Country Bear Jamboree Reimagining News

Walt Disney World is replacing Country Bear Jamboree with a reimagined stage show at Magic Kingdom. This post shares everything we know about changes to the iconic attraction: CBJ’s opening timeframe, concept art, song list, and a sneak peek. Plus comprehensive commentary and our conflicted feelings about the Bear Band doing a new act. (Updated May 30, 2024.)

This news of a reimagined Country Bear Musical Jamboree was first announced during last year’s Destination D23. Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro offered a sneak peek at concept art for the future in addition and teased what was to come in a few years.

During Destination D23, Imagineer Chris Beatty shared that he and his team love the Country Bears, which is why they’re bringing an all-new act to Grizzly Hall for the Bear Band to perform. The new show is coming in 2024, and will be called Country Bear Musical Jamboree.

When Country Bear Musical Jamboree debuts, the Bear Band will be reinterpreting favorite Disney songs in different genres of country music. Imagineers are envisioning the new experience as a homage to the classic musical revues in Nashville and they’re working with Nashville musicians to get the authentic country sound.

The Country Bear Jamboree will still have the fun and friendly tone fans enjoy with the same famous characters like the loveable Trixie, Big Al and others.

May 30, 2024 Update: The second episode of the Walt Disney Imagineering YouTube series, “We Call it Imagineering – Soundscapes,” is now available to watch. This episode takes viewers behind-the-scenes of how music is created for Disney attractions and entertainment including a sneak peek at new music for Country Bear Musical Jamboree.

Country Bear Musical Jamboree will include easter eggs from the beginning to the end, including a familiar tune fans may remember, the bears will sing new, reinterpreted Disney songs in different genres of country music — like bluegrass, pop-country, Americana, rockabilly and other styles.

Among the many songs coming to Country Bear Musical Jamboree are “Try Everything” and “A Whole New World” from the Walt Disney Animation Studios films “Zootopia” and “Aladdin.” It’s a full-blown hoedown featuring a new spin on the songs like you’ve never heard before — complete with fiddles, mandolins, banjos and more.

Paying homage to the musical revues of Nashville, Imagineers worked alongside record-breaking 10-time CMA Musician of the Year, Mac McAnally, on the music for Country Bear Musical Jamboree. McAnally is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

For the voice of the beloved bear, Trixie St. Claire, country singer Emily Ann Roberts added her twangy vocals to “Try Everything.” Allison Russell and Christopher Scott Thile slowed things down a bit with a mandolin-style of “A Whole New World” for Wendell and Teddi Barra.

“I’ve never done anything like this, where the song is truly coming to life before folks’ eyes,” shared Emily Ann. “It was really neat to hear the whole concept and then being able to stand behind the mic and think ‘how do I put myself in Trixie’s shoes?’”

Disney previously announced one of the songs performed in Country Bear Musical Jamboree would be “Bear Necessities,” a wholly unsurprising selection. Also audible in the background of the video is “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” After bear-related songs, that would’ve been near the top of my list of playlist predictions.

On the other hand, I can’t say I was expecting “Try Everything” or “A Whole New World” to be performed by the Bear Band. Those strike me as really odd choices based on the renditions and context from their respective movies, as contrasted with the previous personalities of the bears. Perhaps the reinterpretations will work great–I’m willing to withhold judgment–but I think it’s going to take a long time to get used to Country Bear Musical Jamboree.

More than anything else, I hope effort is made to give the bears personality and restore their banter between songs. Even something like “Try Everything” or “A Whole New World” could work if it’s performed tongue-in-cheek or there’s wink-and-nod color commentary from the Bear Band to accompany their performances. I fear that won’t be the case, but I’m still holding out hope.

Prior to the new Imagineering video, Walt Disney World shared a first look inside the Country Bear Musical Jamboree and reiterated that the reimagined show will open this summer at the Magic Kingdom. When it returns, the show stoppin’ bears will have brand new looks, including bright, bold, and brilliant costumes for Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah.

