- “Howdy, folks! Welcome to the one and only original Country Bear Jamboree, featuring a bit of Americana, our musical heritage of the past. But enough of this chit-chat, yak-yak and flim-flam. Just refrain from hibernating and we'll all enjoy the show, because we've got a lot to give.”
This attraction houses about 20 audio-animatronic bears singing country-and-western songs.
Country Bear Jamboree is one of the very last attractions that Walt Disney personally helped develop. Originally planned for a never-built Disney ski resort in Mineral King, the Country Bear Jamboree opened with Walt Disney World in 1971 and was duplicated at Disneyland a year later. Tokyo Disneyland received their version in 1983.
The Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland versions have had 2 identical theaters that played the same show.
The origin of the Country Bears goes back to a never-realized Disney project in the 1960s—a ski-resort in Mineral King Valley (now part of Sequoia National Park).
In addition to the standard skiing activities, Walt Disney wanted his ski resort to include some entertainment for the guests. One idea that came up was a musical variety show put on by the local ursine wildlife—that project was assigned to Marc Davis.
Davis, together with Al Bertino, came up with many bear musical groups, including bear marching bands, bear mariachi bands, and Dixieland bears. One day, when Davis was working on drawings of the show's characters in his office, Walt walked in and saw the drawings and laughed because he loved the characters. On Disney's way out, he turned to Davis and said "Good-bye," which he was known never to say. A few days later, Walt died on December 15, 1966. It was the last time Davis saw Disney.
After Walt's death, plans for the show still carried on. The bears would be featured in the ski resort's Bear Band Restaurant Show and it was decided that they would have a country twang, but when environmental concerns blocked the development of the Mineral King area, now part of Sequoia National Park, the bear show was shelved along with the ski resort.
While the plans for Walt Disney World were being developed, the bear show concept was revived and the Country Bear Jamboree was born as one of the opening day attractions at the Magic Kingdom. It received so much positive feedback that the Imagineers immediately planned to create a replica of the show to be placed in Disneyland.
In 1972, the Indian Village in Disneyland's Frontierland was demolished to make way for a new land called Bear Country, which housed a duplicate version of the Country Bear Jamboree. Due to the tremendous popularity of the show in Florida, extra capacity was added to the California incarnation in the form of two identical theaters, each housing a copy of the show in its entirety. However, it was never as popular in California as it was in Florida, leading to management wanting a new attraction. Imagineers hoping to save the Country Bear characters would propose the Critter Country 500, a racing dark ride starring the bears, but this would be rejected. In 2001, the attraction was closed and its show building was repurposed to house The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Tokyo Disneyland received its version of the attraction in 1983.
On August 22, 2012, the show in Florida closed for a nearly two-month refurbishment. During this time, the show was edited down, similar to what was done with Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room in 2011. The songs "Pretty Little Devilish Mary" and "Fractured Folk Song" along with some dialogue were removed and other songs were shortened. The reworked version of the show opened on October 17, 2012.
The Disneyland version of the attraction featured a so-called cartridge option. This allowed for changes in the show by replacing the master control and audiotape with a different program. The addition of costume and prop changes allowed for different versions of the show to occur throughout the year. Each change required the show to be shut down for a few weeks while the tapes and costumes were changed. Aside from the original show, other versions were the Country Bear Christmas Special (which ran during the winter holiday season from November to January) and the Country Bear Vacation Hoedown.
- Clap your hands and sing along with the Country Bears to a medley of country ditties.
- Drop into the rustic frontier cabin known as “Grizzly Hall,” and make your way through a cozy lobby, where classic portraits of performers past and present mingle with a collection of musical instruments. Step inside the charming theater—home to 5 stages brimming with decorative wood-carved prosceniums and hanging red curtains—and take a seat before the lights dim.
- Join a lifelike cast of 18 hillbilly bears as they perform—through the magic of Audio-Animatronics—a 16-minute, foot-stompin’, back-slappin’ musical revue celebrating America’s country-western heritage. Clap along to original and classic country tunes during this fun-filled hootenanny, and behold the zaniest group of bears the world has ever known, as they display their musical know-how.
- Overflowing with humor and heart plus a few surprises, this crowd favorite features an uplifting down-home, southern sensibility your whole family is sure to love.
My Disney Experience Official Description
Have a knee slappin' good time at this jolly country and western show starring a hilarious bunch of singing bears.
Henry: He is the MC of the show. He wears a top hat on his head and appears on stage left, right and far-right. He also plays the guitar.
Wendell: He's a little bear that plays the mandolin. Other than a bandana around his neck and a bowler hat, he is distinguished by his huge overbite and big buck teeth. He rises on the right side of the center stage.
Liver Lips McGrowl: This bear gets his name from, you guessed it, his really long puckered-up lips. He is known for playing the guitar and being the bear equivalent to Elvis Presley. This fact is more clearly emphasized in the Christmas Special and Vacation Hoedown. He appears on stage right.
