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Barney tries comeback with Universal

By KAREN SBASCHNIG

NEW YORK, Nov. 10 -- Barney, the purple and green dinosaur some believe is headed for extinction, will make it to the big time this summer with his own theme park at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. The multi-million dollar project, announced Thursday at a news conference in Manhattan, will have a theater, museum, picnic area, and playground for children to romp. 'A Day in the Park with Barney,' say its creators, will be designed to stimulate children, encourage them to participate in sing-alongs and give them a hands-on educational experience. Children and their families will see Barney live in a 357-seat theatre, and walking around the park and picnic area. 'We are thrilled to bring Barney to Universal Studios,' said Thomas Williams, Universal president and COO. 'Barney will entertain and teach children lessons in this multi-sensory living environment.' Sheryl Leach, creator of Barney and executive producer of 'Barney & Friends,' believes that the response from children will be overwhelming when they enter the indoor park, complete with trees and flower and floating clouds. Kelly Lane of the Lyons Group, which produces 'Barney & Friends' for PBS, says Barney's appearances in Universal Studios parades in Florida attracted hundreds of children and their families, proving his popularity. Reports last month indicated the popularity of the character was on the wane, with sales down for licensed products from $130 million last year to $30 million this year. Some analysts said the decline was because too many products were on the market.

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Leach, however, said rumors of Barney's demise are greatly exaggerated. 'I believe that Barney is alive,' she said. 'We have heard that (he is in decline), but we don't see it.' Leach said that $23 million in Barney home videos have been sold and in 1996 Warner Bros. will issue a Barney movie. Leach said she is also thrilled that a Barney balloon will be in New York's Thanksgiving Day Parade later this month. Lane says economic reports belie the dinosaur's extinction. 'In 1993 the merchandise for Barney exploded. It was incredible,' said Lane. 'Now the sales have come down at a steady level. We expected it.' Leach pointed out that Barney is going abroad to South Africa, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Latin America as well. Leach said Barney's show is the number one show for children on PBS but is facing stiff competition from the X--Men and the Power Rangers.

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