In this video, go behind-the-seams with Sara Landesberg, a costumer with Disney Live Entertainment who is helping bring the Bears’ new looks to life. Sara works coordinating the different teams that come together to create a complete garment, hat, or any item that ends up being center stage for the jamboree — including every single rhinestone that is hand-placed across the big-frills costumes.

 

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“I help source all the fabrics and components and rhinestones,” Sara explains. “I also work really closely with the patterning team to figure out how we’re actually going to make the garments come together in 3D, and how they’re going to fit the bears, who are all very uniquely shaped and different sizes.”

Dressing the bears is a little bit difficult since Audio-Animatronics figures don’t move the same way that humans do. “They have lots of repetitive movement, so a lot of times we’ll add gussets or additional pockets of fabric to give them more room to move in those repetitive movements without destroying the costume,” she continues.

Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah have found a new look that works for them–and are presumably no longer the “Sun Bonnet Trio” given the wardrobe change. So clap your hands and stomp your feet, because Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah — and the rest of the Country Bears — are getting ready to put on a new show that pays homage to the Opry-style shows of Nashville.

The Country Bear Musical Jamboree will include easter eggs from the beginning to the end including a familiar tune fans may remember. With that said, the Country Bears will sing new, reinterpreted Disney tunes in different genres of country music–such as bluegrass, pop-country, Americana, rockabilly, and other styles.

Last month, Walt Disney World filed a construction permit to “install set elements and piping.” This permit is assigned to Thermetrics Corporation, which specializes in the maintenance, repair and installation of commercial chillers and HVAC systems. I can’t find any record of their past work with Disney in the DTB Archives, but I’m guessing they’re simply doing something with the building’s HVAC. It’s unclear why “set elements” is listed in the permits unless Thermetrics has started diversifying their business with the bears.

On a note that should be much more interesting, it’s our understanding that the Audio Animatronics in Country Bear Jamboree are being updated to the newest A-1000 Audio Animatronics generation. These debuted with Hondo Ohnaka in Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, and continued with Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast at Tokyo Disneyland as well as Frozen Ever After at Hong Kong Disneyland. Most notably, they’re the same types of amazing Audio Animatronics in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which opens this summer at Magic Kingdom.

While we wouldn’t expect the bears to be nearly as advanced as the headliner AAs in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure since they’ll be refreshes of the existing figures, they should be a marked improvement. This means no more clicking sounds or abrupt movements, and more fluidity. Most importantly, at least for Country Bear Jamboree fans, is that it gives the attraction a new lease on life and pretty much guarantees it another decade (if not two) of existence. For an attraction that has been on borrowed time since the dawn of the new century, this is a welcome relief.

Speaking of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, we’ve heard from many of you wondering whether Country Bear Musical Jamboree will open simultaneously with that reimagined ride just around the bend. It’s our understanding that was the original goal, as it would’ve given guests two reasons to plan a vacation to Walt Disney World and also helped soak up crowds.

What we’ve heard suggests this is no longer feasible. Between Tiana’s Bayou Adventure moving forward and now likely opening in late June 2024 and Country Bear Musical Jamboree taking longer than anticipated, it’s just not realistic for the reimagined attractions to debut together.

Note that this is rumor and was accompanied by a degree of uncertainty when we heard it, so take it with a grain of salt. It’s possible that work on Country Bear Musical Jamboree starts moving faster and manages to make a mid-summer opening…but we’re highly skeptical. Our best guess at this point is that late July 2024 is the earliest realistic opening date for Country Bear Musical Jamboree.

Purely speculative, but we think that date is more likely to be further delayed than moved forward. And at some point, Walt Disney World will want to weigh whether it’s “worth it” to open Country Bear Musical Jamboree in the late August to September off-season, or if it might make more sense to delay it to an October 1, 2024 opening. That would be a meaningful date as the anniversary of both Magic Kingdom and Country Bear Jamboree. I could definitely see Disney taking that approach, and I welcome Imagineers taking extra time to give the bears TLC (and also proper tribute with that anniversary opening).

