Merry Country Bear Christmas!
The Country Bear Christmas Special was an annual holiday overlay to Country Bear Jamboree in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and Disneyland that has been retired. It currently runs as Jingle Bell Jamboree at Tokyo Disneyland. This tribute features photos from the Japan version.
I’ve long been a fan of this Christmas overlay, having first seen it in the late 1980s and listening to its soundtrack each Christmas season since finding it on the Musical History of Disneyland. Unfortunately, I don’t remember my childhood visits to the show and the Magic Kingdom stopped doing the overlay before we started visiting as adults, so I didn’t have any firsthand memory of actually seeing the show…until this year.
To say I was excited to finally see it would be an understatement. I love Christmas and Country Bear Jamboree. To me, Country Bear Jamboree represents Disney at its best: a mix of quirkiness, wry humor, charming characters, and even edginess. It’s an attraction that works on multiple levels. Superficially, Country Bear Jamboree is a bunch of lovable bears singing.
Upon closer examination, Country Bear Jamboree is an intelligent tribute to country music and southern culture, with a bit of a satirical twist. As a fan of Disney history, I appreciate its historical significance, too. (This series of articles is a good in-depth examination of Country Bear Jamboree, and a rewarding read for anyone who is interested in the topic.)
I’ve said numerous times that I view whether someone likes Country Bear Jamboree as a good barometer of how well I’ll get along with them. (I treat Calvin & Hobbes and Sports Night the same way.) Country Bear Christmas has garnered a mixed reaction from fans, and even Marc Davis supposedly thought that Disney should have left the original alone.
With all due respect to Mr. Davis, I disagree. I think Country Bear Christmas is a fun and well-executed overlay in keeping with the spirit and direction of the regular show. It’s not just Country Bear Jamboree with Santa hats and different songs, it’s an entirely new show performed by the same characters. It’s their Christmas musical revue, done with integrity and humor in the spirit of the original.
Moreover, unlike a painting, theme park attractions have a certain fluidity to them as the parks change and evolve to cater to guests. Theme park attractions also usually lack a singular figure to whom ‘authorship’ is attributed. Nevertheless, it’s understandable that the artist who put so much creative energy into bringing the bears to life would be a bit protective of them and apprehensive towards what others would do to change them.
But I digress. This article isn’t meant as an examination of theme parks as art. Instead, it’s meant as a fun look at the Country Bear Christmas Special along with some tidbits about the shows.
Thanks to the overlay still existing and running annually at Tokyo Disneyland, we’ve been able to experience it for each of the last several years. We’ve been visiting Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan during fall colors season almost every year since 2013, and are always sure to drop in to Tokyo Disney Resort for a “few” showings of Country Bear Christmas/Jingle Bell Jamboree.
At Tokyo Disneyland, Jingle Bell Jamboree is part of the park’s Christmas offerings, but it usually begins before the published date of everything else–right on or around November 1st. That’s because the park goes directly from Country Bear Vacation Hoedown to this overlay. (See our Country Bear Vacation Hoedown Tribute for more photos and info on that.)
One of my big goals is always to capture a lot of good, interesting photos of Country Bear Christmas. The overlay stopped running in both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland before camera technology became advanced-enough for good low light dark ride/attraction photos.
This means that the only good photos of it running in the United States are publicity shots by Disney, and there aren’t many of those that’ve been publicly released.
I now update this post annually to add some of my trophies from the latest hunt, so to speak. The photos here just barely scratch the surface of my Country Bear Christmas collection. Suffice to say, I’m now fairly confident that I have one of the world’s largest private collections of Country Bear Christmas photos. If that isn’t prime braggin’ rights, I don’t know what is!
Hope you enjoy. Merry Christmas to you and your families from Sarah and me! What better of a ‘gift’ can we give you then a few Country Bear Christmas photos from my files?!
Signs outside advertise the Jingle Bell Jamboree Christmas show.
