Monday, October 10, 2011

Country Bear Jamboree ~ Disneyland

Country Bear Jamboree ~ Disneyland

Gone Missed and Not Forgotten
       For many years this was one of my favorite attractions to just go and relax at. The music is catchy and the show engaging. I miss this attraction greatly. Personally I don't think much of the Winnie the Pooh ride that replaced it. I think the battle of the bears is won paws down by the Country Bears. So let's take a walk down memory lane and check out the Country Bears.

       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 Disneyland. It was called The Country Bear Christmas Special.

       In 2002, a movie titled The Country Bears was released which was based on the attraction and its characters. I do not believe it lived up to the quality and intent of the attraction.

History

       The Country Bear Jamboree was originally intended by Walt to be placed at Disney's Mineral King Ski Resort 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. A few days later he died on December 15, 1966. It was the last time Davis saw Disney.
       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 Burns 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 March 4, 1972, Disneyland incarnation in the form of two identical theaters, each housing a copy of the show in its entirety.

       In 1986, the Vacation Hoedown debuted at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. 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 the 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 on April 11, 2003. However, it is rumored that the attraction will be rebuilt in Grizzly Peak at Disney California Adventure, but there are currently no confirmed plans.

       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 year 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.

Characters

Bears

       The queue for the Disneyland version included fake doors in appropriate shapes for each of the bear performers.



Henry- The "MC" of the show, Henry is a welcoming and friendly brown bear. He wears a grey top hat, starched shirt front, and a string tie. It is implied that he and Teddi have some sort of backstage romance. In the Christmas show, he wears a scarf and in the Vacation Hoedown, he wears a park ranger's hat and his "old camp t-shirt" (which he has obviously outgrown). Henry was voiced by Pet Renday, a Disney legend who was also the voice of Captain Nemo in the now defunct 20,000 Leaagues subs attraction in WDW, the narrator in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh dark ride, and the announcer for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. He is also the narrator of The Walt Disney Story pre-show for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.  Akira Takarada voiced the character in the Tokyo Disneyland version.

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. He is voiced by Jimmy Stoneman. He becomes an Elvis impersonator in the two seasonal shows.

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.

Teddi Barra- Teddi Barra 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 as well as a long pink bow around her neck. She is voiced by Roni Stoneman. In the Christmas show, she holds a pair of skis, has a cast on her leg and is dressed in ski gear. In the Vacation Hoedown, she holds an umbrella and is dressed in a raincoat and galoshes.

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 (in the Disneyland version his fur was grey), Terrence wears a miner's cap and plays the guitar. He is voiced by Van Stoneman. In the Christmas show he wears a scarf and earmuffs and has white fur to resemble a polar bear. He is also joined by a penguin encased in ice. During the Vacation Hoedown, he's wearing a snorkel mask and swim trunks, and his accompanied by his octopus girlfriend Delores.

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 and wears a tan hat and a red vest. He plays an always out-of-tune guitar and is voiced by Tex Ritter. In the Vacation Hoedown he wears a miner's cap and red and black flannel shirt. During the Christmas show, he's dressed as a New Year's baby (sash and diapers) and wears an icepack and a party hat on his head.

The Sun Bonnet Trio

·         Bunny- Bunny stands in the center of the stage. She is voiced by Jackie Ward. Because she and her sisters are triplets, they all have brown fur and wear matching blue bonnets and dresses.

·         Bubbles- Bubbles stands to the audience's left between Gomer and Bunny, and is voiced by Loulie Jean Norman.

·         Beulah- Beulah stands to the audience's right and is voiced by Peggy Clark.

Gomer- Gomer never sings but instead plays his piano, which has a honeycomb on top of it. He is considered Henry's right-hand bear. He is tall and brown and wears a collar with a blue tie.

The Five Bear Rugs

·         Zeke- Considered the leader of The Five Bear Rugs, Zeke plays a banjo and taps on the dishpan with "a real ol' country beat". He is a grey bear with glasses who wears a tan top hat. He was voiced by Dallas McKennon from October 1971 until July 1975, when Randy Sparks rerecorded his vocals. McKennon's recording as Zeke can still be heard on the 1971 record and the 2003 CD.

·         Zeb- Zeb is brown bear with a light brown stomach. He plays the fiddle as well as wears a bandanna around his neck and a miner's hat. He is voiced by a member of the Stoneman family.

