Hello, and welcome back to my thoughts. Today, I step away from looking at Disney classic films and shows. Instead, a long lost classic attraction, something replaced with…Pooh.
Eleven years ago, on July 26, 2002, Disney’s The Country Bears debuted in theaters. Starring Haley Joel Osment, Christopher Walken, and Brad Garrett, this movie was a box office bomb. It was one of three Disneyland attraction to be made into the theatrical releases, along with The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
As I stated, this is not about a movie or a television show. In full disclosure, despite on of my friends being an extra in The Country Bears, I have never seen the movie. Sorry, Paul.* Therefore, let’s move onto something I have experienced.
On March 24, 1972, Bear Country opened in Disneyland Park, making it the seventh land to open in Anaheim, California; five months previous it was part of the opening of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
Back in Anaheim, Bear Country took the place of the Indian Village, to the West of Frontierland. The new land consisted of Teddi Berra’s Swingin’ Arcade, Ursus H. Bear’s Wilderness Outpost, the Mile Long Bar, Golden Bear Lodge (known now as Hungry Bear Restaurant), and the only ticketed attraction, the Country Bear Jamboree.
The Country Bear Jamboree was a fifteen minute stage show starting audio-animatonic bears designed by Imagineer Marc Davis. The 18 animatronics would sing country songs that had been “bearified.” Henry, a bear with a top hat, was the host of the show. Rufus, unseen by the audience would control the lights. Coming down from the rafters on a swing would be everyone’s favorite delight, Teddi Barra.
After 12 years, in 1984 the Country Bears celebrated the holiday season with the Country Bear Holiday Show, where the stage was decorated and the bears sang songs celebrating the hibernating season.
In 1986 the Country Bears received a refresh, learning newer, more country songs for a new show called the Country Bear Vacation Hoedown, which would be performed in the Country Bear Playhouse. The show would remain the same for the next fifteen years.
On July 17, 1989, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox moved into a new home in the area. To justify different creatures living inside Splash Mountain, Bear Country became known as Country in late 1988. Despite the name change, the Country Bears played on, with Disney executives hoping to bring in increased crowds to the show because of the Splash Mountain attraction.
And the show DID go on…for 12 more years. On September 9, 2001 the Country Bears sang their final performance and vacated their Playhouse to make way for a different sort of bear, a silly ol’ bear stuffed with fluff. Yes, the Country Bears were evicted to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which opened on April 23, 2003.
Stop stop stop! Did anyone else catch what just happened? Let’s review:
1. September 9, 2001: Country Bear Summer Hoedown CLOSES
2. July 26, 2002: Disney’s The Country Bear’s OPENS
3. April 23, 2003: Pooh HAPPENS.
Yes, Disney closed an attraction ten months before a movie based on it opened. To be fair, the Country Bears do still sing in Walt Disney World. There, Pooh kicked out Mister Toad’s Wild Ride instead, and is placed in Fantasyland instead of Critter Country. Look…I’m not here to knock Pooh at all. I’m just stating that Pooh was brought in to bring increased crowds to Critter Country, and the average wait time is 2-5 minutes at Disneyland. Not exactly high in demand…to be fair, at Walt Disney World, Pooh does have 30-45 minute lines during the peak season.
The Country Bears is an original, an icon. It belongs at Disneyland. I understand there is no Limited Time Magic that will bring it back, but it deserves its place inside Critter Country, and I will always continue to think so.
I thank you for taking the time to read this today. I ask you would please leave comments. You may contact me directly on Twitter @, and you may also subscribe to be alerted by email when new postings are published. Quest for Vault Disney is now on Facebook. Please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/questforvaultdisney. Have a great rest of your day. See ya real soon…
*To make it up to my friend Paul, I ask all my readers to please visit A Window to the Magic to check out their Country Bear DVD and to listen to the Window to the Magic podcast, where you can surround yourself with the magic (headphones HIGHLY recommended).