TYRANNOSAURUS REX MIGHT STILL BE roaming the earth had he shared the evolutionary advantage enjoyed by Harney the Dinosaur: ratings. In April the 6' tall purple reptile faced extinction when a financially strapped PBS announced it wasn't renewing barney & Friends, a program for preschoolers taped in Allen, Tex. Executives at public-TV stations nationwide protested, pointing to Barney's loyal viewership. (Watched by 80 percent of the 2-to-5 set in some markets, the show receives 10,000 fan letters a week.) In August the goofy character, who first appeared opposite; Sandy Duncan in the 1988 video Barney & the Backyard Gang (nine more videos followed, with over 2.3 million sold), was granted a reprieve. With a $1.75 million grant to the producers, PBS ordered 20 more episodes.
That's especially good news to David Joyner, the man inside the 30-pound Barney costume since April 1991. "I love being Barney," says the Dallas bachelor, 29, who's the third actor to play the part. A distant cousin of Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Dallas-Chicago disc; jockey Tom Joyner, David says he "wanted the character to be movable, athletic. So I went into training—running and lilting weights." If all that movement leaves Joyner breathless, not to worry. Barney's voice is provided by Bob West, who says, "Some of the things David does—like hip-hop dances and spins—have really improved the character."
Ironically, Joyner, a former Methodist-Episcopal choirboy from Decatur, Ill., got his show-business start standing still. While working as a software analyst for Texas Instruments in Dallas, he persuaded local boutique owners to hire him as a "freeze model" for their windows. But he's more at home being a dinosaur. "When I put on that costume," Joyner says, "I become Barney. And inside there—sweating—I'm just a big kid myself."
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