Original Voice Actor Bob West Weighs In On The Controversial New Look Of Barney

Benjamin Imiewanlan
Bob West
other | Wikipedia

Popular 90s voice-over artist, Bob West, gives an opinion on the new look to the rebooted Barney & Friends children's TV show. West shares a positive view of the upcoming franchise despite the controversies surrounding the show's past and the backlash of the new redesign.

Possible Return In Sight

Getty | Bob Riha Jr

Bob West, the original voice actor for Barney & Friends on PBS from 1992 to 2000, says he will be willing to return as the iconic voice for the purple dinosaur. With the new Barney set in motion, West confirms he likes the idea of reviving the show and the initial "first look" into what it would feel like.

Making A Comeback With A Redesign

New Barney Design
Mattel | Mattel

In light of the new Barney in production, a new design for the purple dinosaur has been released by Mattel, and it has captured the taste of Bob West. In his words, "I really have to say I really like the art for the character. It looks really different, Barney looks really different, but it's pretty cute, so we'll see what happens."

Further adding, "One side of it is tradition and keeping things the same, and never changing anything, and the other side is bringing things up to date and making them really fit in with the zeitgeist, the current culture. I think that their design kind of does that."

Internet Doesn't Share Bob's Feelings

While there has been nothing but positive feedback from Bob West on the upcoming Barney and its redesign, social media doesn't share similar ideas with the voice actor. Many critics feel the change isn't necessary, while others seem to have a problem with the new eyes of the purple dinosaur — tagging it as weird-looking.

About His Exit

During West's time as the voice actor for the character, there were ups and downs, but his reason for departure in 2000 wasn't due to any controversy surrounding the production and team members.

According to West, he retired from the show due to "boredom." However, in 2005 during the PBS Kids Sprout event, Bob West reprised the role for a short time due to the voice actor at the time, Dean Wendt, being unavailable.

Now The Wait on Mattel

Speaking on his possible return as the voice for the new Barney, West revealed he has yet to be contacted by Mattel and hopes to get that call from them.

In his words speaking with TMZ, he said, "I have not been contacted by the production, and I have to say I would love to talk to them about it." West further explains, "You know, they're pretty far into the process, they may have already cast, but I'd love to talk to them about it, see what they have in mind."

A Whole Year of Wait

Although Mattel has stated a return of the purple dinosaur to today's kids' TVs, fans of the show might have to wait a little longer for the show. According to Mattel, the new Barney isn't going to make its debut until 2024 — about a year from now.

Daniel Kaluuya Shows Interest

Daniel Kaluuya
other | IMDb

As a fan of the old children's TV show, Black Panther star Daniel Kaluuya expressed interest in participating in a live-action adaptation of the purple dinosaur.

Working alongside Mattel in the production of the new Barney, Kaluuya had this to say, "Barney taught us, 'I love you, you love me. Won't you say you love me too?' That's one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn't true? I thought that was really heartbreaking."

Why Barney & Friends Came To An End

other | Marianne Garvey

Despite being popular in the 90s and early 2000s, Barney & Friends ended due to a pile of lawsuits filed by the markers of the program because violent videos involving the show began to surface. At the time, a website, Dustyfeet, began advocating the end of the purple dinosaur by any means.

Origin of Barney & Friends

Sheryl Leach, the creator of Barney in 1988, created the iconic purple dinosaur as a way to keep her toddler, Patrick, occupied. Initially, the first few programs were tapes made on a low budget and marketed by local housewives to daycares and preschools. Once the show premiered on PBS in 1992, it became an instant success, and what followed next were live performances and merchandise.

Little Beginnings

Still, as a small and growing program, Sheryl needed extra funding to actualize her dreams. At that moment, she pitched her idea to her father-in-law, who gave her resources for the show. The original concept was of different toys before finally settling on a dinosaur. 

However, Andrew Olsen, the coordinator of the Barney History Fans website, said: "Sheryl knew if this was going to work, there could be no sharp teeth, no claws, no spikes, no talons."

The Bob West And David Joyner Magic

Bob West and David Joyner with Barney
reddit | Barney & Friends

Although the show started in the 80s, the fan love for Barney & Friends peaked in the 90s after David Joyner joined. Bob West was the voice for Barney, coming up with the character's popular giggly and goofy voice. At the same time, Joyner transformed the dull dinosaur into an explosive act with leaps, high kicks, twists, and turns that kids loved.

Unpredictably Famous

When Sheryl Leach created the program in her local town in Texas, it was only for a moment to keep her child occupied. Lori Wendt, a source from their family, commented, "Sheryl used to say, 'Barney is my child.' She could have never predicted what was going to happen next."

Sheryl's Detachment

Sheryl Leach
TheCinemaholic | Barney

As the purple dinosaur grew into a global sensation and started requiring more attention from Sheryl, her focus began to waver — affecting her marriage. Due to the show's rising popularity and increased revenue, she became the home's breadwinner, causing her husband, Jim, to become a stay-at-home dad.

Patrick Vs. Barney

Soon after, Patrick started having a love-hate, sibling-type relationship with the program Barney & Friends. From his end, it didn't just feel like a show since his mother was the creator and treated Barney like her other child. 

Failed Marriage Set In

As Sheryl's detachment from her family and husband grew, Jim struggled with keeping a job and being a father. He became a sit-at-home father to care for Patrick, leading to the bouts of depression that followed. Not long after, the couple divorced in 2001, and Jim committed suicide in the following three years.

The Controversial Downfall

Barney and Friends
other | Dan Clarendon

A lot of controversies surrounded the production of Barney & Friends at the time. One of them was the allegation of the actor hiding drugs in the dinosaur's tail and taking lines of coke between takes. Then, there was the David Joyner case of running a Tantric sex business. After that, however, some parents started resenting the program, as it always depicted happy and over-joyous feelings.

Threats Uprising

While Bob West remained as the voice of Barney amidst the controversies and clamoring for the end of the program, towards his final days, he recounted that he received loads of threats. 

Speaking on the threats, he said, "They were very explicit and very violent." He also stated, "There was one email that asked: 'Are you the Barney that I stabbed and shot outside New Orleans?' They went on to say that they were going to come find me and kill me."

The Barney Fan Club

Amidst all the controversies and dislike for redesigning Barney, fans that want the show to return remain. According to West, he states that many adult fans have tried passing the Barney & Friends show to their children but they only have grainy VHS tapes. And rebooting the show would give such fans the Barney they want.

The Uncertain Future

Now that Daniel Kaluuya has signaled interest alongside the original voice actor, Bob West, things could look promising for the return of Barney. While negative speculations still exist, many would be hoping for a return of the West to ease the transition into the new design.