The Country Bear Jamboree: A classic Disney attraction with comedic charm that lives on

Here’s a look back at how the bear show came about

Country Bear Jamboree (Walt Disney World)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland has several attractions that make the must-do list on every family vacation.

The area transports guests back to the age of the early pioneers when Cowboys and Indians roamed the western terrain and the saloon was a nice play to relax and have a drink. This popular spot in the park is also home to attractions like Splash Mountain, Tom Sawyer’s Island and Big Thunder Mountain.

But, nestled next to Pecos Bill Café is the comedic and charming attraction, the Country Bears Jamboree.

The roughly 16-minute show runs daily at the theme park and introduces us to some of the funniest bears that all have a story to tell.

The early days

The Country Bear Jamboree didn’t originally start out as an attraction that Walt Disney was planning on building for his Florida resort.

The show was originally designed to be just a piece of what Walt Disney wanted at his planned Mineral King Ski Resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

Early rendering of Walt Disney's Mineral King ski resort (Walt Disney Archives)

According to Disney fan website D23, the ski resort was being planned in the 1960s and was scheduled to be a place known for its skiing during the day, nightlife and shows.

One of those forms of entertainment was a show that closely resembled Disney’s popular show the Enchanted Tiki Room, but instead featured singing bears instead of birds.

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Walt Disney brought on legendary Disney Imagineer Marc Davis to help lead and design the bears for the show.

“Imagineer and Disney Legend Marc Davis conceptualized bears as tuba players, circus act bands, and “one-bear bands,” and from all those knee-slapping comedic gags and the jolly country-and-western cast of character designs, the centralized idea of what we know as the Country Bear Jamboree came to be,” the Walt Disney Archives website described.

Imagineers Marc Davis, Dick Irvine, Claude Coats, and Xavier “X” Atencio looking over Country Bear Jamboree concept art (Walt Disney Archives)

While work for the Mineral King Ski Resort was being planned, Disney Imagineers were hard at work designing the show. Walt Disney ended up putting in a bid to buy the land for the resort, which was later accepted by the government, but environmentalists voiced concerns, saying the development would destroy the pristine landscape and beauty of the area.

To make matters worse, in December 1966, Walt Disney passed away at the age of 65.

Plans for the resort were later scrapped in 1969.

An instant hit

Henry with the Country Bear Jamboree (Walt Disney Archives)

The Country Bears Jamboree ended up finding a home more than 2,000 miles away at Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971. The E-Ticket attraction was original to the Florida park and was something new, not seen at Disneyland -- just yet.

The show was such a hit with audiences at Walt Disney World that on March 24, 1972, Disney ended up opening the same attraction at Disneyland.

[RELATED: From 1971-2021: 50 Years of change and growth since Disney World opened ]

For more than a decade, the show at Disneyland was flooded with audiences until changes began to takeover in 1984. Disney reinvented the show and gave it a holiday-twist.

According to Disney fan site D23, new sets, decorations and costumes debuted in the all-new show Country Bear Christmas Special. Over the years, the show at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland took on new shows, such as “The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown” inside the Country Bear Playhouse that the bears call “Grizzly Hall.”

In Florida, the “Country Bear Christmas” played every holiday from 1984 to 2005, while the “Vacation Hoedown” played from May 1986 to 1992.

The bears ended up going into hibernation and leaving Disneyland in 2001 to make way for another popular bear, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

‘Ya’ll come back, you hear!’

Country Bear Jamboree (Walt Disney World)

Today, Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland are the only places guests can see the classic attraction that Walt Disney envisioned early on.

During the show, guests see 24 characters interacting with each other on five different stages.

Some of the characters include the star bear Henry, The Five Bear Rugs, Liver Lips McGrowl, swinging Teddi Berra and “Blood on the Saddle” singer Big Al.

In 2012, the attraction at Walt Disney World closed for a nearly two-month-long refurbishment as Imagineers added new benches, curtains and costumes for all the audio-animatronic bears.

Every day, guests visiting the attraction hear a medley of original and classic foot-stompin’ tunes that bring families back year-after-year.

To all who come to this happy corner of, welcome! Walt Disney World is counting down to its 50th Anniversary, and so are we. With 50 days until 50 years, we are taking a daily look back at the past, how Disney’s opening shaped Central Florida’s present, and a peek at what’s in store for the future.

We’re also looking to hear your memories of Walt Disney World: What do you love? What do you miss? What are some of your magical moments? You can share them with us and we’ll post them all for everyone to enjoy. Some might even be featured during our News 6 TV coverage of Walt Disney World’s 50th.

Here’s to dreaming, and here’s to another half-century of The Most Magical Place on Earth!

About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.