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25 Years Ago, 'Barney' The Dinosaur First Appeared On TV Screens

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Parents, consider this your trigger warning.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BARNEY THEME SONG")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN #1: (Singing) Barney is a dinosaur from our imagination, and when he's tall, he's what we call a dinosaur sensation.

SIEGEL: Kids love him. Parents love to hate him. Twenty-five years ago today, Barney the Dinosaur made his public television debut.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The googly-eyed purple and green T-Rex has been delighting toddlers and terrorizing parents ever since.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BARNEY AND FRIENDS")

BOB WEST: (As Barney, laughter) Oh, hi.

SIEGEL: They can thank or curse one woman - Sheryl Leach. Back in 1987, Leach had a very young son, and she says "Sesame Street" was fine, but...

SHERYL LEACH: "Sesame Street" was designed to appeal to children and adults, and it was very hip and very cool.

SIEGEL: Leach wanted something that was just for toddlers. And one day while stuck in traffic on a Texas freeway, that infamous purple dinosaur came to her.

LEACH: You know, it was sweet, and it was loving, and it was totally made for kids, definitely not hip and cool.

MCEVERS: Maybe not, but Barney was an instant hit with the kids.

SIEGEL: As for the adults, we asked our listeners for some Barney memories, and, well, let's just say there wasn't a lot of love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE YOU")

WEST: (As Barney, singing) I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Barney pretty much is my worst nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I hate Barney, and I did from day one.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: My niece just loved him, but it was torture.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: I was so very grateful not to have young kids during this period.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Barney was the worst thing on TV until the "Teletubbies."

SIEGEL: Those are responses from listeners Greg Abrechtsen, Alice Sievers Rodriquez, Linda Parsel, Renee Robertson and Perry John Marshall all read by NPR staff.

MCEVERS: Not everyone is a hater, though. Listener Julia Cooper had a special needs daughter who would not watch anything until Barney.

JULIA COOPER: And all of a sudden, I thought I might be able to do something again (laughter). I literally cannot imagine how much harder my life would be without that big purple dinosaur.

MCEVERS: The next time you want to hate on Barney, remember; he was made for your kid, not for you.

SIEGEL: However, we have no defense for the "Teletubbies."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE MARCHING SONG")

WEST: (As Barney, singing) Oh, when our band...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN #2: (Singing) Oh, when our band...

WEST: (As Barney, singing) Begins to play...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN #2: (Singing) Begins to play... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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