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Country Bear Jamboree
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. . . In the good ol' key of G
The Country Bear Jamboree-- where guests are invited to sing along with Zeek and Zed, and Ted and Fred, and a B'ar named Tennessee--was originally intended by Walt to be placed at Disney's Mineral King Ski Resort which he was planning 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 Dixieland bears in his office. Walt Disney walked in and saw the drawings and laughed because he loved the characters. On his way out Walt turned to Marc Davis and said "Good Bye", something Walt was known never to say. A few days later, on December 15, 1966, Walt died. It was the last time Marc saw Walt.
After Walt's death, plans for the show continued. The bears would be featured in the ski resort's Bear Band restaurant show, and would have a country twang. Unfortunately the ski resort did not become reality so instead, imagineers working on the project decided to place the show in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Imagineer X Atencio and musical director George Bruns created songs for the bears to sing. And on October 1, 1971, as part of the Magic Kingdom's grand opening, The Country Bear Jamboree opened. It was 1 of 3 new attractions found only in Magic Kingdom. (The other 2, brand new attractions were Mickey Mouse Revue and Hall of Presidents.) Country Bear Jamboree received such good feedback that Imagineers immediately planned to make a replica of the show for Disneyland.
Not only was this new attraction added to Disneyland, but because of it a new land named Bear Country was created. And then, because of the tremendous popularity of the show in Walt Disney World, the 1972 Disneyland version was doubled in size with two identical theaters, housed under one roof, each with complete, identical shows. In 1986, the Country Bear's Vacation Hoedown debuted at both parks. Along with the show change the Disneyland attraction's name was changed to Country Bear Play House.
There was also a third show made for the Country Bears in 1984; a Christmas Special. Attendance struggled during the Vacation Hoedown's run in Florida, so for the Magic Kingdom's 20th anniversary, the original Country Bear Jamboree returned to rotate with the Christmas show. The last time the Christmas Show played in the Magic Kingdom was during the 2005 Holiday Season. There were rumors of bringing the Vacation Hoedown back to Disney World in the summer of 2002, but it never happened. Both the Country Bear Christmas Special and The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown were created, directed and animated by Dave Feiten and Mike Sprout. The Country Bear Christmas Special was the first time an attraction at any Disney theme park became interchangeable during the year. (Currently Disneyland's Haunted Mansion transforms into Haunted Mansion Holiday based on The Nightmare Before Christmas--from Halloween to Christmas. And Disneyland's Small World attraction also takes on a very decorative, lighted Christmas theme during the holiday season, and instead of singing It's a Small World guests hear the children sing Jingle Bells. ) The Tokyo Disneyland version of the attraction still features all three of the shows at appropriate times of the year.
Disneyland's Country Bear Play House closed on September 9, 2001, to make room for the new Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride, which opened April 11, 2003. In the fall of 2008, the WDW attraction underwent a major rehab to receive much-needed technical upgrades, including a new sound system and refurbished animatronics of the characters.
The Magic Kingdom's attraction was originally sponsored by Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay. So of course the show mentioned this sponsorships at the beginning, and the show still contains one reference to Pepsi-Cola. Pepsi's slogan at the time ("You've Got a Lot To Live; Pepsi's Got a Lot To Give!") is para-phrased by Henry-- our host--"Just refrain from hibernatin' and we'll all enjoy the show, 'cause we've got a lot to give."
The Country Bears in Magic Kingdom was last refurbished in the fall of 2012. The bears received new skin, clothes, and some of their songs were shortened, thus shortening the show overall by about 5 mins.