titled Barney & Friends.
- Barney (Voice: Bob West, Costume: David Voss and David Joyner) [8/8]
- Baby Bop (Voice: Julie Johnson, Performer: Dao Knight) [2/8]
- Michael (Brian Eppes [8/8)
- Amy (Becky Swonke) [8/8]
- Tina (Jessica Zucha) [8/8]
- Luci (Leah Montes) [8/8]
- Jason (Salim Grant) [3/8]
- Adam (Alexander Jhin) [7/8]
- Derek (Rickey Carter) [5/8]
- Jeffrey (Jeffrey Lowe) [1/8]
- Sandy Duncan (played Molly the Mermaid in A Day at the Beach)
- Jeanne Cairns (played Mrs. Claus in Waiting for Santa)
- Henry Hammack (played Santa Claus in Waiting for Santa)
- Sonya Resendez (played Luci and Tina's Mom in Campfire Sing-Along)
- Philip Parker (performed as The Bear in Campfire Sing-Along)
- Lauren King (played Kathy in Rock with Barney)
- Alexis Harris (played Jennifer in Rock with Barney)
- Ajay Reddy (played AJ in Rock with Barney)
- Chris Rodriguez (played Joseph in Rock with Barney)
- Lourdes Regala (played Adam's Mother in Rock with Barney)
|#||Episode||Written By||Directed By||New Barney Songs||Original Airdate|
|1||Frank H. Olsen
|John Grable||"Barney Theme Song", "I Love You", "Hello, Hello, Hello"||August 29, 1988|
|The Backyard gang puts on a birthday show for Michael and Amy's dad. Barney encourages the gang to use their imagination to make old props seem like new.|
|2||Frank H. Olsen
|John Grable||"The Rocket Song", "Friends Are Forever"||December 10, 1988|
|After a Saturday leaves the Backyard Gang bored, Barney grants the Backyard Gang three wishes to go anywhere in their imagination.|
|3||Frank H. Olsen
|John Grable||"Barney is Our Dinosaur", "This is the Way We Walk the Beach", "Swimming, Swimming", "This is the Way We Leave the Beach"||February 1989|
|After beach plans for Michael and Amy's family are ruined, Barney takes the Backyard Gang to the beach. They play in the sand, explore a pirate ship, and meet a mermaid.|
|4||Frank H. Olsen||Dwin Towell||"Waiting for Santa", "Winter's Wonderful", "Skating, Skating", "The Elves' Rap"||May 1, 1990|
|Barney and the Backyard Gang takes their new friend Derek to the North Pole to ensure him that his name is on Santa's list. While at the North Pole, they frolic on the ice, explore Santa's Workshop, and discover the true meaning of Christmas.|
|5||Frank H. Olsen||Dwin Towell||"S'Mores"||June 1, 1990|
|After listening to a story about camping read by her mom, Tina wishes that she could go camping someday. She dreams about taking a camping trip with Barney and the rest of the Backyard Gang.|
|6||Frank H. Olsen, Sheryl Leach, Kathy Parker, Dennis DeShazer & Deborra Murphy||Garry Potts||"I Wish There Was School Every Day", "There Are Seven Days", "The Alphabet Chant", "The Weather Riddle Song", "The Shape Song", "Hug A Color", "What I Want to Be", "Three Bears Rap"||August 1, 1990|
|On a Saturday, Barney brings Tina to her school to show him a typical school routine.|
|Jim Rowley||"Everyone is Special", "The Backyard Gang Rap", "We Are Barney and the Backyard Gang", "Baby Bop's Song", "Baby Bop's Street Dance", "Bubble, Bubble Bath"||July 29, 1991|
|Barney and the Backyard Gang perform a special concert at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, Texas. Barney introduces the gang and the audience to Baby Bop.|
|8||Sheryl Leach||Jim Rowley||"Help Protect the Earth", "Me and My Teddy", "My Dear Country", "I Can Laugh", "Good Manners"||August 1, 1991|
|Barney and the Backyard Gang explore a movie studio.|
- From November 1990 until 1992, The Disney Channel aired the first six videos of this series as a part of its "Lunch Box" and "Music Box" programs.
