Before we headed to Country Bear Jamboree, we decided to prepare for the experience by going on a quest to find the Mile Long Bar.
If you’re not aware, I’m a huge fan of the Country Bear Jamboree. It ranks among my all-time favorite Disney attractions, and when people tell me that they don’t like Country Bear Jamboree, I draw (possibly unfair) conclusions about them. (Oh come on, we all do this to various degrees with our own trigger topics–at least I admit to it.)
I feel very strongly about everything the Country Bears represent, and I regret never seeing them in all of their Bear Country glory at Disneyland. What I would give to go back in time and explore Bear Country…
Although I don’t own a time machine, it seems that a visit to Tokyo Disneyland is a halfway decent proxy. While it doesn’t have the full glory of Bear Country (I love Splash Mountain, but to see how awesome Bear Country was, you really ought click on each of the Bear Country links above, and visit this page), it does have a Country Bear Jamboree and the Mile Long Bar, two key components. Plus, it plays each of the Country Bear Jamboree seasonal shows (although my mom tells that I’ve seen each of these shows at Walt Disney World, I don’t remember them).
So we looked and looked, trying to find the Mile Long Bar. We asked Cast Members, but none of them could seem to help. We didn’t know exactly where it would have been located, but we ultimately concluded that it had been replaced by the Westernland Shootin’ Gallery. We stood for a few minutes, marveling at the details, which we presumed used to be behind the counter at the Mile Long Bar. It looked like it would have been such a cool place.
It turns out that the Mile Long Bar was not replaced by the Shootin’ Gallery, so I guess that Gallery is just cool on its own. I’m still trying to figure out what happened to it (anyone know?). As we learned with Officer Zzzzyxxx, the downside to having a resort with very little English coverage is that it’s really difficult to learn about minor changes.
It actually reminds me a lot of my experiences with Walt Disney World in the pre-internet days. I’ve been visiting since 1986, and one of my earliest memories was visiting in 1992 and seeing the construction for Splash Mountain and the signs announcing its arrival up. Actually, you know what, this is a fairly involved tangent and I think I’ll save it for its own post and just cut to the chase here…
…The downside of little English coverage of Tokyo Disney Resort is that we often don’t know what’s going on with the parks, besides big picture stuff covered in press releases. The upside is that we aren’t constantly thinking about changes there, everything is a new surprise when seeing it in person.
While this stunk when it came to finding out that the Mile Long Bar had gone extinct, it’s one of our favorite things about visiting the international parks. Not everything is analyzed to death on Twitter and in forums, so there are plenty of surprises.
Despite Mystic Manor being a huge new addition in Hong Kong Disneyland, I know absolutely nothing about the attraction, besides that it’s their “take” on the Haunted Mansion, it has a monkey, and uses a trackless ride system. If this were an attraction in the US, I’m sure by now I would have inadvertently seen photos from the ride and heard all sorts of reviews of it (as it stands, the only “reviews” I’ve heard are from those who haven’t been on it, and basically just proclaim that it’s “really awesome.”). I like this, and I can’t wait to experience that attraction with a blank slate.
After we left the Westernland Shootin’ Gallery, we headed to Country Bear Jamboree. My expectation was that it would basically be the Walt Disney World’s version (prior to the dreaded 2012 cuts), except in Japanese. Boy, was I wrong.
I am a sucker for pre and post-shows. In many cases, I think these are make or break, and can be more important than the show itself. Unlike unnecessarily convoluted backstories created for lands and general areas, I can’t think of one instance of pre or post-show storytelling not adding something to the experience. By “storytelling,” I don’t necessarily mean anything linear or plot-driven, I just mean the richness that comes from details that convey a sense of character. Perhaps mythos is a better term, but I don’t think that’s quite the right word, either.
My affinity for pre and post-show storytelling often leads to my holding of views that conflict with the majority. For instance, I think Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain is superior to Disneyland’s, and it’s largely because of the pre and post-shows. (There are a couple other reasons.) I think this affinity for mythos/storytelling is pretty natural. If it weren’t, sequels wouldn’t be so popular. Once we see a story we like, we become emotionally invested in it, and want to know more about its world and characters.
I’m mostly obsessed with pre and post-shows when it comes to attractions that otherwise have flimsy or little storytelling (like roller coasters). For attractions like Country Bear Jamboree, I’ve always assumed the story is pretty well self-contained since the nature of the attraction lends itself to telling a story (contrasted with a roller coaster, which almost needs the pre or post-show for its richness), of sorts. It’s not that I oppose storytelling outside of the main show, I’ve just never thought it especially necessary.
When we stepped inside Country Bear Jamboree, I realized just how much Country Bear lore I had been missing out on. Here I had been thinking that the Country Bears simply sipped on whiskey and hibernated when not performing, but as it turns out, they are quite prolific. The entire pre-show area was basically set up as an archive, showing various tidbits from the Bears’ careers.
The extensive details and mythos (and here, mythos is absolutely the right word) about the Country Bears was astonishing and enlightening. A lot of effort had been put into creating each of these little things, which as a whole developed the characters and explained a lot about them. I’d love to know more about the team that created all of these things, as clearly a lot of thought and time went into these artifacts.
I probably could have spent a few hours (for the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t go back and do exactly that) exploring these details, but the show started, and we went in and watched that.