Of course, this is all rumor and speculation and could be wrong and/or is subject to change. It’s also entirely possible that Walt Disney World has been dragging its feet on an official opening date on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure because they want Country Bear Musical Jamboree to a point where a simultaneous opening is attainable. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

Prior to this latest update, Walt Disney World shared details and an opening timeframe for the reimagined Country Bear Musical Jamboree, along with other details:

“Get ready to knee slap and toe-tap to a little country twang this summer! If you’ve been too busy trottin’ through the wild west and have missed the news, the Country Bears are getting ready to put on a new show that pays homage to the Opry-style shows of Nashville.

While the Country Bear Musical Jamboree will include easter eggs from the beginning to the end including a familiar tune fans may remember, the bears will sing new, reinterpreted Disney tunes in different genres of country music – like bluegrass, pop-country, Americana, rockabilly and other styles.”

Here’s a look at the behind-the-scenes teaser clip Walt Disney World has shared for Country Bear Musical Jamboree:

Country Bear Jamboree closed on January 27; the attraction will reopen as Country Bear Musical Jamboree later in Summer 2024.

Walt Disney World also teased this: “But hold your horses, we’re not done yet. We have a lot of growth and investment planned for our theme parks in the coming years and look forward to sharing more announcements about Frontierland … so y’all come back now, ya hear?”

That last line is either a reference to Beyond Big Thunder or Tiana’s Palace Restaurant replacing Pecos Bills or something else entirely. Who knows at this point.

Turning to commentary, this is a tough one. There’s almost certainly dramatically different reactions between the longtime and diehard Walt Disney World fans who were attending Destination D23 in-person versus more casual and newer fans.

For a lot of you, Country Bear Jamboree is nothing special, a relic of another time that has aged poorly and is long overdue for replacement. That describes a lot of people, and to them, this change will undoubtedly be embraced with enthusiasm and cautious optimism, at minimum. For others, not so much.

It’s no secret that we’re Country Bear superfans, frequently encouraging readers to make a bearline to Magic Kingdom’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, Grizzly Hall. That’s where they can find Country Bear Jamboree, a show that is best appreciated by audiences with sophisticated senses of humor, good looks, and great taste in attractions and animals.

Joking (but not really) aside, we absolutely adore Country Bear Jamboree but also, we’ve expected it to be removed and replaced for years. We’ve been saying for over a decade that this is the type of attraction that would never be made today, and not just because it’s a stage show with a lot of Audio Animatronics. Country Bear Jamboree features a unique brand of irreverent humor, and some of the lyrics elicit audible reactions from the audience because they’re unexpected from a Disney attraction.

It’s going to take a while to gather my thoughts about this news, so for now, I’ll share what I wrote earlier this year in Reimaginings Inside the Park and ‘Beyond the Berm’ Expansion at Magic Kingdom:

As much as I hate to admit this, Country Bear Jamboree is on borrowed time. There are a number of reasons why Walt Disney World might want to do something with the beloved bear band. I love Country Bear Jamboree and will defend it until the end (if anything, I sincerely believe it has gained appreciation in the last few years, too!). But I’m also a realist.

Country Bear Jamboree is not going to exist in its current form forever. A decade from now, I’ll be satisfied if the Audio Animatronics bears simply still exist…but are singing different songs. That’s probably the best case and most realistic scenario, barring a catastrophe for the company, economy, or tourism tanking in a way that essentially causes the parks to freeze in time. (No damage inflicted, but also no development done–we call that the “Disneyland Paris Effect.”)

To be abundantly clear, this does not mean that I’m on board with reimagining Country Bear Jamboree. Again, this is a matter of (trying to) come to terms with reality, and the small miracle of the Country Bear Jamboree and those songs still being sung in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in the year 2024.

For me, this announcement mirrors finding out IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth was being replaced. I knew it was an inevitability for years, and more than anything else, was thankful that we got to see it so many times before it was retired. Like that, Country Bear Jamboree has had a great run. Also like that, I wish it would stick around Walt Disney World forever, but ‘get’ why that is unrealistic.

Unlike IllumiNations, this attraction will live on with the Country Bears sticking around, which is more than I honestly would’ve expected even a few years ago. Frankly, that is a colossal distinction between the two changes. If aspects of IllumiNations were modernized and reimagined to be incorporated into a more crowd-pleasing nighttime spectacular, I probably would’ve been personally sad but completely understanding. That’s the crossroads, of sorts, for me with this Country Bear news.

