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Licensing Diary: Barney and Friends

Despite reports to the contrary, Barney is far from extinct. While many adults think Barney is past his prime, the big purple dinosaur still reigns as the preschool ratings champ....
February 1, 1996

Despite reports to the contrary, Barney is far from extinct. While many adults think Barney is past his prime, the big purple dinosaur still reigns as the preschool ratings champ.

At Toy Fair, The Lyons Group, the Texas-based production company that produces and distributes Barney and Friends, will unveil a new, cohesive look to the packaging of Barney products. The company believes that it was a necessary correction in order to build Barney as a brand that parents will recognize as quality.

Although the market may seem glutted with Barney-related products, The Lyons Group has only granted about 40 licenses. The company only develops partnerships with companies interested in creating products appropriate for young children that maintain the integrity of the character.

Sheryl Leach, an ex-teacher and mother of a two-year-old child, created Barney in 1988 because she was dissatisfied with the preschool videos then available on the market. Barney has since grown from a home video success, to a PBS hit, to a cultural icon in just a few short years.

Here’s how Barney became a licensing T-Rex:

- Barney first appears on three videos made in conjunction with The Lyons Group in 1988. A grass-roots marketing campaign aimed at preschools plants the seeds for ‘Barneymania.’

- In 1990, the first Barney plush dolls, produced by Dakin, debuted following overwhelming demand by inquisitive parents. Plush toys had not been part of the original plans for Barney.

- In January 1992, The Lyons Group forms a licensing division after striking a deal with JC Penney, which agrees to open Barney shops in its 1,600 stores nationwide. At Toy Fair they strike several licensing agreements. Hasbro is named the master toy licensee.

- Barney and Friends debuts on PBS stations in April 1992 and quickly becomes the top-rated show for preschoolers.

- 1993 becomes Barney’s ‘Elvis’ year sales explode, Barney becomes a part of the culture. The Lyons Group puts a moratorium on licensing expansion at the height of his popularity to avoid over saturation of the market.

- Barney receives the 1994 ‘License of the Year’ Award from the Licensing Industry Merchandiser’s Association in honor of the sales and demand his products created.

- A Barney attraction opens at Universal Studios, Florida in July 1995; Barney the Balloon debuts in the 1995 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

- At Toy Fair 1996, packaging of Barney products is given a uniform look to buff up the brand image in preparation for new products, including a 25-city theatrical show slated for later in 1996 and an anticipated 1997 ‘Barney’ movie, co-produced by Geffin Films and Warner Bros.

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