Barney the purple dinosaur is one of America’s most iconic educational kids television shows. But who is the man behind the costume? After all these years leaving us wondering, he has finally taken off his costume and revealed who is he.
Every Kids Favorite
Barney and Friends of course became an immediate hit, but PBS were very close to cancelling the show at the end of its first 30-episode run. Yet because of a protest from local stations, PBS were forced to reconsider, and the show remained on air until 2009. Aren’t we so glad it did!
Each Barney and Friends episode had to make sure that it kept to a rigid structure. The lovable dinosaur would transform from a stuffed toy into a life size one, and would educate a group of young school kids about a particular subject, very often using song to do so. After telling everyone, “I love you,” Barney then went back his original form as a stuffed animal.
Our Favorite Characters
Barney was also regularly joined by his other dinosaur friends. Another adored character was Baby Bop, a green baby Triceratops famous for her security blanket; her older brother B.J., a yellow Protoceratops who loved pickles; and Riff, a six-year-old orange hadrosaur who was crazy about inventing new things. Of course we can’t forget the puppets that featured on the show, including Scooter McNutty and Booker T. Bookworm.
Famous Cast Members
Barney and Friends also welcomed more than 100 children on set, and several of them even went on to have successful showbiz careers. Now famous pop stars Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez are its two most famous cast members. The show also gave several well-known actresses their head start in the spot-light, including Danielle Vega, Debby Ryan and Madison Pettis.
So Who is Barney?
But, of course, the most important cast member was the man who played Barney the Dinosaur himself. For the first nine years of the show, the man behind the mask was David Joyner. The Illinois actor first took over from David Voss during Barney’s early home video phase and continued to wear the costume when the dinosaur made the move to PBS.
Where Is He Now?
David Joyner played Barney for 10 years on TV. He recently spoke out about what it was like being one of the most famous children’s characters of all time, and what he is up to now.
The Man Behind The Mask
This coveted character was not easy to land. Joyner had to fight for the part. He went through a grueling audition process, of five auditions, and initially lost the role to a woman. But when producers realized she couldn’t cope with the unruly young cast members, they asked Joyner to be her replacement. Joyner then became Barney on the show and debuted his big-screen outing on Barney’s Great Adventure.
How He Got The Part
Speaking to Business Insider, Joyner credited bagging the role to a dream in which he had had to give a passed-out Barney mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. On his way to the audition, Joyner spotted an advert tagline that read, “Breathe life into your vacation.” Joyner saw it as a sign that he had to breathe life into the dinosaur character.
Born in Decatur, Illinois in 1963, Joyner wasn’t quite an actor when he landed the job. After graduating from Indianapolis’ ITT Technical Institute, he spent six years as a software analyst. However, he did gain experience entertaining kids whilst taking a side job as a live mannequin in a local shopping mall.
But Joyner had always held ambitions of acting on the small screen. Speaking to Business Insider the actor revealed, “When I was a kid, I wanted to be on television so bad. I would stand in front of the television and basically lip sync.”
Playing Barney also had some benefits when it came to meeting women. Joyner told BuzzFeed in 2017 that women would be hugely impressed when he had told them his job. However, he claims that he never actually used the information as a pick-up line.
Using It To His Advantage
“Back then, when I was single and I was dating, yeah, I was pretty well known in the Dallas area…If I ever mentioned that I played Barney, [women would be] like, ‘Ooh wow! Ohhhh OK.”…You’d be surprised how well that works….not that I would use it as a pick up line. I don’t know. I think it’s something that has to do with women and that nurturing instinct that [they] have.
Women Loved His Nurturing Instinct
He described that for women “When you date a guy or you’re with a guy that has this love for children, and not only that but now you’re with a guy who has a love for millions of children, that is traveling around and that’s only expressing ‘I love you, you love me’…”
Still A Fan Frenzy
Joyner also stated that even 16 years after saying goodbye to Barney, he was still approached by fans. “I still get compliments on Facebook and different places. I’m very excited for the fact that it has had a huge impact on a lot of people, not just in America but all over the world.”
But Joyner acknowledges not everyone was a fan of his work, telling BuzzFeed, “When the kids got to that 6 to 7-year-old age range, and were all, ‘Oh, I hate Barney, I can’t stand Barney,’ it never really affected me. Because I knew what we were doing. And the message that we were spreading was just so powerful.”
Not As Glamorous As He Hoped
However, life on a TV set wasn’t quite as glamorous as Joyner had imagined. In the same interview he revealed he often had to endure over heated temperatures of 120 degrees while wearing the 70-pound Barney suit. “It’s a T-rex, so you’re basically up to your elbows in being able to move, and then also, Barney’s feet were huge.”
So we all know you’re thinking the same, did the job pay well? Joyner said “I remember receiving the first residual check, and the check was so big. And I was just like, “Oh my god, are you kidding me?” So I had this beautiful white stucco home, and I paid for the house with residuals, which is really cool.”
Wasn’t Always Love For This Character
Before his audition, he had watch videos of Barney, and he was not so sure about what he was getting himself into. He stated: “So I get these videos, and every time I tried to watch the video…I’d fall asleep…I’m like, “This is boring!” Barney’s like barely moving, he’s waddling, and the voice is like [in deep, slow motion voice],”Whoo-hoo-hoo, hello boys and girls.”
Trying To Find Comfort In His Discomfort
In order to get a feel for the costume because it was so big or heavy, he would practice walking around his apartment as if he was blind, and try to feel the energy of things around him, and trying to pick things up. He spoke of sitting down on an apple box, closing his eyes, holding his knees and meditating to get comfortable in the suit.
So He’s The Face, But Who Is The Voice?
The voice of Barney was a man named Bob West. We would do what they call “dinosync.” Joyner explained: “As I have my headphones on, I can literally hear him taking his breath. And knowing that as he’s about to speak, I’m almost inside of him, knowing exactly what he’s about to say.”
More Problems To Come
And Joyner had plenty more problems with the costume. He also revealed that Barney’s head didn’t swivel or separate from the rest of the body so his vision was always restricted quite significantly. So much so, that when the dinosaur closed his mouth Joyner couldn’t see a thing.
To make matters worse, going to the bathroom wasn’t an easy task either. Joyner recalled one particular incident at a Mardi Gras parade during a 2017 Reddit AMA. “The costume wrangler pushed a Gatorade bottle up the crouch opening of the costume and I had to aim, use, put on the lid, hand it back to her, all while waving and dancing on the float.”
Nothing But Affection
But despite all these drawbacks, Joyner told Business Insider he had nothing but love and fond memories of his time on the show. “Barney was beautiful. Barney was very, very good to me. I loved being Barney. I loved everything about being Barney. But that chapter is gone.”
Joyner has pursued other ventures outside the acting world too. A man of many talents, he is quite spiritual, he a reiki practitioner, an energy healer, and he also performs tantric massage, having studied the practice in different countries.
Life After Barney
Joyner has carried on acting since the show, and has even racked up dozens of film and TV credits. He’s been lucky enough to have recurring roles on The Young and the Restless, ER and According to Him and Her. He’s also guested on 24, House, Shameless, Veep, Southland, Murder in the First and Hart of Dixie.
Cant Escape The Giant Animal Costumes
But Joyner hasn’t entirely given up playing children’s characters. He’s currently the man behind Hip Hop Harry, a breakdancing rapping teddy bear responsible for an after-school program known as Hip Hop Central.
Joyner admits that even in his mid-fifties he’s proud to still be putting on giant animal costumes for a living.