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JOE TOURIST - A Day In The Park With Barney

A brave review of the USF show featuring the popular children's character. Does it succeed in its delivery?

Written by Joe Lane
Published: July 20, 2004 at 9:28 AM

A Word Aside:
I started writing for Theme Park Insider about a year ago. Robert asked if I'd be interested in publishing reviews and reports on a regular basis and I jumped at the opportunity, not just due to my love of theme parks, but also in part because of my joy in writing. This has granted me many opportunities to meet people and see things I could have only imagined doing a year ago.

Most of you may have noticed that I haven't been posting articles on a regular basis. I can only attribute this to an overabundance of classes and work--both of which have hampered my theme park visits rather significantly. Classes have ended for the time being, so I'm hoping to bring my theme park reports back and rolling strong, at least until the fall semester kicks in.

JOE TOURIST – A Day In The Park With Barney
Put It Off As Long As I Could

Being an attraction and show reviewer, it means you have to ride rides or see shows that your normally wouldn't care to ride or see. That's why I was a little apprehensive about reviewing A Day In The Park With Barney, but I put my dread aside and decided it was necessary to brave the dangers to bring an informative review, which can be summed up quite easily: if you like Barney, you'll like the show. If not, then it's not worth your interest.

The queue empties into a covered pre-show area that looks upon an odd-looking house facade, covered in pipes, knobs and doors. It's home to a unique character, Mr. Peek-A-Boo (whose nickname just happens to be the same as his favorite game). There's a small song and some cute gags before we're led into the main show building.

Inside? It's a fake park, but it's done in a very convincing manner and it's also air conditioned! A lot of special effects have been added to the room to change the setting from a sunny day to a starry night, and leaves and snow fall from the ceiling at certain points of the show. There's an elevated, circular stage in the center where Barney, Baby-Bop and B.J. sing and dance.

Barney marches to the ever-popular "Barney Theme Song", dances to a number of different popular tunes, some old and some new, before wrapping up with the traditional "I Love You" song. After the show, guests exit out into Barney's Backyard, an indoor activity center for the little tykes, where they can also get their picture taken, if but briefly, with Barney himself.

Seeing A Day In The Park With Barney is like going to the dentist and leaving with a good report. Your inclination is likely to loathe the show altogether, but once it's over, you discover it wasn't as bad as you expected it to be. Unless, of course, you simply don't like going to the dentist (read Barney), in which case you just won't enjoy yourself.

The show is clearly geared towards little ones with a love for the big purple dinosaur, but even the most adoring Barney fan could become confused by the events and start to cry. The good news is there are Park Rangers (Universal employees) stationed around the room, so if your little one is demanding in their own special way that they want to leave, the Rangers will direct you to the exit. Word of caution, there is a brief moment at the beginning of the show, right before Barney appears, where the room gets dark, so little ones afraid of the dark might not favor the beginning.

I think one of the better points of the show is the absence of the school children. Their overly sunny, Ritalin-enhanced dispositions from the TV show are missing, allowing even the oldest of us to take the giant purple dinosaur seriously. I must say, the people who perform are either very patient or very much into what they're doing, and I tip my hat to the folks who work this attraction. Whether you like him or not, Barney is adored by children, and it's nice to have something to give to the toddlers.

There are more easily entertaining shows for older audiences, so on a TPI scale of 0-10, I give Barney a 6-Fair overall, but for the toddler audience, Barney easily garners a 10-Perfection for delivering exactly what the kids want.

If you have any questions or comments about A Day In The Park With Barney or any other central Florida attractions, don't hesitate to send a message my way and I'll do my best to keep you informed. Until next time, folks, keep on ridin'.

Readers' Opinions

From Jeff Arons on July 20, 2004 at 3:49 PM
Anything with Barney, my eyes are closed. What's so educational about it? In the videos, you like see 6 year olds there, and at the end of the videos, it shows like 1 year olds watching! I only know that because I've been to someone's house while their 3 year old son was watching Barney.
From Robert Niles on July 20, 2004 at 6:15 PM
Okay, Joe's raised the subject, so I'll chime in.

For young toddlers, and I mean kids under age three, Universal's Barney show and playground are simply the best theme park attractions anywhere. Barney's education value lies in exposing children to music, and encouraging them to sing, dance and play along. Children need to master basic listening and motor skills before they master intellectual lessons, and Barney delights many babies and toddlers with friendly, colorful images, lively songs and easy-to-imitate movement.

