The current iteration of the Country Bear Jamboree is closing permanently today, and we wanted to send it off with a farewell. The current version of the show will be replaced with a completely rewritten show that’s set to debut this summer called the Country Bear Musical Jamboree. The original Country Bear Jamboree is special in that it was one of the final attractions Walt Disney personally worked to develop before his passing. In this article, we’ll try to present a full look at the show as it exists today, complete with some history and a look toward the future.
Opening Day Attraction & Different Versions
The Country Bear Jamboree is an opening day attraction, dating back to the October 1, 1971 grand opening of Magic Kingdom. The show has gone through changes over the years, but the 2024 refresh is poised to be the biggest shift in direction yet for the show.
The attraction was originally designed as a show for the Mineral King ski resort which Disney had planned on building in the 1960s. The idea of having Audio-Animatroic bears presenting a show lived on past the concept of the ski resort, and it was brought to Walt Disney World for the 1971 opening. It would later become the first major attraction to debut at Walt Disney World and then to be copied for the other Disney parks. It was built later as a Bear Country (later Critter Country) attraction at Disneyland, opening on March 24, 1972. The Country Bear Jamboree would later open in Tokyo Disneyland on April 15, 1983.
The Country Bear Jamboree attraction set another “first”, becoming the first Disney attraction to receive a seasonal holiday overlay when the Country Bear Christmas Special, complete with new sets, decorations, and costumes, debuted in November 1984.
Another show change came with The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown, in February 1986 at Disneyland and then a few months later at Walt Disney World. The Walt Disney World version of the attraction returned to the “normal” show in 1992, but Disneyland retained the “hoedown” version until it closed permanently in September 2001, to make way for a Winnie the Pooh attraction, leaving only the Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland versions in operation.
Country Bear Jamboree Theming
The Country Bear Jamboree is set in Frontierland at Magic Kingdom. The show is within Grizzly Hall, which sits between the Frontier Trading Post to the east, and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe to the west. Across from Grizzly Hall is the Big Al’s outdoor merchandise kiosk, and to the south of the venue is a walkway ramp to Adventureland and the Aloha Isle treat location.
Grizzly Hall is a rustic, wooden cabin that was established in 1898 (according to the attraction’s backstory).
A bit faded in its final days, the in-story poster for the Country Bear Jamboree advertises “a tasty brew of down-home music & merriment”, promising “songs with bite” and “music with some teeth in it”.
The main attraction sign features three of the bears – Zeke, Big Al, and Tennessee.
Inside, a single, open lobby features wood throughout, and claw marks from the bears all over the floor. Posters of the bears hang around the lobby, and we’ll take a closer look in a second.
Here’s a closer look at the posters that were featured in the lobby.
There are other animatronic animals and bears that we’ll meet in the show, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Also in the lobby in recent years was a penny press machine, featuring 8 different characters. The price was $1 each, or all 8 for $5. From left to right, the characters featured were Brother Ted, Cousin Zeb, Henry & Sammy, Wendell, Liver Lips, Big Al, Teddi Barra, and Terrance.
Grizzly Hall Theater
Every 15 minutes or so, the doors to the Grizzly Hall theater will open and guests can navigate ramps to the various tiered seating. There are a dozen rows of bench-style seating that can hold just under 400 guests per show. The theater consists of 5 stages, with the large central stage being the only one that doesn’t rotate to reveal a secondary scene. On the far end of the hall, the heads of a moose, bison, and buck are mounted on the wall. Accessible seating is available in the front row of the theater, with the rest of the seating being a free-for-all.
Country Bear Jamboree Show (FULL VIDEO)
Country Bear Jamboree Show (PHOTOS & Description/Script)
After watching the full show, it’s time to take a deeper look at the bears with photos and a description/script.
After a welcome from a Cast Member, which usually includes a pun or joke (or two), the lights come up on Melvin, Buff, and Max – the heads hanging on the wall to the right of the stage as seen from the audience, rather impatiently start the show before joking that they should be patient because they’re “kind of hung up here”.
Henry Welcomes Us to the Show
Our host for the show is Henry, a dapper-looking bear with a string bow tie and a top hat.
Howdy folks! Welcome to the one and only, original, Country Bear Jamboree — featuring a bit of Americana, our musical heritage of the past. And right now, I give you a sordid assortment of executioners of music and song. The Five Bear Rugs… Hit it boys!
Five Bear Rugs
The curtain lifts on the main stage and the Five Bear Rugs band is revealed.
