By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Review: The Country Bear Jamboree at the Magic Kingdom



By Dave Shute

THE COUNTRY BEAR JAMBOREE

The Country Bear Jamboree re-opened late last year in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom after a two-month hiatus for repair and refreshing.

The figures that are the center of the attraction were re-done (and re-furred), and multiple other rehabs and replacements were done as well.  My friend Jodi has a video of Imagineers discussing the re-do on her site here.

The show was also tightened up a bit–two songs were cut, one was moved, and some dialog was sliced.

The tightening didn’t change the tone of the show much–it’s still Country Bear Jamboree: one of my favorites, but definitely an attraction that some families can skip.

REVIEW: THE COUNTRY BEAR JAMBOREE

The Country Bear Jamboree is one of the rides that opened when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, and was one of the few there that had no precedent in Disneyland.

It features an active and fun medley of Americana-inspired, mostly humorous, songs presented on five related stages by more than a dozen audio-animatronic bears–and a few other animals as well!

At opening, the bears were a tour de force, and were the highest expression of Disney’s audio-animatronic skills to date. This, and the fun of the songs, meant that the attraction was wildly popular.

Since then, the technology has been eclipsed by other instances–e.g., Epcot’s The American Adventure, and tastes have shifted away from roots music.

As a result, the ride has become less popular, especially with returning visitors–although little kids continued to love it.

The refresh and update of the show improves its attractiveness to both first time and returning visitors by cleaning it up, tightening and shortening it. The shortening -from about 15 minutes to about 11 minutes–also increases the show’s hourly capacity.

Improving the attractions’ attractiveness and increasing its capacity at the same time is a good thing both for visitors to the show and everybody else.

The more people that see the Country Bear Jamboree, the fewer people in lines everywhere else!

And this may be working…when we saw it in mid-December 2012, my wife and my were among only a dozen or so in the audience  but on a late January 2013 visit, the show was more than half full!

While a couple of songs have been cut (and one moved) the basic musical approach remains the same.

This is not the “Country Music” of Garth Brooks stadium shows.  Rather, the music is of another, simpler era, combining influences and songwriters from Appalachian folk music, bluegrass, Bakersfield-style country, and the vaudeville country of Kenneth C. Burnes and Henry D. Haynes.

The song list is unified both by a generally comic presentation and–as in much great music*–by the bass line, which in almost all the songs relies on the traditional root-fifth, root-fifth pattern.

The music is off-putting to some who don’t have wide-ranging or tolerant musical tastes.  Too bad for them.  For little kids the show is a hoot, and for most of the rest of us it’s an enjoyable “C” Ticket.

For more history, and more and better photos, see my friend Mike’s review here.

*That’s me and my bass on the far right…

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5 comments

1 Mike { 01.28.13 at 9:34 am }

Dude, I didn’t know that I was becoming a YFV Groupie! 🙂

Seriously, thanks for the link up to my post at My Dreams of Disney!

Mike

2 Debs at Focused on the Magic { 01.28.13 at 9:55 am }

Great review! Country Bears is a true classic. I’m glad to hear they haven’t fiddled with it too much. Looking forward to seeing it on our next trip.

3 Dave { 01.28.13 at 12:13 pm }

Thanks, Deb, and Mike, you’ll find being a YFV.net groupie annoying, but somehow addicting!

4 Steve { 02.20.13 at 6:40 pm }

Hey, didn’t know you were a fellow Bass Player…

5 Dave { 02.21.13 at 8:19 am }

Dude…don’t tell me you are too! It’s more accurate to say I was a bass player…haven’t done much since that band split up…I loved gigs but hated practice…

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