Overlooked Attractions: Country Bear Jamboree

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Last week, my wife and I were dining with esteemed TouringPlans.com web developer, Henry Work, debating important things, such as the meaning of life and the quality of Country Bear Jamboree. I know, I know, at this point you’re probably screaming at your computer monitor: “THERE IS NO DEBATE OVER THE EXTREME AWESOMETACULARNESS OF COUNTRY BEAR JAMBOREE!” However, apparently, not everyone feels this way. To paraphrase Henry, he does not like Country Bear Jamboree because he does not care for country music.

Now, I don’t fault him for the latter part of that. Country music is…well…not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll just leave it at that. But not liking Country Bear Jamboree? That’s like not liking Dole Whips. Like not liking Cinderella Castle. Like not liking the MuppetVision 3D pre-show. To borrow a line from Sam the Eagle, it’s distinctly unpatriotic. (Going forward, I think whenever someone disagrees with me on any subject, I’m going to arbitrarily label their opinion as being distinctly unpatriotic. No one likes to be unpatriotic!)

So Clap Your Hands And Stomp Your Feet!

Flabbergasted, I requested that Henry elaborate on his position. He said it just didn’t appeal to him because the subject matter and type of music isn’t something he enjoys. I quickly began my explanation of how the excellence of Country Bear Jamboree is not dependent upon one’s musical or cultural preferences (yeah, Henry does not have an affinity for Bear Culture, apparently!)

For those who aren’t familiar with the Country Bear Jamboree and want a description beyond my coined phrase “awesometacular,” here goes: guests enter Grizzly Hall, where they find paintings of the performers in the waiting area. After a short wait, guests enter the main theatre, where three curtained stages are presented in front of bench style seating with three interesting animal heads hung on the wall.

Soon after all guests have been seated, the animal heads come alive, introducing themselves as Max (a deer), Buff (a bison), and Melvin (a moose) come to life, conversing back and forth with one another and joking around; following this, they ask Henry, the narrator or emcee, to start the show.

Gomer On Piano

With that, Henry introduces the show, and gets things started with a song between he and Gomer. Following that, what can best be considered the main act is introduced, which goes by the name the Five Bear Rugs. If you’ve ever heard one of the official park CDs, you’ve probably heard their song (and the most well-known from the show), the Bear Band Serenade. From there, various other acts perform folk and country music, with some dialogue in between to tie the show together.

Sounds pretty simple, and certainly makes sense that if you don’t like folk or country music you wouldn’t like this, right? Wrong. Country Bear Jamboree is not just a show about country music. It’s a witty, irreverent, edgy, and wry. Moreover, despite Country Bear Jamboree being a short music-based show, there is a fair amount of character development. The songs say something about the characters singing them, and these songs, even if you don’t like country music (I can’t stand it), are quite humorous and not in keeping with contemporary levels of “politically correct-ness.” While I won’t parse the contents of every song, here are a few of the songs titles: “My Woman Ain’t Pretty (But She Don’t Sware None)” by Liver Lips McGrowl; “Mama, Don’t Whip Little Buford” by Henry and Wendell; “Tears Will Be the Chaser For My Wine” by Trixie; “All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down” by The Sun Bonnets; and, “Blood on the Saddle” by Big Al.

Swingin' Teddi Barra

These are just some of the song titles. The content of these, and other, songs is quite irreverent. In my mind, the true standout here is “Blood on the Saddle” by Big Al. Big Al is a large, drunkenly drawling bear who interrupts the rest of the show, and ultimately prompts the grand finale. His delivery and appearance are pretty funny. Drinking from a growler labeled “XXX,” with his slothfulness, he doubtlessly is a caricature of theĀ  stereotypical Southerner.

Big Al

Depending upon your perspective, this could be offensive or perhaps not even register as humorous. Living in Indiana, I commonly sit on my porch, shoeless, drinking growlers of moonshine while wearing a straw hat and watching cars drive by, and I find the whole show quite funny. But I’m into self-deprecating humor, so maybe that’s just me. I guess I can see how others might perceive the humor differently. Still, variety is the spice of life, and when treated as a caricature of Southern life at one time, the attraction’s humor works incredibly well. Plus, with its irreverent humor, an attraction like this would never be made today. I don’t know about you all, but I value irreverence (especially since it’s not offensive to the little ones; it’s one of those rare attractions that works on multiple levels, with most of the adult humor being over the heads of children), so I appreciate Country Bear Jamboree as the last of a dying breed.