My biggest problem with Barney -- the TV show -- is, as Joe alluded to, the kids. I understand the value of having an audience surrogate on the show, but someone's overdirecting these kids. They're waaaaaay too slick. Which defeats their purpose, because normal kids can't identify with them as easily as they could a less stage-seasoned performer.

But Universal's production solves that problem by eliminating the kids, which are not needed as a surrogate because the kids watching are already there, live, in person. Let your kids get up and dance to Barney's songs, then sit back and drink in the frenzy of unadulterated joy around you in the room.

After the show, line up along the X-shaped stage for a quick shake of Barney's paw, then head into the Barney's Backyard play area, indoor, in the air conditioning, and with several interactive play areas that your kids can burn off their post-Barney adrenaline rush, all while developing some aural, visual or fine-motor skills.

Universal Studios Florida, once fairly derided as a kid-unfriendly destination, hit the ball out of the park with this combination. No, adults without toddlers ought not visit this show. But they have the whole rest of the park, indeed, all of Orlando, for their amusement.

I really wish that bitter teens wanting to show their alleged "maturity" and childless adults wanting to look hip, or something, would quit rating down this show. Leave it for people who've been there to rate it. And this parent proudly gave Barney's show and playground two of the very few 10s he's given anything on this site.

From Jeff Arons on July 20, 2004 at 6:28 PM
Hey, I have my rights to diss Barney. Tell me: what's educational about a fat dinosaur that tells kids (rather gayly) that he loves them and wants to give them a kiss? These "kid shows" such as Barney and "Boobah" aren't really that educational.
From Derek Potter on July 20, 2004 at 6:45 PM
I'm sure that most on this site want to kill Barney. It reminds me of a scene in Airplane! when people are lining up with deadly weapons to tell the panicked girl to "get ahold of herself"

Let's face it, we all dislike Barney on some level. As somebody said on I Love The 90's, Barney is crack for kids, and the show is not quite of the educational variety. It does have it's value, and if a park can create a decent show around Barney without being too annoying, then I say good for them...as long as it's short. I don't think that I can sit through it for too long. Hopefully when my month old daughter gets a little older, all of this Barney crap will be gone.

From Robert OGrosky on July 20, 2004 at 9:15 PM
I have (sadly) had to site thru the Barney show several times and it is AWFUL!!!!! While kids do enjoy it till they know better, it isnt educational. And while the play arfea is ok it is no betgter than the old Journey into your imagination area or the honey i shrunk the kids area where my kids spent more time playing in. With my youngestchild now 7yrs old i hope i dont have to endure it ever again!!!
From Joe Lane on July 20, 2004 at 11:52 PM
I'm no Barney fan either, but I'm also not the target audience. If you can't understand the Barney concept from a toddlers point-of-view then of course you'll find the whole thing repulsive.

The education behind Barney comes from the lessons taught in the shows and songs--imagination and creativity, manners and good behavior, movement, love, emotions and relationships and early learning skills, all very short and simplistic in design. A song about playing pretend, the seasons of the year, or loving one another may seem like goofy mush, but it's instilling ideas and concepts in young, impressionable minds. Cliche, yes, but truth. Anybody who's actually looked at Barney beyond watching satire probably would've gotten this to begin with.

From Kevin Baxter on July 21, 2004 at 3:21 AM
I enjoy the fact that people think the only things kids can learn are facts. Barney's simple songs help with memorization and they often do teach kids how to behave properly.

That said, GAWD I hate Barney. Actually I don't much feel anything for Barney himself, but that Baby Bop and that other freak (what's his damn name?) are atrocious. And those kids! I have always said these are the kids who were picked up after being rejected for Saved by the Bell: The Elementary Years. Gag!

Still, last time I checked there were THREE rating systems, one each for adults, kids and toddlers. So if adults have seen the show and they think it sucks, shouldn't that be reflected? As it stands, with its unrealistic 8, many adults using this site for vacation planning might mistake this show as something they might enjoy. If people are zeroing it up, then fine, those should be deleted. But 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s could be realistic reviews.

From Kenny Hitt on July 21, 2004 at 10:21 AM
Joe, if and when I get back to Orlando, I owe you dinner and drinks at the Ale House.

Thanks for taking one for the team, brother.