At some point, I’ll collect my thoughts and offer more comprehensive commentary about what makes Country Bear Jamboree so special. (Or perhaps not–I could never bring myself to do an IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth tribute post.) For now, here’s what I wrote several years back in My Top 10 Walt Disney World Attractions:

For so many people I’ve encountered, enjoyment of Country Bear Jamboree hinges upon whether they enjoy folk or country music. If they don’t, all of the bears in the world cannot save this attraction for them.

Bob Dylan’s forays into them aside, these musical genres are not my jam. The thing is, Country Bear Jamboree is not a simple country music concert performed by robotic bears. Instead, it’s simultaneously a love-letter to the genre, and a send-up of stereotypical Southern life. It borders on social satire, and in the process contains some of the best witty and irreverent humor ever showcased in a Disney theme park.

Most importantly, its irreverent humor is delivered in a playful and fun manner. Even as Country Bear Jamboree spoofs hillbilly culture, it does so in way that’s unlikely to offend. I grew up in rural Michigan and lived in Indiana for years, and rather than finding this humor offensive because it hits too close to home, I laugh at its astuteness.

Perhaps I just enjoy self-deprecating humor, but I think Country Bear Jamboree is a hoot, and one that makes me nod silently while laughing. When Big Al first appears, I think we all can relate. Who among us has not sat on our porch shirtless and shoeless, with jugs of empty moonshine scattered around our couch while watching the cars pass? (No? Just me. Okay then.)

Beyond Country Bear Jamboree’s catchy music and irreverent humor, the characters are excellent. Even though the runtime is fairly short (and shorter now than it used to be!), the character development is strong. By the end of the show, you have a good sense of each bear’s personality and their quirks.

When I think of the best theme park characters from Walt Disney World, Figment, Dreamfinder, Sonny Eclipse, and about 8 of the Country Bears come to mind. Talk about a strong ensemble! Country Bear Jamboree is like the Wet Hot American Summer of theme park attraction casts.

At the end of the day, none of this should really be necessary to persuade you that Country Bear Jamboree is among the best attractions at Walt Disney World. If you’re against singing, robotic bears, you are against America. It’s as simple as that.

Ultimately, the jury is still out on the Country Bear reimagining news for us. On some personal level, we will be sad to see the current Country Bear Jamboree go. That much is a given, as we love the irreverence and humor of the current selection of songs, and have endless nostalgia for the current show. It’ll be tough to say goodbye to Country Bear Jamboree in its present form.

However, how difficult that is really depends upon the execution of the replacement. If Imagineering is able to replace the current show while maintaining the Bear Band’s sense of humor, personality, and charm will go a long way for us. If Country Bear Jamboree’s successor manages to be the same ‘ole bears but performing different tunes, it’ll end up being pretty easy to accept this change.

That’s particularly true if the new show actually ends up being both good and popular, drawing larger crowds. Although we (selfishly) enjoy being able to easily grab a last-minute seat at Country Bear Jamboree and have plenty of space around us, there’s nothing we’d love more than the Country Bears playing to packed houses, having to wait in 15 minute long lines to see them, and have the Bear Band stick around for decades to come. If a new generation of Country Bear fans is forged in the process of this reimagining, that’s a big win in our book.

In other words, this is one of those rare things that’s potentially both a personal negative and bigger picture positive. There’s almost no world in which a replacement for Country Bear Jamboree improves upon the original for us. At the same time, we realize it’s a show of a different era, and overdue for a modernization to make it more appealing to modern audiences and new generations of Walt Disney World guests. If Imagineering is able to thread the needle and offer something that satisfies both the casual diehard and diehard demos, it’ll be a bittersweet success.

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Your Thoughts

What do you think of the reimagined of Country Bear Jamboree announced for Magic Kingdom? Are you a disappointed diehard, cautiously optimism, or openly enthusiastic about this news? Or, are you in wait and see mode with this? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!

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