Regardless of the season, the lobby of Country Bear Theater in Tokyo Disneyland features significantly more to set the stage than the Magic Kingdom. There are clippings from the Country Bears’ tours, awards, photos, and art. For Christmas, new pieces of art are added, plus this Christmas tree and a few other details.
In Tokyo Disneyland, like the normal show, Jingle Bell Jamboree jumps back and forth between Japanese and English, with some songs in each language.
Melvin starts out the show by singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (in Japanese), until Max objects, as it’s his song. Henry then interjects and starts the show.
Costumes and details are well-done for Jingle Bell Jamboree.
Gomer has his stocking hung from his piano, plus a nice winter coat and a Christmas tree on his piano.
Henry and Gomer do “Jingle Bells” to begin the main show.
This is the first difference in the show between the American and Japanese versions, as the retired US versions featured the duo singing a quick version of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” here.
The Five Bear Rugs appear for my favorite song in the show, “Tracks in the Snow.”
Even in Japanese, this is a foot-tapper.
Oscar got a new teddy bear for Christmas.
Next, Wendell comes out with his squirrel gun and sings the “12 Days of Christmas” before shooting out the lights.
This is the same in both versions.
Here is what I’d consider the first interesting difference. Trixie sings “Hibernating Blues” in the US version, which is a song about her love not being around for the holidays, and her wanting spring to come soon.
In the Japanese version, Trixie sings an angry version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with lines about her having caught her lover sharing honey with someone else, among other things.
If Trixie’s song for Tokyo Disneyland was going to be in English, why not just use “Hibernating Blues”? I can’t imagine that it’s a matter of the audience, as both songs are similar in nature, although the Japanese version has a much harsher tone. Interesting, nonetheless.
In both versions, the Five Bear Rugs follow with “Deck the Halls.”
Liver Lips McGrowl sing Elvis’ “Rock and Roll Santa” in English next (another song that’s the same in both versions).
Henry also provides some vocals on this.
This is followed by Shaker, with a white coat of fur and looking a bit like a polar bear, and his penguin singing “Blue Christmas.”
Tokyo Disneyland’s version is in Japanese, and the penguin plays a more significant role. This is probably because he’s an actual Audio Animatronics figure and isn’t stuck in ice in the Tokyo Disneyland version. He interjects normal dialogue between verses, but I have no idea what he’s saying.
The Sun Bonnets then sing “Sleigh Ride” in English, same in both versions. This is accompanied by a cute little on-screen sleigh ride slide show.
“Hungry as a Bear” follows in both versions, in Japanese at Tokyo Disneyland. This is performed by Ernest and the Five Bear Rugs. It’s another favorite of mine, and another song that sounds good even in Japanese.
Next is “The Christmas Song” by Teddi Barra and Henry, sung in English in both versions. In a show that’s otherwise grounded in humor, this scene romanticizes Christmas, with moody lighting a snowfall during the slow-paced song.
We’ve found the reaction of the Japanese audience somewhat funny, as there is sometimes a bit of an audible reaction to Teddi Barra’s slightly risque dialogue.
Big Al’s performance is next. Both versions feature Big Al in English; in the US he sings “Another New Year,” and in Japan it’s “Auld Lang Syne.” The idea of Big Al being bitter towards his wife is the driving force behind both songs. Like Trixie, he’s more negative in the Japanese version.
Again, I’m not sure why this change was made. Both of these versions have less to do with the new year, and more to do with Big Al problems (#BigAlProblems should totally be a thing on Twitter). Fun fact: the bottles of champagne scattered around Big Al are labeled “Bear Mountain Bubbly.”
The full cast (minus Ernest and Trixie who share the stage with other performers) finale concludes the show. In the US, this was a “Let It Snow/Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/Winter Wonderland” medley.
In Tokyo Disneyland, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” replaces “Let It Snow” in the medley. It’s in both English and Japanese.
Hope you enjoyed this photo tribute to Country Bear Christmas! I think it truly is a great show that gives the greatly under-appreciated Country Bear Jamboree a nice bump for the holidays, and I’d love to see it return to Walt Disney World. Sadly, I don’t ever see that happening, but you never know.
