New attraction spotlight: Disney's Country Bear Musical Jamboree

February 25, 2024, 2:21 PM · Of all of 2024's planned new attractions at theme parks around the world, Walt Disney World's Country Bear Musical Jamboree hits closest to home for me.

"Bear Band" - as the Audio Animatronic show has been known internally among Disney cast members - was my first attraction when I worked at the Magic Kingdom. This is where I learned lessons that have stuck with me throughout my career. The show provided the scene for many of the chapters in my book, Stories From a Theme Park Insider. And I have sat through more of these shows than any other Disney production.

But... I never worked the original Country Bear Jamboree. When I worked Bear Band, it was for the Country Bear Vacation Hoedown and County Bear Christmas Special shows, which enjoyed long runs but since have been retired by Walt Disney World. So I know that Disney can have success when changing the program at Grizzly Hall. The question is, will Disney craft another beloved production with this new show?

Disney has announced that the Country Bear Musical Jamboree will feature country-style arrangements of songs from Disney's animated films rather than the old country standards and pop tunes that Disney used for its original Jamboree and Vacation Hoedown. Disney's song catalogue is much deeper than it was when the original Country Bear Jamboree was designed as evening entertainment for Disney's never-built ski resort at Mineral King in California. The company no longer needs to license songs from other publishers to program its musical shows. So it really should come as no surprise that if Disney were to change its Country Bears show again, it would pull from its own song catalogue to do it.

That said, the title of this new production is still a "Country Bear" Musical Jamboree. And to Disney fans, the "Country Bears" are not just any old bears singing country music. It's this specific cast: Henry, Big Al, Teddi Barra, Wendell, the Five Bear Rugs, and company.

The failed experiment of The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) looms over Country Bear Musical Jamboree. Disney in 1998 tried to change the Florida installation of its original Audio Animatronic production to feature Disney IP characters, namely, Iago and Zazu from "Aladdin" and "The Lion King." The show bombed with fans, who complained about its snarky, irreverent tone. After a small fire damaged the theater in early 2011, Walt Disney World abandoned the new production and switched back to Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, using the Disneyland name for the show that previously had played as Tropical Serenade in Florida.

If the new Country Bear show does not feature and respect the personalities of the original Country Bears cast, expect fans to push back. (With me leading the way.) But the new show also faces the narrative challenge of explaining why it's the Country Bears who are singing these Disney songs rather than the Disney characters who performed them originally.

I am looking forward to seeing how Disney handles that challenge, with the hope that it provides Disney's Imagineers with the opportunity to breathe fresh life into the Country Bear characters, without disrespecting or diluting them as the failed Tiki Room show did.

Yes, I understand that the main appeal of the Country Bears show for many Disney visitors has been its dark, air-conditioned, sit-down theater. With summer temperatures becoming more inhospitable in Central Florida in recent years, Disney needs more venues like this to provide relief for its guests. But those fans deserve Disney's best effort with every new attraction the company designs, given what we all are paying to visit these days.

We will see how well Disney comes through with its new Country Bears show when Country Bear Musical Jamboree opens this summer at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

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Replies (3)

February 26, 2024 at 9:54 AM

I have an extremely low bar for this revamp, and feel that WDI should have gone back to the drawing board with this space instead of relaunching Country Bears. I've only seen this show in person twice in my entire life. This attraction is a "pop in if you're passing by and they're loading the theater" experience. I get the advantage of a cool dark theater during the brutal Florida summer, but when that's an attraction's top draw, then there's massive room for improvement. With Hall of Presidents and the Tiki Room not far from here, this show is redundant, and will always give off Chuck-E-Cheese vibes for me.

February 26, 2024 at 5:32 PM

They should have the bears sneak in a tease of the “Everybody’s Got a Laughing Place” melody as a nod to ‘ye olde Splash Mountian of ‘yore (pours out beer on carpet, regrets decision immediately). I’ve always loved this attraction. Sure, it’s a C-level diversion but it does its job well. I’m just hoping to see some plussing of the bears, sound system, and AA mounted heads on the wall. I saw the show about a week before it was shuttered and the gears of the heads’ animatronics were loud enough to be distracting when they were talking. Glad it’s staying though. Day One attractions are a rarity.

February 27, 2024 at 7:12 PM

I’ll see the new version once just to say I did it, but don’t ever see myself doing it again after that.

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