Iconic “Country Bear Jamboree” Gets a Refresh

For over 50 years, the “Country Bear Jamboree” has been one of the most popular attractions in the Disney universe. First opened in 1971 at Walt Disney World in Florida, it has remained open and operating ever since as one of the Magic Kingdom’s most beloved attractions. Parents and grandparents who saw it when they were children now take their own children and grandchildren to it.

“Country Bear Jamboree” went over so well, it was also added to California’s Disneyland in 1972, and remained opened until being replaced by a Winnie The Pooh installation in 2001. The jamboree was also added to Tokyo’s Disneyland in 1983, and remains open today. Featuring animatronic bears in a musical presentation, it’s where a lot of kids are first exposed to folk and country music. It was inspired by country music stage shows such as the Grand Ole Opry.

The attraction pretty much stayed static all the way up to 2012 when the theme park closed it down for two months to make renovations. Disney World closed it once again on January 27th of this year, making some fear that after 53 years, the Country Bear Jamboree had run it’s course. But that’s not the case. Disney and its team of “imagineers” are giving the attraction it’s biggest overhaul ever, and have recruited some heavy hitters in Nashville to help them.

The new soundtrack was recorded on Music Row in Nashville, not in Los Angeles. And though some will balk at making changes to the presentation at all, it appears those in charge are looking to keep pretty true to the original concept.

“We wanted a fresh approach to this show, taking the classic country bears, their humor, their attitudes, and putting in this authentic country flavor,” says Jake Ellis, Disney’s principle audio media designer on the project.

Legendary country songwriter and guitarist Mac McAnally is one of the principals in recording new music for the attraction, and assembled a top team of Nashville Cats to bring it to life. For those who don’t know, McAnally is an inductee to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and won the CMA’s Musician of the Year every year between 2008 and 2018 except one. He was also a member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer band.

Though not all participants and songs for the updated attraction have been revealed just yet, a behind-the-scenes feature for the new attraction (see below) shows country singer Emily Ann Roberts reprising the role as the bear “Trixie St. Claire.” When reviewing Emily Ann’s 2023 album Can’t Hide Country, Saving Country Music remarked, “In an ideal world, this would be what popular country sounds like.”

“I’ve never done anything like this, where the song is truly coming to life before folks’ eyes,” says Roberts. “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?”‘

Some of the songs will be familiar from other parts of the Disney universe, like “The Bare Necessities” originally from The Jungle Book and now sung by Mac McAnally, and “A Whole New World” originally from Aladdin, sung and performed by bluegrass great Chris Thile with Allison Russell.

The “Country Bear Jamboree” remains closed at Disney World as renovations continue, but is expected to re-open at some point this summer, tentatively in August.

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