The Country Bear Jamboree is an attraction at the Magic Kingdom in the Walt Disney World Resort and at Tokyo Disneyland in the Tokyo Disney Resort, as well as a former attraction at Disneyland Park. All versions of the attraction are similar.
The attraction is a stage show with audio-animatronic figures. Most of the characters are bears who perform Country music. Characters rise up to the stage on platforms, descend from the ceiling, and appear from behind curtains. The audience includes audio-animatronic animal heads mounted on the walls who interact with characters on stage.
Due to overwhelming popularity, The Country Bear Jamboree was given a "spin-off" show which appeared during the 1984 winter season at Disney World and Disneyland. It was called The Country Bear Christmas Special. In 1986 it was given a summertime version called The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown. This version was so popular at Disneyland that it became the permanent edition until the attraction's closing in 2001.
In 2002, a movie titled The Country Bears was released which was based on the attraction and its characters.
The Country Bear Jamboree was originally intended by Walt to be placed at Disney's Mineral King Ski Resort in California which he was trying to build in the mid 1960s. Walt knew he wanted some sort of show to provide entertainment to the guests at the resort, and he knew he wanted the show to feature some sort of bear band. The project was assigned to imagineer Marc Davis.
Davis, together with Al Bertino, came up with many bear groups, including bear marching bands, bear mariachi bands, and Dixieland bears. One day Davis was working on drawings of the characters in his office. Walt Disney walked in and saw the drawings and laughed because he loved the characters. On Disney's way out he turned to Marc Davis and said good-bye, which he was known never to say. That was the last time Davis saw Disney, who died a few days later on December 15, 1966.
After his death, plans for the show still carried on. The bears would be featured in the resort's Bear Band Restaurant Show, and it was decided that they would have a country twang. But while plans for the show progressed, plans for the ski resort did not. Instead, the Imagineers working on the project decided to place the show in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in time for its grand opening in 1971. Imagineer X Atencio and musical director George Bruns created songs for the bears to sing.
On October 1, 1971, The Country Bear Jamboree opened its doors in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. It received so much good feedback that Imagineers immediately planned to make a replica of the show to be placed in Disneyland The addition to the show in Disneyland inspired a brand new land appropriately titled Bear Country. Because of the tremendous popularity of the show in Walt Disney World, excess capacity was added to the Disneyland incarnation in the form of two identical theaters, each housing a copy of the show in its entirety. The Disneyland version of the attraction opened on March 4, 1972. Due to the popularity of the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom versions a third version of the attraction was planned to open at Tokyo Disneyland on April, 15, 1983 which also houses two identical theaters and uses more modern audio animatronics which look more real than the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland versions.
During the 1984 holiday season was the debut of the Country Bear Christmas Special at the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Resort.
In 1986, the Vacation Hoedown debuted at both Disneyland (February) and the Magic Kingdom (May). During the holiday season, the bears still performed their Christmas Show in Florida through 2005. Attendance struggled during the Vacation Hoedown's run in Florida, so for Magic Kingdom's 20th anniversary in 1992, the original show returned to rotate with the Christmas show as it had since 1984.
The attraction closed at Disneyland on September 9, 2001, to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which opened on April 11, 2003.
The Country Bear Christmas Special was the first time an attraction at any Disney theme park became interchangeable during the year. The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown was added a little over 1 1/2 years later. Both the Country Bear Christmas Special and The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown were created, directed, and animated by Dave Feiten and Mike Sprout. The Tokyo Disneyland version of the attraction still features all three versions of the show at different times of the year.
On August 21, 2012, the Walt Disney World version of the Country Bear Jamboree closed for a nearly two-month-long refurbishment. All the characters in the show received new skin, fur, and costumes. The songs "Pretty Little Devilish Mary" and "Fractured Folk Song" and some of the dialogue were removed, while other songs were shortened. The show is now 4 to 5 minutes shorter than it was before. The shorter version of the show opened on October 17, 2012.
Henry – The Master of Ceremonies of the show, Henry is a welcoming and friendly brown bear. He wears a grey top hat, starched shirt front, and a string tie. In some parts of the show, he plays a yellow guitar. It is implied that he and Teddi have some sort of backstage romance. Voiced by Peter Renaday.
Liver Lips McGrowl – Liver Lips is perhaps the funniest-looking bear. He gets his name from his very large lips. He is a brown bear and plays the guitar. Since Florida's 2012 refurbishment, he has a messy, unkempt head of long hair in the Florida version of the show. He is voiced by Jimmy Stoneman.
Wendell – Wendell is a hyperactive golden brown bear who plays the mandolin. He wears a blue bandanna around his neck and a light brown hat. He also has a massive overbite and buck teeth. He is voiced by Bill Cole. Wendell's role in the Florida version of the show was severely reduced during the October 2012 refurb when "Fractured Folk Song" was removed, and is no longer mentioned by name.
