Everyone recognises the large purple dinosaur, but not many people know the man inside the costume. David Joyner played Barney for 10 years on TV and in live performances, and dancing around in that huge costume was not very easy.
Here are some fun facts about the formerly unknown actor, his life now that’s he stopped putting on the plush purple suit and what it was like playing one of the most beloved children’s characters of all time:
Being Barney was never an accident. I was supposed to do this character.
Hi I’m David Joyner. I played Barney from 1991 until 2001.
After I got my degree in electronic engineering technology, I worked for Texas Instruments for six years as a software analyst. Before I was Barney, I was a live mannequin. I would move mechanically. And people would literally bring their children, set them on the mall floor, and go shop.
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.
There’s a lot of psychic energy in my family, and there’s a lot of clairvoyance. And a lot of times, with me, if I’m trying to figure out a situation, I’ll dream about it.
Well the night before the audition, I had this dream. And in this dream, Barney passes out. And I have to give Barney mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. So on the way to the audition, I’m sitting at a stoplight, and something says “Look up.” So I look up, and there’s this billboard. It says “Breathe life into your vacation — Southwest Airlines.” And then it hits me. I had to breathe life into Barney in my dream. If I go into this audition and breathe life into this character, I’m going on vacation. And that’s exactly what I did.
So, of course, they called me and asked if I would be Barney. And I said, “Of course.” I pretty much already knew that I was going to be Barney. But it was great getting that phone call.
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. And then also, Barney’s feet were huge. Now I did have some sneakers inside that were glued to the bottom of the feet.
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. So what I would literally do is I would walk around my apartment as if I was blind. I would close my eyes, and I would try to feel energy. And try to feel the energy of anything that was around me. And then try to pick things up.
Sometimes, when they took a break, I put a fan in the mouth, I’d sit down on an Apple box, and I’d put my hand on my knees, and I would just close my eyes. So I would literally meditate.
When I was 19, I started studying Tantra. And a lot of times when people think about Tantra they think it’s all about sex. Well Tantra’s much more than that. Because Tantra deals with loving energy, life force energy, and energy that rises through your system.
Now, it’s no accident that I’ve been spreading “I love you” all around the world.
Now a lot of times you hear those words, and some people like, “Oh my god, that song,” and I’m like, “No, no, no” listen to it. I love you, you love me. We’re a happy family. So now, we’re now gathered together in this beautiful harmonious thing that’s happening. So it’s a beautiful thing to know how that song has impacted pretty much this next generation.
The voice of Barney was a gentleman named Bob West. We would do what we call “dinosync.” 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.
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.
After doing Barney for 10 years, I decided, “Ok, it’s time to make that move to Los Angeles.” And if I don’t make the move now, then I’ll probably never make that move.
I was on “Shameless.” “That ’70s Show.” “ER.” A SWAT agent on “24.” I was an attorney on “The Young and the Restless.”
So “Hip Hop Harry” is what I’m doing now. “Hip Hop Harry” is a cool, hip-hop rapping, break dancing teddy bear that runs an after-school center called Hip Hop Central.
And our ratings are starting to grow. I’m 53 years old. And I am not ashamed to admit that I am 53 years old, still playing in costumes.
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.