From Jeff Arons on July 21, 2004 at 1:15 PM
If I was still a kid, I wouldn't be one of those kids on Barney for a million bucks. Suuuuuuure, they like doing that. Zach had someone in his class who is acting in a Barney video (coming out 2/05), and she was interviewed. She said that she liked playing in the Barney video, but she told Zach that it was the "worst goddamn *BEEP* *BEEP* thing ever? What the *BEEP* did I *BEEP* get myself into? That *BEEP* gay *BEEP*, fat *BEEP* Barney..." if anyone has seen that commercial with Venus Williams "if it hits a shadow, it's out!" that girl is pictured a couple times.
From Robert Niles on July 21, 2004 at 2:02 PM
Who here who has posted on this thread has kids? What are their ages? If they are under 15, did they ever watch Barney? If so, what did *they* think at they time?

Thanks in advance....

From Joe Lane on July 21, 2004 at 6:29 PM
Who's Zach?

And Kenny, I'll hold ya to that dinner and drinks, although I admit I could've used the drink BEFORE going to the attraction. Where's the Reverend Jack Daniel when you need him?

Face it folks, it could've been worse...

... they could've made a Teletubbies show...

From Kevin Baxter on July 22, 2004 at 1:09 AM
Scarily enough, I kinda like the Teletubbies. I'm not sure about a stage show, but the show is a bit hypnotic. Now if they produced a certain other toddler show -Blue's Clues - I have to admit I would totally try that out. Anytime that thing is on the televisions at Target, I can't tear myself away.
From Jeff Arons on July 22, 2004 at 5:19 AM
Zach is my 11 year old cousin who lives next door to me. It is a small world.
From Kenny Hitt on July 22, 2004 at 10:22 AM
JOE, GOOD LORD BE QUIET MAN!

They might hear you...and you might give them IDEAS.

