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Barney the Dinosaur is getting a new movie. But is America ready?

Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya will co-produce Mattel’s plunge into a dark purple abyss from which there is no escape.

Barney the Dinosaur, wearing a patriotic hat and waving an American flag, leads a group of children in a song and dance.
Barney the Dinosaur will soon be back to spread his dire message of love and kindness.
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Barney the Dinosaur, the giant purple nightmare from our childhoods, has found his way into our current hellscape — because if there’s anything we as a species deserve right now, it’s remixes of “I Love You, You Love Me” earwormed in our heads as the world burns.

Mattel Films, the cinematic division of the toy company, has announced a partnership with Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya’s production company, as well as development firm Valparaiso Pictures, to bring the character to the big screen. The team will adapt Barney & Friends, the iconic kids show starring the oversized puppet dinosaur. Although the show, whose concept was “kids dance and sing with a large purple dinosaur,” was frequently the subject of widespread popular bafflement and ridicule, it was also a huge hit, running from 1992 to 2009. It spawned a 1998 theatrical movie, Barney’s Great Adventure, which — alas — was panned by everyone.

“We can’t wait to get ‘I love you, you love me’ stuck in heads everywhere, yet again,” David Carrico, Valparaiso’s founder, said in a press statement, in what has to be one of the most sadistic promises ever foisted upon an innocent populace.

Following the success of other toy-based feature films like The LEGO Movie, Mattel has already committed to developing films for some of its own properties, like Barbie and Hot Wheels. The company is now betting that the world is ready for a return of the friendly T-rex — and yes, you heard that right.

Barney was really a Tyrannosaurus rex, a carnivorous predator hiding his true nature behind a mask of benign child’s play. David Joyner, the puppeteer who braved the dark abyss inside the Barney costume for a decade, described what being Barney was really like to Business Insider:

Being inside this costume is pretty cool. Now Barney is about 70 pounds, and it can get over 120 degrees inside. So inside you’re sweating profusely. It’s a T-rex, so you’re basically just up to your elbows in being able to move ... The head doesn’t come off. The head doesn’t swivel. There’s no facial expressions that can be made. I can only see a certain amount, because of the peripheral of Barney’s mouth. And when Barney’s mouth is closed, I can’t see anything.

If you’re the kind of person who reads this description and thinks, “Oh, yeah, that does sound pretty cool!” then it’s possible you’re the ideal audience for the new Barney movie. (It’s perhaps worth noting that Joyner is now a tantric sex instructor, so clearly he finds a special enjoyment in getting into interesting positions.)

If you, like me, are the sort who thinks this synopsis sounds like the bottom circle of hell, then join me in envisioning what the Barney movie should really be like. First, here’s how Kaluuya described the friendly dino in a press statement: “Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood.”

That’s certainly one way to frame a character so maligned that the loathing he generated has its own Wikipedia entry. But what if Barney, newly self-aware and cognizant of his controversial place within pop culture, came back ... with a vengeance?

Picture it: Razor-sharp T-rex teeth and claws bared, Barney, no love in his heart, stalks the children of the world while an eerie, ominously slow piano cover of “I Love You” plays in the background.

“I loved you ... but did you really love me?” a tormented Barney thinks as he reckons with the detritus of his pop culture legacy. Will Barney try once more to earn our love? Or will he leave us to our heartless fates, content to revert to his true man-eating nature as all before him flee?

Clearly this is the real Barney — the one whose nihilistic plunge into timely existential despair reflects our own social upheaval. Gone are the days when we could unironically sing about universal love and harmony. Bring on Barney & Frenemies — the dinosaur movie we deserve.

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