Teddi Berra – Teddi Berra is a unique bear because she never appears on stage. Instead she descends from a hole in the ceiling on her swing, which is decorated with pink roses. She is a brown bear and wears a blue hat with a pink feather (In 2012 of the Florida version of the show, she received a new violet sequined hat) as well as a long pink boa around her neck. She is voiced by Patsy Stoneman.
Ernest – Ernest is a brown bear who plays the fiddle. He wears a derby and a red polka-dot bowtie around his neck. He was voiced by Van Stoneman from October 1971 until July 1975, when his vocals were rerecorded by Randy Sparks. Stoneman's recording can still be heard on the 1971 record and 2003 CD.
Terrence (aka Shaker) – A tall bear with tan fur, Terrence wears a hat, a yellow vest (Since Florida's 2012 refurb), and plays the guitar. He is voiced by Van Stoneman.
Trixie – Trixie is a very large brown bear who wears a blue bow on her head, a blue tutu around her waist, and holds a blue handkerchief in her left hand. She also has a slight crush on Henry. She is voiced by Cheryl Poole.
Big Al – Big Al is the fattest bear. He is grey with a light grey belly (Though his fur was changed to brown in 2012 in the Florida version of the show) and wears a tan hat and a red vest. He plays an always out-of-tune guitar and is voiced by Tex Ritter from his hit album, Blood on the Saddle (1960).
The Sun Bonnet Trio
Gomer – Gomer is a bear who never sings but instead plays his piano, which has a honeycomb on top of it. He is considered Henry's right-hand bear. He was originally brown, but during the Florida 2012 refurbishment his appearance changed and he is now a deep burgundy red with a blonde goatee and a new hat.
The Five Bear Rugs
Baby Oscar – Oscar appears with The Five Bear Rugs, but plays no instrument. In fact, he never says a word. He is a brown bear and always has his teddy bear to keep him company. In the 1971 album, it is mentioned that Zeb is his father.
Max – Max is the head portion of a whitetail buck and is voiced by Peter Renaday.
Melvin – Melvin, a bull moose head, is of the animal head trio. He often makes good-natured jokes and is voiced by Bill Lee.
At Disneyland, Max, Buff, and Melvin currently reside in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which replaced the Country Bear Playhouse in 2003 (which had closed two years prior). They hang above the entrance to the "Hunny Heaven" room, but riders must turn around in order to see them. The set of Max, Buff & Melvin featured there were not the Audio-Animatronic figures found in either of the Playhouse's two theaters, but rather the static, non-anmatronic ones that were found next door in the Mile Long Bar.
Sammy – Sammy is Henry's raccoon pal who cuddles around Henry's top hat. He acts like a coonskin cap for Henry. He is voiced by Bill Cole. In the Country Bear Vacation Hoedown, Sammy gets replaced by a skunk named Randy.
The show is basically a continuous string of short country songs sung by the various bears. As each bear sings their song, a curtain opens to reveal them, except in the case of Wendell, Gomer, and the Sun Bonnet Trio (all of whom rise from the center stage), and Teddi Barra (who descends from the ceiling).
The show begins with Max, Buff, and Melvin telling Henry to get on with the show. Henry then asks Gomer to give him a "little intro", and the jamboree begins.
Disney World version:
Tokyo Disneyland version:
There are five stages, numbered, from left to right, 1 & 2 (left wing), 3 (main stage), 4 and 5 (right wing). A cast of 18 audio-animatronic bears appear on the various stages and also rise up through the floor and drop from the ceiling. Stages 1, 2, 4 and 5 are actually turntables with two animatronics each fixed to them. As each scene finishes, the turntable revolves behind curtains and another character will be present on stage when the curtains open again, giving the impression that the performers have "moved" between stages. Approximately one third of each turntable is always visible to the guests, while the remaining two thirds emerge into a backstage area where maintenance can be carried out on the animatronics; even minor maintenance during shows if necessary, as there is approximately a 50-120 second turn around between scenes. The host bear, Henry, actually appears in the form of three separate figures during the show. The main stage has several backgrounds which descend on rails to provide a backdrop to the animatronics performing on the main stage. These backgrounds change when the main stage curtains are closed. The Five Bear Rugs are visible when there is no backdrop and it is their turn to perform. They are on a rolling platform that rolls forward during their part of the show. The rolling platform remains in Tokyo's version and changes seasonally from the Bandstand used in the Original show to the log used in the Vacation & Christmas show (the latter covering the top of the log in cotton to represent snow). Additional figures rise up from the stage floor and from the ceiling on hydraulic platforms when necessary.