July 22, 2024

Photos: First Look at New Costumes for Country Bear Musical Jamboree

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Walt Disney World has shared first look photos of each Bear Band member's new costumes for the reimagined Country Bear Musical Jamboree at Magic Kingdom! This shares images and profiles for the Five Bear Rugs,




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Walt Disney World has shared first look photos of each Bear Band member’s new costumes for the reimagined Country Bear Musical Jamboree at Magic Kingdom! This shares images and profiles for the Five Bear Rugs, Henry, Teddi Barra, Big Al, and everyone else, plus a bit of brief commentary.

As a reminder, Country Bear Musical Jamboree is a reimagining of Country Bear Jamboree. Imagineering is switching up the music being performed, bringing an all-new act to Grizzly Hall for the Bear Band to perform. With Country Bear Musical Jamboree, the Bear Band will be reinterpreting favorite Disney songs in different genres of country music.

The new experience is an homage to the classic musical revues in Nashville and Imagineering has worked with prominent musicians to get the authentic country sound. Country Bear Musical Jamboree will still have the fun and friendly tone fans enjoy with the same famous characters like the loveable Trixie, Big Al and others. Basically, same Bear Band but new songs and other wrinkles to the reworked show.

The bears are preparing a knee-slappin’ and toe-tappin’ kind of show with reinterpreted Disney tunes from bluegrass to Americana, rockabilly and more! As Disney shared in the latest episode of “We Call It Imagineering,” these twangy tracks will include “Try Everything” and “A Whole New World” from the Walt Disney Animation Studios films “Zootopia” and “Aladdin.”

The new wardrobes for the Bear Band were designed by the creative costuming team at Disney Live Entertainment, based on concept art by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily (one perfect piece of which is pictured above), who have worked on the Country Bears for a while. For those who aren’t familiar with Kevin and Jody, there’s no one better to work on the redesign than them. If you’ve bought a piece of Country Bear merchandise since ~2004, there’s a decent chance they designed it.

Before the fiddlin’ begins on July 17, 2024, here’s a behind the scenes tour with a first look at who’s who in Country Bear Musical Jamboree…

Henry

After an inspirational hibernation season, Ursus H. Bear set out to create a permanent cultural showplace dedicated to America’s musical heritage. In 1898, Ursus established Grizzly Hall where the honey tycoon-turned-impresario invited tuneful bruins to present zany and captivating performances in a show that quickly became known as a wild and wooly good time.

Years later, Ursus’s grandson Henry took over and now serves as the master of bear-emonies. He even helped develop the current show and co-wrote the opening song with the Five Bear Rugs.

Five Bear Rugs

Speaking of the Five Bear Rugs, there’s Zeke and Zeb and Ted and Fred and a bear named Tennessee, and they’re all playing with real ol’ country rhythm.

If you look to the bottom right of the stage, you’ll even see Zeb’s son, Oscar, holding a Big Al plush.

Trixie

One of the Country Bears’ most veteran performers is the one and only Trixie. After trying everything, she eventually found her niche for performing. Now fans can find her singing away with triplets Bunny, Bubbles and Beulah.

A good and elaborate look for Trixie. She was kind of one-dimensional in Country Bear Jamboree, and the jokes revolving around her never really felt up to the satirical spirit of the rest of the show. Lots of room for improvement here, and hopefully Imagineering achieved it.

Teddi Barra

Not to be outdone by Trixie is The Jewel of the Dakotas, Teddi Barra. Her rise in show biz was meteoric after being discovered in an ice cream parlor.

Here’s hoping that Imagineers have doubled down on the “chemistry” (PG word that can be used on this blog) between Henry Wendell and Teddi Barra–her and Henry previously made no efforts to conceal their “feelings” for one another.

Bunny, Bubbles and Beulah

Originally known as The Sun Bonnets, these girls recently turned in their bonnets for Stetsons when they began singing with Trixie around the world, including a sold-out engagement at Royal Ursa Hall.

While their costumes are the point of this post, what sticks out to me is the new slideshow (?) in the background. That sure looks like the distinctive art style of Marc Davis–that or one of the current Imagineers emulated it as a callback to the Disney Legend. Neither would surprise me, as Davis had a lot (enough for two volumes!) of art that never made it into the parks. Either way, it should be a lovely tribute–and I’m really looking forward to seeing whatever this is!

Wendell

Wendell, on the other hand, was a frustrated basketball, baseball and football player until Henry invited him to try carrying a tune, and he’s been part of the Country Bears gang ever since. He’s thrilled to finally sing a love song with Teddi, much to the dismay of his old friend Henry.

We always knew Wendell had mad game and tremendous swagger, so it only makes sense that he’s stolen Teddi’s heart. As mentioned above, hopefully their “love” radiates through the air.