The Bear Band bears will play now,
In the good ol’ key of G.
Zeke and Zeb and Ted and Fred,
And a bear named Tennessee.
Zeke’s a-twangin’ on the banjo,
And a-tappin’ with his feet.
A-bangin’ on a dishpan,
With a real ol’ country beat.
Zeb’s a-sawin’ on the fiddle,
With a crooked hick’ry bow.
When the spirit moves that bruin,
He can make that fiddle go.
Brother Ted is on the corn jug,
Now, I mean, that bear can blow.
He also plays the washboard,
With a handle of a hoe.
And big Fred’s playin’ mouth harp,
He plays it kinda sad.
He never took a lesson,
He just picked it up from Dad.
And lil ol’ Tennessee Bear,
Is a-featured on the thing.
Sounds just like a guitar,
But it’s only got one string!
So clap your hands,
And stomp your feet,
And try to keep right with ’em,
One sure thing the Bear Band’s got
Is real ol’ country rhythm.
If You Can’t Bite, Don’t Growl
The curtain immediately to the left of center stage opens to reveal Earnest “The Dude” on the fiddle. He sings a song about a night out with the boys where he meets a go-go girl, but has to turn her down because he’s married. She doesn’t take it well.
One night, I left the wife at home,
And went out with the boys.
I was acting like a Don Juan,
And making a lot of noise.
A go-go girl caught my hand,
I said, “I can’t. I’m a married man.”
She said “If you ain’t gonna steal,
You better not prowl.”
Don’t do-si-do with a go-go.
If you can’t bite, don’t growl.
If you can’t bite, don’t growl.
My Woman Ain’t Pretty (But She Don’t Swear None)
Next up, Henry introduces us to “our old growler of song — Liver Lips McGrowl!”
I got a woman, she’s got me,
Whatever we do, we both agree.
She ain’t purty, but I ain’t too,
The things we like are the things we do.
My woman ain’t purty, but she don’t swear none,
She’s kinda heavy, don’t weigh a ton.
She’s my woman, through and through,
I love her only, ’cause my heart is true.
Mama, Don’t Whup Little Buford
Following the end of Liver Lips’ song, the center stage has transformed to a country-style setting, and we head right into a song that is surely on the chopping block – Mama, Don’t Whup Little Buford. The song is sung by Wendell and Henry.
Mama, don’t whup little Buford,
Mama, don’t pound on his head.
Mama, don’t whup little Buford,
I think you should shoot him instead.
Tears Will Be the Chaser For Your Wine
After Henry makes a quip about “only having high-class stuff on this show”, he introduces the next act on the far right of the stage array, “a special treat out of Tampa — our own Trixie”.
Tears will be the chaser for your wine,
After you leave this love of mine.
Bright lights and taverns,
That’s where you’ll spend your time.
And tears will the be chaser for your wine.
How Long Will My Baby Be Gone
The hits keep coming, with another quick song, this time from Terrance on the left side of the stage.
How long is forever?
How soon is now or never?
How long will these heartaches linger on?
And how long will my baby be gone?
All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down
Back to our host Henry to introduce a lovely trio “those little Sun Bonnets from the sunshine state, Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah”. The three bears rise up from the front of the main stage, and sing a song that certainly gets a few chuckles from the grown-ups in the room. More than any other original song, this one gets the most guests to sing along thanks to the slides behind the trio.
Every time I meet a guy who gets me shook,
All I ever get from him’s a dirty look.
It’s the same way everywhere, I’ve found.
All the guys that turn me on turn me down.
All the guys that turn me on turn me down.
Nothing works for me that I’ve found.
It’s the same way everywhere, I see.
Nothing ever seems to work for me.
Doodle doodle doodle dupe don’t bop!
Heart, We Did All That We Could
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Henry introduces the belle of the ball – a “delightful, delicate, dedicated, and dimpled darling of the Dakotas. Last of the big time swingers: Swingin’ Teddi Barra”! Teddi Barra descends on a swing from the ceiling above the main stage as a gobo projector throws lighted hearts around the stages.
Well there he goes,
He hardly knows the heart he’s breaking.
I talked to him,
But I don’t think he understood.
Oh, just forget,
About the plans that we were makin’.
Heart, we did all that we could.
Blood on the Saddle
After four songs in a row about loss and relationships, it’s time for some comic relief before we race to the big finish. Thankfully, Big Al is here!
There was blood on the saddle,
And blood all around,
And a great big puddle
Of blood on the ground.