- Three of the videotapes were broadcasted on the Nickelodeon cable channel.
At the time, the crew was considering using one person for both the body and voice of Barney. Bob West was was initially cast as the body and voice but he was too tall for the costume they'd already started making. David Voss was brought in to fulfill the costume. In 1990, Voss entered the military as a Cavalry Scout where he was based in Mannheim, He was succeeded in the role by David Joyner.
For Michael and Amy's mom, crew members considered having actresses Marlo Thomas and Phylicia Rashad to portray the role. Actress Sandy Duncan was ultimately chosen for the role. John Grable, one of the directors of the video series, flew up to New York during development and had several phone calls with Duncan and her agents to negotiate with and convince her to join the cast. of the show.
Music for the first three Backyard Gang videos were done by Stephen Bates (Baltes) and Lory Lazarus. The duo eventually left as they didn't believe the show would go anywhere. The music was eventually fulfilled by Bob Singleton, who was the music director and a songwriter, and Philip Parker, who was also a songwriter.
In the first five videos, "I Love You" was sung at the beginning. However, it was sung at the end of Barney Goes to School and Barney in Concert. Ending with "I Love You" would continue for the series successor Barney & Friends.
Awards and nominations
|1989||Parents Choice Award||A Day At The Beach||Won|||
|1990||California Children's Video Award||Barney & The Backyard Gang||Won|||
|1990||Film Advisory Board Award of Excellence||Barney & The Backyard Gang||Won|||
Related merchandise to the Backyard Gang videos include read-along books (of the first three videos) and tape sets (of the entire series), and later in the series, the first Barney dolls (two of them actually used in the videos).
- The first three videos of this series featured Barney with a slightly deeper voice, perhaps larger eyes, a visible red tongue (until 1990), and a much darker color of purple (which turned more magenta as the series went on).
- A Day At The Beach was meant to be the first of the videos released, as it's seen that Barney meets other members of the Backyard Gang, however, it was delayed due to post production issues. The Backyard Show was released first due to easier editing.
- All eight videos were re-released in 1992, and the last five titles were re-released in 1996. Two of them, Waiting for Santa and Barney in Concert, were also re-released by future parent company, Lyrick Studios, in 1997 and 2001.
- There were plans to re-release the first three videos in 1994 and in November 1995 (under the banner "Barney: The Early Years"), but plans fell through and Lyons instead re-released the last four videos in 1995/1996.
- Another video entitled Barney in Mother Goose Land was originally planned for this series to be on the market in June 1990. Sandy Walper had already been cast to portray as Mother Goose, but the video never went into production. Walper would eventually play Mother Goose in the Barney & Friends episodes "Let's Help Mother Goose!" and "Honk! Honk! A Goose On The Loose!". The Mother Goose land aspect wouldn't be explored until Barney's Rhyme Time Rhythm.
- | Unclassified for Barney
- | Tyler Morning Telegraph
- | Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- | Why Children Scream
- | The Barney Story - Portable Press
- | Invasion of the giant purple dinosaur: how did three Dallas pollyannas make Barney as big as Big Bird?
- | The Dinosaur Sensation: The History of Barney - Episode 1 (Barney's Beginnings)
- | The Wichita Eagle
- | Barney - Not at all slick
- | Purple Roads Episode Three | Larry and Leora Rifkin
- | 'Hugasaurus' to charm children at Oakdale
- | CPTV hopes purple dinosaur flies
- On the set of Barney
- | Unclassified for Barney
- | DUMPING THE LITTLE DINOSAUR THAT COULD
- BARNEY FAR FROM EXTINCT
- | 1990 Annie