Ernest the Dude

Ernest the Dude is one of the best-dressed bears guests will see at Grizzly Hall – he brings his entire wardrobe wherever he goes. For those counting, that’s 17 trunks filled with 30 coats, 40 slacks, 60 shirts, 20 hats and a pair and a half of underwear.

Wearing that costume, it seems like Ernest is going to sing something from Mary Poppins. That cannot just be a coincidence, right?

Terrence, aka Shaker

Ernest and Trixie aren’t the only actors in the bear band. Terrence, aka Shaker, was once a famous theater star until a fall from the balcony in “Romeo and Juliet” brought the house down – literally.

Ever since that fateful night, he turned in his tights for a guitar and created a signature dance move that he’s used ever since. Don’t worry about Terrence, though. Despite having a face only a Mama Bear could love – and being perpetually single –  he’s ready to launch his film career.

Romeo McGrowl

Speaking of starting a new chapter, one bear is ready to enter his next era of singing rockabilly. Of course, I’m referring to none other than the Miami Serenader himself, Romeo McGrowl.

The new looks for Shaker and Romeo McGrowl are perhaps my favorite, and are really quite elaborate. Both bears look like they went on one of those reality TV ‘extreme makeover’ shows–the differences are huge.

Big Al

And of course, what would the Country Bears be without Big Al? There’s music in this bear’s blood, and he’s been playing the guitar since he was a child.

He was even the resident bard and balladeer in the swamp before Disney World was built. Coming off his 25th Farewell Tour in cities like Paris (Texas), Hollywood (Florida) and London (Ohio), Big Al is a true legend.

Gomer

Our resident piano player Gomer also knows a thing or two about rebrands. Having been classically trained since he was a cub, Gomer’s favorite composition before switching to country and western music was “Night on Bear Mountain.”

Both Big Al and Gomer are more incremental improvements, which is perfect. Don’t mess with perfection. Both are slightly different–Gomer more so with a new look to his fur, but Big Al also has a more exaggerated expression, which is perfect since that’s what he’s all about.

Turning to commentary, the one thing that immediately sticks out to me is just how much effort is being put into transforming Country Bear Jamboree into Country Bear Musical Jamboree. The easy way out would’ve been simply switching the music and reprogramming the existing bears, without updating the Audio Animatronics or costuming whatsoever. That would’ve been the “placeholder” option, kicking the can down the road for another few years while Disney figured out whatever it’s going to do with this area of Magic Kingdom.

As should be clear from the photos and previously-released video, that isn’t what has happened. They spent a lot of money and time on this–it had a way bigger budget than I would’ve expected given the nature of the project. This means that the Bear Band now has a new lease on life and the reimagining extends Country Bear (Musical) Jamboree’s life by at least a decade or two. (Unless they “pull a Starcruiser” on it, I guess.)

Seriously, there’s no way the stage show is on the chopping block anymore–nor will it be anytime soon–and it was for over a decade. And that right there also opens the door for new future acts, which hopefully includes seasonal ones. That wouldn’t have been possible if the bears were replaced. So at the very least, this reimagining buys us time. (Honestly, how well done this looks almost has me a little worried, as it makes me wonder whether they already have buy-in from OLC on a transformation at Tokyo Disneyland, and this was co-funded by them.)

As I’ve said before, Country Bear Musical Jamboree is the realistic best-case outcome for the Bear Band. It’s not my dream scenario–not be a long shot–for a CBJ reimagining. But of the options that were seriously considered, this is by far the best from a fan perspective. The Country Bears existing at all is much, much better than the alternatives.

I don’t think fans realize just how hard fought of a “victory” this was for Country Bear Jamboree. It may not seem like one and most of you diehard fans–like me–would probably prefer them performing their original act or something other than Disney music. But that was never a serious proposal. Updates or outright replacement were what was actually on the table, not whatever romanticized ideas we’ve concocted in our heads.

I’m willing to withhold judgment on Country Bear Musical Jamboree. Regardless of the performances and song choices, I think it’s going to take a long time to get used to the new show. I had watched Country Bear Jamboree for decades and was a huge fan–the new show is going to be jarring at first no matter the quality.

Honestly, I can’t imagine loving Country Bear Musical Jamboree at first. I’m very concerned that it’ll be all Disney tunes with minimal attempts at banter or wry humor. Nevertheless, I’m curious as to how I’ll feel about it in a year or 5 after becoming familiar with Country Bear Musical Jamboree and, hopefully, after my daughter falls in love with it. And that right there is the reason I’ve been on board with this Country Bear Jamboree reimagining in the first place: because it’s the only outcome that involved her being able to grow up with the Country Bears.

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Your Thoughts

What do you think of the new costumes for the Bear Band? Any you love or hate? Will you be in attendance for Country Bear Jamboree opening in Magic Kingdom on July 17, 2024? Are you a disappointed diehard, cautiously optimism, or openly enthusiastic about this new show? 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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