From Jeff Arons on July 22, 2004 at 1:38 PM
A Teletubbies show...the only thing worse than that would be a "Boobah" show. What the hell is the point of that show? A bunch of kids shouting "Boobah" and jumping up and down for like, 5 minutes.
From Ben Mills on July 23, 2004 at 2:06 PM
See, you Americans just don't "get" Boobah. Just like you didn't "get" The Office, so you had to go and make your own version. And how did that turn out? IT SUCKED, DIDN'T IT!?! I guess we Brits just understand the deep artistic vision of Boobah. It's not supposed to be taken at face value like your average Jean Claude flick. You've got to luxuriate in it and be prepared to get emotionally attatched to the characters. It's like one long dream sequence from a kid's perspective, and it's the sort of show where the main focus isn't crappy pop songs, talking animals or homosexual presenters; it's about how far we can take simplicity and still keep it entertaining. A bunch of colourful, furry lightbulbs dancing around and falling over while a guy called Mr Man walks down a never ending street? IT'S FUNNY STUFF, PEOPLE! You've just gotta open your mind and be prepared to see these things. Yeah, there are no explosions, car chases, cartoon sections or crappy pantomimish jokes, but that doesn't make it any worse as a kids program. It's teaching children the simple joy of appreciating something so wierd and different, but beautiful at the same time. Yes, laugh till your heart's content, and giggle when the Boobah run into each other for the tenth time that episode. But stop and admire the perfect colour usage in every single shot. If you take the time to study it as you might a Picasso, it really is quite beautiful. It compliments the humour perfectly, which is what you Americans just don't seem to get. The human characters are not called things such as Mr. Man, Mrs. Lady, Auntie, Sister, and Brother to be insulting to childrens intelligence. Quite the opposite. Ever heard the expression "less is more"? At the end of the day, it works. My cat is called "Cat". Did I call her that because I'm stupid and couldn't think of any so-called "proper" names? No. I did it because the cat is a cat. How many times have you walked down the road and heard some idiot on the street call out "Fuzzums!" or "Little Miss Snowy!" or some crap like that? They just sound like idiots, right? So why not call a cat "cat"? Or a man "Mr. Man"? It's the perfect antidote to all the over whimsy crap that's poured onto our screens by executives who use the same formula over and over. Just like in sitcoms. Actually, it works in pretty much all genres of American tv - someone explain to me why Firefly or Wonderfalls deserved to get cancelled? - but particularly well in sitcoms. Anyone who watches Everybody Loves Raymond has absolutely zero right to say that Boobah insults the intelligence. Was Dudley Do-Right's horse called "Horse" to insult the readers/watchers attention? NO! IT WAS FUNNY! Why should Boobah be any different? It shouldn't. Yes, they don't say a lot. But have you actually thought about how relaxing it is? It calms children down like a bottle of horse tranquilisers. Not like Teletubbies, which just seeks to irritate the whole friggin' world. The Boobah are inoffensive, stupid and clumsily funny. Since when has that ever stopped anyone being successful as a tv presenter? So next time you see Boobah is on, just stop and watch the whole episode. Really try to appreciate it. Of course it's stupid if you only watch a couple of minutes. The same goes with a lot of shows. The art comes when you watch it as you might watch a foreign art film. It's classy. It's funny. It's all about the surrealism and simplicity. Remember, cubism had it's critics for being too simplistic. Try to see the connection and approach Boobah as it needs to be. You'll find it's worth it in the long run.
From Kevin Baxter on July 24, 2004 at 9:51 PM
Wow, nice rant, Ben. And thanks for reminding me Wonderfalls got cancelled! And how lame American viewers typically are. But not always. Number One now has been CSI which IS a spectacular show.
From Christian Nicely on August 4, 2004 at 1:50 PM
I must admit that when I was 5 years old I watched Barney. That is so old news. I think its crap. I agree with Joe here that Barney is here for the little kids to enjoy. The bathrooms there are kind of embarrasing to me though.
From nick quijano on August 3, 2005 at 10:09 AM
Wait hold on a second there pal. What the hell are you ranting about? First of all, boobah is in no way, shape, or form art. Period. The going rate on art is 3 colorful fat retarded mute aliens or whatever they are, and the last time i checked Boobah has five. This doesn't have anything to do with being american or european, it's not like being european unlocks all the mysteries in life. Or do you brits or french have some unknown power to sense the truly beautiful things in life that we americans missed out on. You know what? BOOBAH ISN'T ART. I watched it for 10 minutes and my face nearly exploded from disgust. First the fat little annoying men took turns falling down and farting, and then some girl called them to their little pods for sleeping by going Boooooobahhhhh in a british accent seven or eight times. And then, after they all settled in, they flew off in a little ball and granted children the power to roll around on the floor, which they did for five or ten minutes at a time. Seriously. They just rolled around on the floor. Sometimes the children giggled, but it may just have been from fear of what the Boobah's (I assume that's what the fat guys are called) would do to them if they stopped. Please, take your crap about Children's entertainment being art elsewhere. And yes, I once liked Barney, but I once also ate Power Rangers Ice Cream pops, played Dinosaurs with my friends (I always wanted to be the T-Rex) and did summersaults in my spare time, so really, watching Barney wasn't that bad. Rant Complete.
From Diana Weiss on August 22, 2005 at 3:14 PM
Ben, I think you need some help like from a Dr. or something. First of all, I have 3 young children. I have watched several BooBah episodes with them. I think the part about Mr. Man etc. is cute and interesting but the rest of the show is crap. After a while, the kids didn't watch because, as my 6 year old at the time says, "that is wierd and dumb!" My 2 year old thought is was cool for around 5 minutes and forgot about it. I really wanted to give it a chance so I put it on whenever it was on but they truly thought it was not for them. I thought it was completely stupid! What did the kids learn? Nothing! Simplicity.... they can go play in the park or color or sit outside on a cool afternoon and drink lemonade if they wanted simplicity. When I let them watch TV (which isn't often) I want it to be something worth watching, something positive and educational, something funny and exciting, not dumb wierd aliens who really don't do much of anything. I like the colors and the fuzziness but a show needs more than that to keep a childs interest. I never allow MY children to watch anthing with violance the way you seem to think All us Americans do! So chill on your cutdowns. When I go to an Amusement park (isn't that why we are on this website) there are people from all over the world and I think we all get along and there is now need for cutedowns towards any country. Anyway, as far as Barney goes, I liked the show. I have seen it many times and I think it is strickly for small children! Cute, short, to the point. My 2 year old loves it and enjoyed the EDUCATIONAL songs they sang. The bathrooms are also for the kids. When we go to US we always take the kids to those bathrooms if we can. Have you ever tried to clean a small childs hands while holding on to an infant. It is hard I will tell you. That bathroom is so kid friendly I love it!

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