Beyond the humor, with its length and scale, with its large number of audio animatronic bears, is something Disney doesn’t typically produce anymore. Much like the Carousel of Progress, the Country Bear Jamboree offers a nice change of pace from the 2 minute thrill rides with 2 hour lines or the attractions predicated almost entirely on interactive screens or 3D technology. Yes, the technology it does use is not exactly bleeding edge, but it’s a technology that by and large, is unique (at least on this level) to the Disney theme parks, and is uniquely entertaining.

Now Clap Your Hands and Stomp Your Feet!

So there you have it, my case for Country Bear Jamboree. Hopefully I’ve convinced some of you who haven’t seen it to give it a chance–or convinced those who have seen it and didn’t think much of it to give it a second chance. At the very least, it’s a nice place to enjoy the air-conditioning for 20 minutes or so! For those like me who love it, hopefully this affirmed why you love the attraction so much!

What do you think? Am I crazy to call Country Bear Jamboree one of my favorite attractions in the Magic Kingdom, or do you agree with my assessment? What is your favorite overlooked attraction at Walt Disney World?

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Posted on May 6, 2011

29 Responses to “Overlooked Attractions: Country Bear Jamboree”

  • You’re not crazy at all. This is pure classic Disney attraction.

  • Call me distinctly unpatriotic. :-)

  • I love this attraction, but it could use a tune-up. Last time I saw it (last fall), the compressor was so loud it was an effort to hear the bears. For a low cost, Disney could make a huge improvement to the guest experience at the Country Bears.

    • (I’ve been out of town, so my apologies that all of these replies are so late)

      Oh, I totally agree! Country Bear Jamboree is far from perfect, execution-wise. I just think that its “soul” (the substance) of the attraction is great!

  • by John E. Levis on May 7, 2011, at 5:05 am EDT

    I’m with GuyLBC, pure Disney. If you can’t smile after seeing County Bear Jamboree then your funny bone is broken.

  • I’m not a fan and honestly never have been; probably first saw it in the 70s. But we took our kids to see it for the first time a couple of years ago; my husband and I hadn’t seen it since maybe 1993. I thought it looked really dated, but I know as a classic attraction with avid fans, there would be such an outcry if they decided to update it.

    As for the kids, they were done with it before it ended, so it will probably be a long time before we see it again. I think to their eyes, alcoholism and “whippin’ little Buford” aren’t the stuff of high hilarity.

    • I’m not suggesting it’s high art, or even politically correct, but I think it is humorous, and does offer a nice edge.

      To imply that it pertains to alcoholism and child abuse are a bit extreme.

  • I’m with Tom. Been going to WDW for years, and is still one of my favorites. Grand kids love it to. I like the humor. It’s pure Disney. So, I’ll see Y’all there.

  • by Alicia L. on May 7, 2011, at 3:58 pm EDT

    I agree with you that it’s the last of a dying breed and wouldn’t get made today.

    We almost skipped it on our last trip, but ended up having some extra time to see it. My 2-year-old niece loved it and it kept the adults entertained too!

    Favorite overlooked attraction: Flights of Wonder in AK

    • Flight of Wonder was our surprise hit of Aminal Kingdom! It was funny, educational, and entertaining!

      • You know, I have heard some great things about Flights of Wonder recently. I haven’t seen it since around 1999. I wanted to check it out last week, but we ran out of time. There’s always October!

  • by Heather B on May 7, 2011, at 4:14 pm EDT

    A little crazy perhaps. My parents luuuved the show and made my sister and I see it on every visit. After 20 or so viewings, I’ve had my fill and never need to see it again. Nor will I make my children, but I’m glad it’s there for the bear fans.