Gomer: This bear is the only one that does not sing. Instead, he just plays his piano with a honeycomb on top of it with bees living in it. He rises from the left side of the center stage.
Ernest: Ernest, or "The Dude" as he is sometimes called, is a brown bear with a bowler derby hat and a tie around his neck. Ernest's instrument of choice is a fiddle. He appears on the far left stage. Ernest has had two voice actors: From the show's opening in 1971 to 1975, his voice was done by Van Stoneman; From 1975 and beyond, his voice was done by Randy Sparks.
Terrence: Terrence (or Shaker, as he's often called) is a tall bear with tan fur (or gray if in Disneyland). He appears on stage left. He plays the guitar.
Trixie: Trixie is a big brown bear with a blue tutu and a bow on her head to match. She appears on the far right stage.
Teddi Barra: She is a brown bear who wears a pink hat with a pink feather on it and a boa around her neck. She is the only bear that doesn’t appear on stage but instead comes down on a swing in the ceiling.
The Sun Bonnet Trio: Singing bears that are triplets dressed in matching blue dresses and bonnets (hence the name). All three of them rise from the center of the center stage.
- Bunny: She is the bear in the center of the trio.
- Bubbles: She is the bear on the left, next to Gomer.
- Beulah: She is the bear on the right, next to Wendell.
- Zeke: The leader of the Five Bear Rugs, he wears a top hat and a pair of glasses. It is said that he is the only one in the band who can read music. He strums a banjo and bangs on a dishpan.
- Zeb: He is a bear with a bandana around his neck, brown fur, and a light brown chest. He plays a fiddle.
- Ted: He is a tall, skinny brown bear that plays a corn jug and a washboard.
- Fred: The biggest member of the band who, ironically, plays the smallest instrument, which is a harmonica.
- Tennessee: A brown bear that plays a unique instrument, called the one-stringed "Thang." He also wears a red bandana (or blue in Disneyland).
Little Oscar: He is a small bear cub that's a part of the band, but does not play any instrument. He doesn’t talk much either (with the exception of the Vacation Hoedown, in which he mumbles "uh-huh" at the point). He is always seen holding his own teddy bear, which he squeezes several times during the show, and is the son of Zeb.
Big Al: He is the biggest bear in the show. He is a bear with a gray chest, a cowboy hat, and a red vest. He appears on the far left stage. He plays the guitar.
Rufus: He only appears in the Christmas and Vacation Hoedown versions of the show. He is in charge of changing the scenery and the lights. He is never seen, only his loud footsteps and his heavy breathing as he climbs the stairs to fix something that has gone wrong are heard.
Buff: The leader of the animal heads, he is the head of a buffalo.
Max: The head of a stag.
Melvin: The head of a not-too-bright moose.
Sammy: He is a raccoon that pops out of Henry’s hat during the end of the show.
The Songs in the Original are as follows:
- "Pianjo" - Henry and Gomer
- "Bear Band Serenade" - Henry, the Five Bear Rugs and Gomer
- "Fractured Folk Song" - Henry and Wendell (removed from the American version of the show in 2012)
- "My Woman Ain't Pretty (But She Don't Swear None)" - Liver Lips McGrowl
- "Momma Don't Whip Little Buford" - Henry and Wendell
- "Tears Will Be the Chaser For My Wine" - Trixie (with backup by Gomer)
- "Pretty Little Devilish Mary" - The Five Bear Rugs and Henry (removed from the American version of the show in 2012)
- "How Long Will My Baby Be Gone" - Shaker
- "All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down" - The Sun Bonnets
- "If Ya Can't Bite, Don't Growl" - Ernest (with backup by the Five Bear Rugs) (moved to where "Fractured Folk Song" was in the American version of the show in 2012)
- "Heart, We Did All That We Could" - Teddi Barra
- "Blood On the Saddle" - Big Al
- "The Ballad of Davy Crockett/Blood On the Saddle" - Henry and Sammy, interrupted by Big Al
- "Ol' Slew Foot" - Everyone (Except Trixie and Ernest)
- "Come Again (Come On In)" - Henry, Sammy, Melvin, Buff, and Max
- Pete Renaday - Henry, Max
- Bill Cole - Wendell, Sammy
- Dallas McKennon - Zeke (1971-1975)
- Jimmy Stoneman - Liver Lips
- Patsy Stoneman - Teddi Barra
- Van Stoneman - Shaker, Ernest (1971-1975)
- Stoneman Family Members - Zeb, Tennessee
- Randy Sparks - Ernest (1975-Present), Zeke (1975-Present)
- Cheryl Poole - Trixie
- Tex Ritter - Big Al
- Jackie Ward - Bunny
- Loulie Jean Norman - Bubbles
- Peggy Clark - Beulah
- Thurl Ravenscroft - Buff
- Bill Lee - Melvin
- They are referenced in The Golden Girls episode "Hey, Look Me Over" when because of camera roll of film being double exposed it looked like Blanche Devereaux slept with them.