The Ballad of Davy Crockett
Henry is back this time with a stowaway in his top hat – a raccoon named Sammy. They sing a song that the whole crowd typically likes to sing along to before they are interrupted by Big Al for his encore performance of Blood on the Saddle.
Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods, so’s he knew every tree,
Tamed him a “bar” when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett. King of the wild frontier.
Off in the woods, he’s a-marchin’ along,
Making up yarns, and a-singing his song.
Itchin’ for fighting, and righting a wrong…
Ole Slew Foot
The big finale sees the return of most of the bear ensemble – minus Earnest and Trixie, who are on the backside of the rotating flanking stages. It’s an impressive finale scene that is the culmination all of the different personalities that the bears brought to the table with their solo songs throughout the show.
High on the mountain,
Tell me what do you see?
Bear tracks, bear tracks,
Looking back at me.
Better get your rifles,
Before it’s too late.
Bear’s got a little big,
And he’s headed through the gate.
He’s big around the middle,
And he’s broad across the rump.
Running ninety miles an hour,
Making 30 feet a jump.
He’s never been cornered,
And he’s never been treed.
Some folks say he looks a lot like me
A crash at the end of the song as the curtain falls turns our attention back to Henry and Sammy for the farewell.
Well, as you can see, we’re just one big, happy family. (Clears throat.) Well folks, this concludes our show. So thanks for bearin‘ with us to the bear end. What do you say Sammy?
I say, you all come back, ya hear?
Melvin, Buff, and Max join Henry and Sammy for the outro song
We hope that you’ll be coming back again,
That you’ll drop in and see us now and then.
We’ve done our very best to please,
With just the “bear” necessities,
We hope that you’ll be coming back again.
The welcome mat is always out,
‘Cause seeing you is fine.
We hope that you’ll be coming back again.
Overall, the show was a knee-slapping good time that simply outlived its time. It’s wonderful to see that Imagineers are willing to invest in the concept of the Country Bears, reworking the show instead of removing it completely.
Why Did Country Bear Jamboree Close?
The Country Bear Jamboree closed on January 26, 2024.
While Disney didn’t specifically state why the attraction closed, it is very likely that the content of the show simply wasn’t something that Disney World wanted to present going forward. In short, the show was a bit racy, and plans to replace it have been in the works for a long time. In fact, plans for a Disneyfied Country Bear Jamboree were reportedly first pitched back in 2004.
Former Imagineer Ethan Reed posted the following after it was announced that a new version of the show would debut in 2024:
Marty Sklar always said a good idea never goes away! Today Walt Disney Imagineering announced they are implementing an update to Country Bear Jamboree that I first pitched back in 2004, 19 years ago!
Many talented Imagineers worked on the concept over the years. From 2018-2020 I was the conceptual Creative Director coming up with new versions of this classic Marc Davis attraction. We all know what happened in 2020 and unfortunately the update was put on hold.
Now it’s happening and I’m looking forward to seeing how it shapes up. Even though many of the Imagineers who touched this project are not attached to it anymore I know some of our creativity will live on in the DNA of this reimagining of this classic Walt Disney World attraction!
The change in show and closure of the Country Bear Jamboree is likely due to the timing of so much capital being injected into Frontierland and a desire from Disney to change many of the outdated songs from the show.
While the Country Bear Jamboree is no longer, there is a new version of the show that is significant enough of a change that it deserves a brand new name.
What Replaces Country Bear Jamboree?
Opening sometime this summer, the Country Bear Jamboree will be replaced by the Country Bear Musical Jamboree. If that doesn’t sound like a big change, that’s likely because the Imagineers might not want it to sound like a big change. Disney was careful to note that “the same fun and friendly tone and same characters” will be found in the new show, and that they will even reuse an old song in the new show!
When it opens in Summer 2024, the new experience called the Country Bear Musical Jamboree will feature favorite Disney songs and tunes in different genres of country music. Imagineers are working with Nashville musicians to get the authentic country sound just right, including styles like bluegrass, pop-country, Americana, rockabilly, and other styles. The new show will not only pay homage to the Opry-style shows of Nashville, but also include easter eggs from the beginning to the end including a familiar tune fans may remember.
In terms of upgrades to the theater, Disney has already filed permits for a new audio/visual system, which is desperately needed in that theater. We also anticipate some costume upgrades for the bears. Here’s a look at the Country Bear Musical Jamboree poster! Thanks for bearin’ with us to the bear end.
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!