  • Funny. When I went for my one visit as a child in the 70′s this was one of my favs (with It’s a small world and the tea cups). I didn’t visit disney again until 2008 with my children and have since been 3 times, but have never taken them. Maybe we’ll try it this year….

  • I’m with Henry on this one. My friend and I argue the merits of this show regularly. It’s one of his favorites too. I don’t have anything against it and find it mildly amusing, but it’s really just a good nap spot for me. :)

  • by John Grigas on May 9, 2011, at 10:01 am EDT

    I recently came across a postcard that was sent to my grandmother in 1974 (I was 8), and it noted my favorite attractions were Haunted Mansion and Country Bear Jamboree! (It was on a Mickey Mouse Revue postcard, no less!)

    Anyway, I was also pleased to find that the soundtrack to the ATTRACTION is available on iTunes, including the 15+ minute show and some great background music that fit right into Frontierland. The show track is excellent, and includes all the best parts (esp. “soon as I find a ladder, I’ll be right up” banter!)

    • Great tip! Thanks!

    • Funny you should say that. My aunt just found a postcard my mother sent her from MK in 1978. It was CBJ! I mean, why not the castle?

      I saw this once and didn’t know WHAT to make of it. I may have to view it again in August.

  • I know I’ll be in the minority on this one, but I miss the Vacation Hoedown version. Nothing like a good ol’ round of Rocky Top. But I still love the current version.

  • CBJ is one of the attractions that makes WDW so unique. Like it’s a small world and Carousel of Progress, I hope they keep it forever.

    But we rarely see it. My son is now 20 but it’s always creeped him out–especially the “Blood On The Saddle” song.

  • Back when I lived in south Florida, one of my friends would start singing “Blood on the Saddle” and immediately we would plan to head up to Disney the next Saturday. That was back when WDW was a one-park resort. While I still love Country Bears’ Jamboree, I find there are descendants of this show in other parks: Muppets 3D in the Studios, and It’s a Bug’s Life in the Animal Kingdom. Comments?

    • From a humor perspective, I could see MuppetVision sort of being comparable. A Bug’s Life less so, though. Maybe I could be persuaded on that, but I don’t draw a direct-connection when thinking about the two.

  • The first time my now husband and I went to the park (his first time) we saw Country Jamboree and he loved it – so much so that when we came home we found that over half of the pictures he took were of Country Jamboree! He’s from a “typically Southern” area and he didn’t find it offensive at all – in fact I think that’s one of the reasons he loved it so much. This attraction is a must-see for us on all of our trips – I think because it’s got so much heart – and you certainly can’t say that for all of the attractions, no matter how much fun it may be whipping around all of those turns.

  • by Bill Scurry on May 19, 2011, at 10:09 am EDT

    You guys are all loony, and I mean that in the nicest, sweetest way possible. I love everything in the parks, from the trainwheels to the toilet handles, but I can’t stand this attraction. It makes no sense, and it doesn’t help that everyone’s speaking in a foreign language. Maybe there’s a bit of generational disconnect, because both times I’ve endured this travail, my wife and I were the youngest members of the audience — by 40 years.

    • I agree. On our first family trip last month, I so wanted to like this attraction! I kind of remember it as a kid, and I assume I liked it then. And I totally thought that, even if I might end up finding it corny, my kids (girl 8, boy 6) would probably like it.
      Wrong. We were all bored, and groaning thru the whole thing.
      I am truly sorry, but I found it pretty lame.
      Same thing with Tiki Birds, my kids didn’t like that one either. And I really wanted them to!

  • by Andrew Drummond on May 18, 2012, at 2:26 pm EDT

    Has the audio been improved? I remember visiting about 5 years ago, and the quality was so bad that I could not understand half of the lyrics to the songs.

  • We love the Country Bears! Weird story. We usually sit near the front, but were in the back on our last visit. We saw 4 seperate families leave during the course of the show. We couldn’t believe it! The must’ve been on scavenger hunt or ultimate touring plan or something. Anyone else notice this before?

  • You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I to find this topic to be actually something which I believe I’d by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and very huge for me. I am having a look forward on your subsequent submit, I’ll attempt to get the dangle of it!

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