If you have any facts, info, or anecdotes about Country Bear Christmas to share, I’d love to hear them. Despite this showing lasting into the 2000s, it seems that not a whole lot is known about beyond superficial stuff, and urban legends about why it ended.
Planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Trip Planning Guide! For more specifics, our TDR Hotel Rankings & Reviews page covers accommodations. Our Restaurant Reviews detail where to dine & snack. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money post. Our What to Pack for Disney post takes a unique look at clever items to take. Venturing elsewhere in Japan? Consult our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan and City Guide to Tokyo, Japan.
Did you ever see Country Bear Christmas in Walt Disney World or Disneyland? Does it still playing in Tokyo Disneyland make you want to take a Christmas trip there? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts on Jingle Bell Jamboree? Other thoughts about the Country Bears? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
They didn’t run it this year at Tokyo Disneyland. It was just the regular Country Bear Jamboree. I don’t know if that’s a permanent change or just left over from the pandemic. They did do the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay of the Haunted Mansion.
I’m pretty bummed we missed it this year. CBJ is another classic DISNEY attraction. My grandfather loved Big Al when I was young so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I drink every morning from a Big Al coffee mug purchased in 1980. Ahhh the memories. Great article as always â¤ï¸
I remember reading “Attack of the deranged killer monster snow goons” over and over again on snow days. That says Christmas to me.
I love these pictures. I’ve never experiences CBJ Christmas in person but I’ve seen the YouTube videos of the former WDW version plus the current version in Tokyo. I love the Christmas show. Since I have a copy Musical History of Disneyland, this is on my regular Christmas playlist. I would like to see WDW (and DL) bring back this Christmas show but I am fine with the original playing all year round.
Just home from Japan and was googling about Country Bear Jamboree and came across this and wanted to share- just how much I enjoyed this show. I am 35 years old, never saw the originals at either Land or World and this was seriously one of my favorite parts of ALL of Tokyo Land/Sea! I could not stop laughing and just being in “awe” at the creativity that went into it all. I do think it takes a special type of person to “get” this as my wife was not nearly as amused, lol. Anyway- thanks for the write up! (and helping to justify my obsession with the bears)
Thanks Meredith and Tom for an inspiration to plan another trip to Tokyo to see this. Went to SeaDisney by myself on Halloween but missed CBJ. Just flew home from WDW tonight and am jet lagged but excited about CBJ in Tokyo. My dad is a huge fan of it. We had to see it twice this Christmas and a new in law who had never been to WDW wanted to see it twice too! So please bring it back to Disneyland (wishful thinking) and don’t take it out of the World! Guess SoCal is just too cool for things like CBJ and Bill Hill and the Hillbillies. Bummer…
I know this post was written while ago but I found it through your Christmas 2017 at Tokyo Disney post. As a HUGE fan of Country Bear Jamboree, I thought of giving you some rough translation of Shaker part below if you are still looking for.
Shaker: Have you finished packing for your vacation?
Webster (penguin): Yeah, I’ll visit my home in the South Pole.
Shaker: I’m going to miss you so much.
Shaker: I’ll have a lonely Christmas all by myself
(Webster: I’ll be coming back to you soon! )
Shaker: I’ll be just thinking about you
(Webster: I’ll call you everyday! )
Shaker: You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
(Webster: It’s always white in the South Pole! )
Shaker: But I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas
Webster: Someone please turn on a heater, he is freezing!
As I’m not a native speaker of English, please let me know of any part that needs clarification or some sort. Also, I hope you got the plushies of the bears released recently at Tokyo Disney (Henry, Teddi Barra and Sun bonnets. Currently availbable in Jingle Bell Jamboree version, Vacation Hoedown version in summer, and original Henry in 2016.)
Regards from your Japanese fan 🙂
That makes perfect sense–thank you so much!
