Sunday, December 11, 2011

History of WDW: Country Bears Jamboree- Christmas Overlay

In keeping with the season I thought it would be a good idea to look at something that for a long time helped signify the upcoming holiday season, and seems to be sorely missed by all who had the privilege to have seen it.

Ever since its beginning on opening day October 1, 1971 the Country Bear Jamboree has not only thrilled but captivated audiences by its use of great characters, and audio animatronics. This show is still much like it was on opening day, and still seems to bring in the audiences daily.

At and around 1984 (conveniently the same year Michael Eisner and Frank Wells took over the company) it was decided that a change must be made to the Country Bear Jamboree to keep it fresh. A decision was made and during the holiday season of 1984, the Country Bear Jamboree Christmas Special was born.

Billed as an escape from the regular show, the Jamboree is very similar to the original show. It features the same cuts and characters, meaning that they never had to rearrange the setups behind the stage, and the characters are all the same, except that now they are dressed for christmas. The Five Bear Rugs continue to play in the center stage, playing "Tracks in the Snow", "Deck the Halls" and "Hungry as a Bear". It also features Terrence singing "Blue Christmas" (while he is freezing, and receiving no help form his penguin counterpart) and an argument between Max and Melvin over who should be singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" (considering that Max has a red lightbulb on his nose.

The show featured mostly the same voice actors as the original, like Pete Renaday as Henry, and Thurl Ravenscroft playing Buff and had a very festive sort of feeling. The highlight of the show is Rufus. He is completely unseen, however when Wendell's gun goes off and blows the light it is Rufus who has to huff and puff up (or down) flights of stairs to "give me some light"as Henry puts it. If that is not the highlight of the show then seeing Big Al in a diaper singing "Another New Year" has to be it.

Sadly in 2005the show was taken off of the Holiday agenda and the original incarnation of the show has remained on the docket ever since. Many attribute the Castle "Dreamlights" as the reason that the budget did not allow them to do the conversion of the Country Bears, but that is only a rumor, and it seems to be a bit unbelievable. As it stands this season the show did not return however there seems to be hope of this one day returning to the Magic Kingdom as it is only an overlay project, and takes only a few weeks to create. We may yet see the Country Bears Chrismtas Special yet. If you would like to view it there is a video here:

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