The first look at Mattel's new take on Barney the...

The first look at Mattel's new take on Barney the dinosaur. Credit: Business Wire via AP

The big purple dinosaur is not extinct after all, as Mattel on Monday announced it was relaunching the children's-TV franchise starring Barney, the friendly, human-size 'saur.

Originally a DIY project by co-creator Sheryl Leach in the late 1980s, and sold independently on VHS tapes, the music-and-learning program for preschoolers got picked up by public television in 1992. Simple, basic, colorful, with little in the way of Muppet-like expressiveness or content an adult could also enjoy, the show ''Barney and Friends'' nonetheless exploded in popularity. Current, a nonprofit news magazine covering public media, reported in 1995 that the show's licensed products, from plush dolls to play sets, grossed more than $500 million in 1993.

Following a later lull in the franchise's popularity, the U.K. company Hit Entertainment in 2001 purchased Barney's Lyrick Studios for $275 million, and began broadcasting the first new episodes in 2½ years. A 70-city nationwide stage tour supported new toys by Fisher-Price. Mattel, in turn, acquired Hit Entertainment 10 years later, and has periodically tried to revive Barney — most recently in 2019, with an announced theatrical feature from Mattel Films and a production company headed by "Get Out" and "Black Panther" star Daniel Kaluuya.

This new relaunch will be anchored by an animated TV series, Mattel said, rather than the live-action format of the original show's roughly 250 episodes. Scheduled to debut globally next year, it is set to spin off film and YouTube content, music, toys, books, clothing and other merchandise. The series will be co-produced by Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana, a prominent longtime producer and distributor of children’s animated and live-action content, together with Mattel Television.

“Barney’s message of love and kindness has stood the test of time,” said Mattel executive Josh Silverman in a statement. “We will tap into the nostalgia of the generations who grew up with Barney, now parents themselves, and introduce the iconic purple dinosaur to a new generation of kids and families around the world across content, products, and experiences.”

Added Mattel Television's Fred Soulie, “In creating the new series, it was important to us that we properly reflect the world that kids today live in so that the series can deliver meaningful lessons about navigating it,” adding, “With our modern take on Barney, we hope to inspire the next generation to listen, care, and dream big. We think that parents, many of whom will fondly remember the original Barney from their own childhoods, will love the show, too.”

A 2022 Peacock documentary, "I Love You, You Hate Me," examined the sometimes extreme antipathy many adults and some children felt toward the blandly cheery dinosaur and his puppet and costumed cohorts.

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