·         Ted- Ted is a tall, skinny bear who blows on the cornjug and plays the washboard. His fur is brown, and he wears a vest with a brown hat.

·         Fred- The biggest of the five bears, Fred ironically plays the smallest instrument: the mouthharp. He is a brown bear and wears blue jeans held up with suspenders as well as a striped red and white tie.

·         Tennessee- Tennessee Bear plays the thang, which has only one string. He is brown and wears a red bandanna (blue in the Disneyland version) around his neck. He is voiced by a member of the Stoneman family.

Baby Oscar- Oscar appears with The Five Bear Rugs, but plays no instrument. In fact, he never says a word, aside from mumbling "uh-huh" during the Vacation Hoedown (in which he is dressed as a Cub Scout). 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.

Disney legend has it that the Cub Scout shirt came from a visiting Cub Scout troop. They saw Baby Oscar and decided he was a bear cub so they made him an honoree member of their troop.

Rufus- Rufus is not a performer, but instead runs the projections and lights. He is never seen, but can be heard from time to time running backstage, constantly out of breath.

Other Animals
Buff- Buff is considered the leader of the animal heads and is also the largest. He is the head portion of an American bison and is voiced by Disney legend Thurl Ravenscroft.

Max- Max is the head portion of a stag and is voiced by Peter Renaday.

Melvin- Melvin, a moose head, is the Dopey of the animal head trio. He often makes good-natured jokes and is voiced by Bill Lee.

       A tribute to the Disneyland Jamboree is made in their version of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the form of Max, Buff, and Melvin. If you peek behind you at just the right time in the ride you will see them on the wall. It is common for Disney to leave something from a past ride when a new ride takes it place.

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.

The Show

       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 who 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.

The Songs

·         "Pianjo" (Dom Robertson ) - Gomer and Henry

·         "Bear Band Serenade" (Lyrics: Xavier Atencio, Music: George Burns) - The Five Bear Rugs, Gomer, and Henry

·         "Fractured Folk Song" (Kenneth C. Burns & Henry D. Haynes) - Henry and Wendell

·         "My Woman Ain't Pretty (But She Don't Sware None)" (Frankie Starr & Paul E. Miller) - Liver Lips McGrowl

·         "Mama, Don't Whip Little Buford" (Burns & Haynes) - Henry and Wendell

·         "Tears Will Be the Chaser For Your Wine" (Dale Davis & Leroy Goates) - Trixie

·         "Devilish Mary" (Bradley Kincaid) - The Five Bear Rugs

·         "How Long Will My Baby Be Gone" (Buck Owens) - Terrence

·         "All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down" (Plot & Powell) - The Sun Bonnet Trio

·         "If Ya Can't Bite, Don't Growl" (Tommy Collins) - Ernest and the Five Bear Rugs

·         "Heart, We Did All We Could" (Ned Miller) - Teddi Barra

·         "Blood on the Saddle" (Everett Cheetham) - Big Al

·         "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" (Tom Blackburn and George Bruns) - Henry and Sammy

·         "Ole Slew Foot" (Howard Hausey) - Cast (minus Ernest and Trixie, who do not appear onstage, and Big Al, who reprises "Blood on the Saddle")

·         "Come Again" (Tom Adair & George Bruns) - Henry, Sammy, Max, Buff, and Melvin

In popular culture

·         The country bears made an appearance in the sing along songs videos Disneyland Fun and Campout at Walt Disney World.

·         The Simpsons has repeatedly referenced the show, with Homer even commenting "It's like a freakin' Country Bear Jambaroo around here!"

·         The television show The Critic has frequently parodied the bears and their show, including a reference where a Big Al look-a-like stands in for an audioanimatronic Bill Clinton. From the same show, the character Duke Phillips has his own personal Country Bear Jamboree that sings in praise of him, which he accidentally activates when denouncing the belief that all southerners are country bumpkins.

·         Fry Mentions the show in the movie Futurama: Beast With A Billion Backs, criticizing Leela for not liking it. In the show's episode The Series Has Landed, the Goofy Gopher Revue is also reminiscent of the attraction.

·         A Goofy Movie contains an in-house parody of the show known as "Lester's Possum Park."

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