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!)
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.
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.
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 the stereotypical Southerner.
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.
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?