Get Out and Black Panther star Daniel Kaluuya and his production company, 59%, are set to co-produce a new movie based on the iconic purple dinosaur, Barney. Kaluuya and his partners at 59% are developing the film with Valparaiso Pictures and Mattel Films.
The announcement came with few details about the movie, although Mattel Films’ Robbie Brenner said, “Working with Daniel Kaluuya will enable us to take a completely new approach to Barney that will surprise audiences and subvert expectations. The project will speak to the nostalgia of the brand in a way that will resonate with adults, while entertaining today’s kids.”
Created by Sheryl Leach, Barney debuted in a series of direct-to-video tapes titled Barney & the Backyard Gang in 1988. In 1992, PBS picked up the character and launched a new show, Barney & Friends, that ran for 17 years, with production on new episodes finally wrapping in 2009.
In a statement, Kaluuya spoke to his own relationship with Barney, while also touching on the surprising amount of ire the beloved children’s TV character invoked. “Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood,” Kaluuya said. “We’re excited to explore this compelling modern-day hero and see if his message of ‘I love you, you love me’ can stand the test of time.”
While Barney was a massive hit with children and generally praised for its educational value, its unrelenting sweetness unsurprisingly led to backlash of sorts among adults sick of hearing the “I Love You” theme song. In the late-Nineties, the San Diego Chicken mascot, played by Ted Giannoulas, launched a bit where he danced with, and then beat up, a Barney-esque dinosaur (PBS tried to sue him, but lost on the grounds of parody). And in 2008, it was revealed that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay regularly blasted “I Love You” to torture prisoners.
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The new Barney movie marks the eighth live-action movie Mattel Films has announced since the toy manufacturer launched their studio last year. And it’s not even the only Mattel project to have a prestige Hollywood figure like Kaluuya attached to it; In July, it was reported that Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach were set to co-write a new Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie.