Barney’s Night Before Christmas (1999)
Dear Internet, I have a confession to make.
Barney has been knocking around the PBS since 1992 and I’ve never seen a lick of it until last night. Yeah, I knew who the big purple dinosaur was, but that was largely from people making fun of Barney. I’d never watched so much as a minute of a single BARNEY AND FRIENDS episode, and had no idea who B.J. and Baby Bop were. Barney was a stuffed animal that came to life? Hadn’t a clue. The entire world of Barney that filled my head was that seemingly everyone who was anyone thought it completely sucked.
Well, now I’ve watched one whole special and I can say that while I certainly wouldn’t want to make a habit of watching this stuff, as a Christmas special it provides a semi-amusing way to spend an hour when you’re waiting for a better Christmas special to come along.
BARNEY’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is simply an excuse to have people sing Christmas songs. There’s a linking structure here about how Barney and his pals B.J. and Baby Bop help Hannah and her friends set up Christmas decorations around the Morgan household, and then they all go to the North Pole to hang out with Santa and Mrs. Claus, but there’s no real narrative. No one learns a lesson. No one has a character arc. No one gets mad. No one gets disappointed. There’s no bad guy, no conflict, no dramatic tension. It’s just kids sliding from one adventure to the next, always with big smiles on their faces and a willingness to burst into song.
There are worse ways to spend your holiday season (you could watch the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas special, for instance), and while Barney is a big pile of positive goofiness with a voice that lowers your IQ with every syllable he utters, there’s plenty to admire here.
BARNEY’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is bright, colorful, unrelenting positive vision of a childhoold utopia where your toys come to life, your friends are all awesome, you know all the words to all the songs, and your toy dinosaur that comes to life knows Santa Claus personally. You’re parents are kind enough to bring cookies and also stay away long enough for you to play with your pals, and your dino pal is cool enough to bring you to the North Pole to hang with St. Nick in the hours leading up to his Big Night. Instead of being mad or impatient, Santa and Mrs. Claus LOVE having visitors, so they all get along and sing songs together. Even when Hannah realizes she forgot to get Barney a present, the purple dino is okay with it because, “I got to spend the day with people I love.”
I like how imagination is the key to most of the cool parts of the show; while the special presents Barney as actually coming to life and the journey to the North Pole as actually happening, the key to both is the kids’ imagination, and you can certainly interpret most of BARNEY as an ode to imagination. Certainly, Hannah’s parents don’t believe in Barney, but they see the results of his presence, as they’re impressed with how quickly the kids complete all their Christmas chores (decorating, mostly) and they humor the kids about their dino pal, making extra cookies which Barney is only too happy to eat. To get the kids to the North Pole, they simply look at Hannah’s snow globe, shake it, and they’re magically transported to Santa’s place.
BARNEY isn’t for me, but it does contain plenty of songs for kids to sing-a-long with, and that isn’t a bad thing. If BARNEY is a feeder into better specials, then it’s outperformed its job.
Be sure to check out the Holiday Review Index for all the Holiday-themed reviews to be found at Atomic Anxiety.