Former Walt Disney Imagineer Ethan Reed shared some of the history of the upcoming “Country Bear Musical Jamboree” update to the classic attraction in Magic Kingdom. Disney announced at Destination D23 that the new version of Country Bear Jamboree featuring classic Disney songs will debut in 2024, 20 years after Reed initially pitched the idea.
Ethan Reed and Country Bears
Reed shared the poster for the new jamboree and wrote the following on Instagram:
Marty Sklar always said a good idea never goes away! Today Walt Disney Imagineering announced they are implementing an update to Country Bear Jamboree that I first pitched back in 2004, 19 years ago!
Many talented Imagineers worked on the concept over the years. From 2018-2020 I was the conceptual Creative Director coming up with new versions of this classic Marc Davis attraction. We all know what happened in 2020 and unfortunately the update was put on hold.
Now it’s happening and I’m looking forward to seeing how it shapes up. Even though many of the Imagineers who touched this project are not attached to it anymore I know some of our creativity will live on in the DNA of this reimagining of this classic Walt Disney World attraction!
Reed left Walt Disney Imagineering in 2020 and is now a toy designer for Just Play. He still shares Disney art on his Instagram, though, including a few recent pieces canonizing the Pirates of the Caribbean bats and Carousel of Progress squirrels.
Country Bear Musical Jamboree
The “Country Bear Musical Jamboree” will be inspired by the musical revues of Nashville and will see the bears reimagine classic Disney songs in “different genres of country music,” according to the Disney Parks Blog. A video showcasing a country-inspired reinterpretation of “The Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book” was shown at Destination D23.
Though the content of the Country Bear Jamboree will change, the beloved characters that have become synonymous with the Country Bear Jamboree will not. The Disney Parks Blog wrote that the “same famous characters” will appear in the new version of the attraction, with the “Country Bear Musical Jamboree” poster featuring Henry, Big Al, and Trixie, amongst others. However, Liver Lips McGrowl seems to have a new name and updated look.
The show featuring Disney music was originally developed for Tokyo Disneyland but never implemented. At the same time, a “Toy Story” Woody’s Roundup marionette show was in development to replace Country Bear Jamboree at Magic Kingdom. This idea was scrapped and replaced with the Disney music show, which was in the planning stages when Walt Disney World closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying the project, as Reed referenced in his post.
The Country Bear Jamboree
The Country Bear Jamboree was an opening day attraction at Frontierland in Magic Kingdom, with the doors to Grizzly Hall opening on October 1, 1971. The beloved attraction features a number of audio-animatronic bears singing sometimes heartfelt, sometimes humorous, but always entertaining songs such as “How Long Will My Baby Be Gone,” “Blood on the Saddle,” and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” (these songs figure to be replaced with the upcoming “Country Bear Musical Jamboree” update).
The Country Bear Jamboree proved to be popular with guests, and a version of the attraction opened alongside Critter Country at Disneyland in 1972. The Disneyland edition of the show ran for 29 years, closing in September 2001. A version of the Country Bear Jamboree was also an opening day attraction at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983. Though the Magic Kingdom version of the show has been shortened by a few minutes, the original remains intact in Tokyo Disneyland (but in Japanese).
An attraction synonymous with Disney Parks and general Walt Disney Imagineering, the Country Bear Jamboree was among the first attractions that Walt Disney Pictures looked to when it made a concerted effort to adapt Disney Parks rides and experiences into films in the early 21st century. “The Country Bears” movie released in 2002, the year before “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and the Eddie Murphy-led “The Haunted Mansion.” “The Country Bears” starred Christopher Walken, Diedrich Bader, and Haley Joel Osment, and was a critical and commercial flop.