With the exception of it being bilingual (and by that, I mean it randomly switches between English and Japanese without much reason as to when and why) and the bears having beautiful coats of fur and being quiet Audio-Animatronics, the show was very similar to what was in Florida pre-2012.
The post-show to Country Bear Jamboree was also great, with specially designed doors for each of the performers’ dressing rooms. Don’t worry, I’ll have more photos of this all in a stand-alone TDL Country Bear Jamboree blog post. I extensively documented everything.
I’ve since learned that the design of the Country Bear Jamboree pre and post-shows in Tokyo Disneyland is nearly identical to Disneyland before Country Bear Jamboree closed. This makes sense, as most early Tokyo Disneyland attractions are clones from one of the coasts.
Lots of time (justifiably) spent on Country Bear Jamboree, so let’s jump ahead…
Next we did Splash Mountain, followed by Tom Sawyer Island. We spent a ton of time on Tom Sawyer Island, exploring all of its areas. The coolest part was probably the gorgeous maps we were given while waiting in line for the raft over.
On the raft back, we encountered an enthusiastic Cast Member who seemed intrigued by us. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it yet, but during the course of trip, we encountered a lot of awesome things, so it only made sense to “raise the roof” (or “RTR”) said things.
For those kids out there reading this, “raise the roof” is a gesture made popular in the late 1990s by rappers and others. Since, it faded in popularity but has become popularized by dorky people in an attempt to feign “coolness.” Uhh…
The four of us did a lot of raising the roof during the course of the trip. It started out as a discreet gesture to one another to acknowledge that something rocked. Hard. It some point it became more animated, and at a point later than that, Japanese guests began doing it back to us. When we realized the great power of RTR in breaking down cultural barriers and (probably) promoting a global sense of camaraderie, we began RTR’ng other guests in the park, in the hopes that they’d RTR back.
Japanese teens totally embraced this (or thought we were total dorks and humored us out of pity), and typically RTR’d us when we passed them. To cut to the chase, this Cast Member navigating the Tom Sawyer Island raft was probably the most talented RTR’r we encountered over the course of the trip. His passion and suave RTR moves really shined through. As the kids would say, he had moves like Jagger.
Oh, and by the way…sorry for whatever irreparable damage we caused in terms of reducing the Japanese’s opinion of Americans. In this brave new world where global diplomacy is vested in the hands of Dennis Rodman, we figure this was just a raindrop in the ocean. 😉 (Seriously though, everyone loved RTR.)
Moving on, we did some other stuff, including Hunny Hunt and the Cinderella Castle walk-through (some need displays, but it was a long line mostly for posed photo ops) before splitting up to photograph (in my case) the sunset. After the sunset, we met up at Tomorrowland Terrace.
“Never eat in Tomorrowland.” That’s the general advice given to us by a couple of veterans who have been to every park in the world. Tomorrowland Terrace in Tokyo Disneyland had Mickey Mouse shaped burgers, so I planned on disregarding this advice. Initially, the plan was to just go there early in the day to grab a single burger for the sole purpose of a photo idea I had. For some reason, that idea expanded into eating dinner there, the photo idea falling by the wayside.
Henry was pretty amped when he learned that we were going to Tomorrowland Terrace.
What a mistake this was. My burger was okay, but Sarah’s made her nauseous. I thought she was exaggerating, so I tried hers and felt the same way. Just thinking about it now makes me sick to my stomach, so rather than going into more detail, I’ll just strongly recommend not eating at Tomorrowland Terrace. The restaurant is probably the only part of Tokyo Disneyland I’d consider “blighted” in design, so it’s not like you’re missing anything by skipping it.
After dinner, I led everyone else around looking for a spot to view Dreamlights. We were late getting spots, so we were stuck with less than ideal spots. Because of this, I think everyone else just wanted to quickly grab a spot. But we wandered. Sarah has become familiar with this patten of mine, and I think she is accepting of it, because most of the time, it yields shockingly good results. I’m sort of like a Bloodhound, except I can sniff out great fireworks and parade spots (yes, I am bragging about that meaningless skill!).
After the parade, we quickly did Jungle Cruise before I went to meet up with my contact in Japan for night shooting. Big thanks to her for putting up with me for those 4 shoots. Even I was exhausted after the ridiculous pace of those couple days, so I can only imagine how tired she must have been, especially given that she had to go into the office in between! Hopefully the results were worth it.
Here are a handful of photos from that night. Most are nothing special, as I was so exhausted that I couldn’t think of interesting composition to save my life. I have some better ones, but I’ll save those for “Photo of the Day” posts.
SPAM YOUR FRIENDS. We’re into the home stretch of this trip report now (only 2 installments remain) and we want your help. As we’ve been saying, we want to convince everyone to visit Tokyo Disney Resort. It seems like we’re sorta close to this “everyone” goal, as literally everyday we hear from people planning trips to Tokyo, who claim to be doing it because of us. Not to get all emotional on you, but hearing this really makes our day. Anyway, to help us get to “everyone” we’re asking that you spam your friends via social media (or via blog, email, snail mail, courier pigeon, etc.) with the link to the trip report. It’s not like you don’t spam your friends already, and we’re pretty sure they’d rather read this than hear about your latest Fitbit stats or how many sheep you’ve raised in Farmville. 😉 So please click the “share” buttons on the side and help us out. Thanks!
What do you think of Country Bear Jamboree (choose your words wisely)? What about breaking down cultural walls through raising the roof? Any thoughts on anything else in this installment? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!