We picked up an entire set of the plush Christmas Country Bears (we also have the other 2 versions of Henry). It was tough to justify dropping ~$70 on them, but they are currently the only “ornaments” we have on our makeshift tree in Kyoto, so I’d say it was worth it! 🙂
That’s wonderful! I have the Vacation Hoedown version and original Henry as well so I’m thinking of skipping them (because that price would let me stay at the park one more day) but I know I will end up with all of them. I found your Vacation Hoedown article and left the translation of Shaker/Dolores part. Hope it helps 🙂
My dad is a big guy names Al. I’m totally going to use #bigalproblems anytime I mention him on social media!
I loved Country Bears Christmas! I used to see it every year when Disney would have their Cast Christmas parties. (That became Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party). I still to this day sing. “I’m hungry, I’m hungry, I’m hungry as a bear…got a mouthful of teeth and a belly full of air!” I also love Calvin & Hobbes so I think we’d get along fine! 🙂
Just discovered this post thanks to Pinterest. We visited WDW in Nov. 2016 and I was thrilled to see the Country Bears in all their glory. I fondly recall watching the original and Christmas shows at Disneyland on many visits. Don’t think I have any pictures – have you reached out to other Disney enthusiasts? Glad to hear Tokyo DL has the Christmas show – have they continued it since your original post?
Our family lives two hours south of Walt Disney World in Orlando. Every year we venture to Disney to begin our holiday season and love all of the Christmas decorations. Country Bear Christmas was our family’s absolute favorite ride. In 2006 we were once agin excited to be at Disney in early December only to learn that Disney discontinued it. We had two very young children at the time, it is he only time I have actually complained about something at the customer service center at Walt Disney World ! Our family was so sad, he kids were actually crying that the cast member felt so bad for us that she gave our family passes for another day to visit any Disney park. We would love for Christmas Country Bears to return. There is a whole generation that doesn’t know what they are missing!!
I think the unfortunate reality is that it’s never returning. It had almost 0 chance before, but when the regular show was shortened last year, it meant the Christmas show no longer “lined up” correctly. Sad, really, was it was an excellent overlay, and a lot of fun.
I am very glad I was fortunate enough to see it in Tokyo Disneyland. It’s not popular there, and I think it’s only a matter of time before they stop doing it. I hope that’s not true…
The Xmas show WILL return, Tom. And so will the Vacation show.
They will both shortened like the original was.
The plan is to have WDW offer up an all-3-shows rotation just like in Tokyo.
Part of the rehab in 2012 was upgrading the technology at CBJ to allow seasonal changes the be implemented more easily.
Lovely. Merry Christmas to you too!
Thanks for the great photos! This brought back some childhood memories of Disneyland.
I had to play the soundtrack while I reviewed the photos.
Melvin, Buff and Max are still hanging around the Winnie the Pooh ride. Does anyone know
if they still get their Christmas decorations? That would be cool!
Thanks again and Merry Christmas!
That would be awesome, but the Mevlin, Buff, and Max in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh are not decorated for Christmas.
Oh man, now I HAVE to go to Tokyo next Christmas! Thanks for taking so many photos of the show! A thoroughly enjoyable post.
Glad you like it! We want to visit Tokyo at various times of the year, but staying away at Christmas is going to be tough. It’s such an awesome time of year there!
What an awesome show! Wish it was still playing stateside, but now I want to go to Tokyo even more.
Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!
Thanks for the Christmas present!
Looks like there was a full audience. Does it seem to be more popular there than WDW?
Probably about the same. We visited Tokyo Disneyland on a couple of days that were–literally–sold out, so everything was busy. Country Bear Christmas played to nearly full audiences, but I think that was more a result of the days we were there than actual popularity. I didn’t see anyone else taking photos (they were allowed) in any show we saw, whereas at an average Duffy show, about 75% of the audience would be taking photos like crazy. Clearly the Country Bears are *not* the most popular bears at Tokyo Disney Resort! 😉
They ARE popular out there, Tom!
This post is so epic on so many levels. Thanks for the “early” Christmas gift!
Merry (belated) Christmas to you, too! 🙂