I first saw the bear band perform when I was 3 years old while visiting Disneyland for my birthday in 1986. To say I became hooked is an understatement. I think a troupe of giant bears singing on a stage would catch the attention of any 3 year old, but as I got older I kept going to see the show more and more. After getting an annual pass in 1994, I began to visit Disneyland multiple times a week after school, and the Country Bear Theater was a stop during almost every visit. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, so the only version of the show I was familiar with initially was the Vacation Hoedown (which ran in Disneyland from 1986 to 2001, and Walt Disney World from 1986 to 1992). I still love this version of the show and consider it to be my favorite of the three shows (the regular, Vacation Hoedown, and Christmas Special).
One of my favorite things about Country Bear Jamboree was the show’s lobby area at Disneyland where guests gathered before the show started. Each bear had their own dressing room door that was shaped to fit their particular physical attributes. For example, Henry’s door had another smaller door above it for Sammy the racoon to enter, Big Al’s was extra-wide and short, and Teddi’s was in the on the ceiling with a note for Henry saying “Henry, I’ll be right back!” Brilliant stuff.
During my first trip to Walt Disney World in 1996 I finally got a chance to see the original show, which I was completely unfamiliar with at the time (this was before YouTube). I instantly fell in love with the original show and I still think it holds up well today. You can’t sit there and tell me “Mama, Don’t Whip Little Buford” and “Ole Slew Foot” aren’t all-time classic songs. Country Bear Jamboree ended its run at Disneyland in 2001.
I’ve made a list of things that are excruciatingly painful, but still less painful than when Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree closed:
- The worst paper cut I’ve ever gotten.
- Getting my tonsils removed.
- A sunburn that required a hospital visit.
- Reading this post by Tom Bricker.
The bears are long gone from Disneyland, and an abridged version of the original show plays at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. But thankfully the bears still thrive at Tokyo Disneyland. All three shows rotate throughout the year at Tokyo Disneyland. It’s maintained perfectly and looks and sounds fantastic. My first visit to the park was in 2014 and I was finally reunited with the Country Bear Vacation Hoedown. A few years later I went back and got to see the Christmas show for the first time in 17 years. Let me tell you, if you leave the Country Bear Christmas show not overflowing with Christmas spirit then you have no soul. That show is Christmas personified.
This post was my long-winded way of saying “Country Bears is a good show.” I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below. What’s your favorite song? Who’s your favorite bear?
By the way, mine are “Tracks in the Snow,” and Gomer.
If you haven’t had a chance to send in your memory and photo, please submit both to my colleague firstname.lastname@example.org and we may post it here.