Major Changes Coming to Country Bear Jamboree at Walt Disney World in 2024

Last updated:

The classic Country Bear Jamboree attraction at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is getting a major update in 2024. Disney announced that the show will be temporarily closing on January 27th this year in order to prepare for the debut of an all-new show paying “homage to the Opry-style shows of Nashville.”

Background on Country Bear Jamboree

The Country Bear Jamboree opened at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971 as one of the original opening day attractions. It has remained a guest favorite for over 50 years, entertaining park visitors with its cast of audio-animatronic singing bears performing country songs on different stages. The concept for the attraction originated with Walt Disney himself in the 1960s.

He envisioned an indoor bear show for a proposed Disney ski resort in California called Mineral King. Although that resort was never built, the bear show concept moved forward and ultimately found its home at the Magic Kingdom in 1971. Over the years, Country Bear Jamboree has seen some changes and seasonal overlays.

Special holiday versions debuted in 1984 with Country Bear Christmas Special and in 1986 with Country Bear Vacation Hoedown. But the classic country revue has continued entertaining guests daily with music and comedy from the Five Bear Rugs band and other beloved characters like Henry, Liver Lips McGrowl, and the Sun Bonnet Trio.

New Show Details

When Country Bear Jamboree reopens later in 2024, the bears will be putting on an all-new show inspired by Nashville’s musical variety shows. According to Disney, “the Bear Band will be reinterpreting favorite Disney songs in different genres of country music.” The new show is envisioned as a loving tribute to classic Nashville revues. To bring an authentic Nashville sound, Walt Disney Imagineers are working with real Nashville musicians on arranging the songs for the new show. Genres featured will include bluegrass, pop country, rockabilly, and Americana. In addition to the new musical stylings, the bears themselves will be getting costume updates as well.

Imagineer Chris Beatty gave fans a sneak peek of Henry’s new outfit when the changes were first announced. While the show will have a fresh new take on music, Disney promises that it will retain the same friendly tone and spirit that fans have loved for over 50 years. Familiar characters and Easter eggs referencing the original attraction will still be present. The show is now being called Country Bear Musical Jamboree.

History of Country Bear Jamboree

As mentioned, Walt Disney himself dreamed up the initial concept for a show featuring singing bears. While planning a ski resort called Mineral King in California in 1965, he proposed an indoor bear show to entertain guests after skiing. The resort never materialized, but the bear show moved forward. Early designs and concepts came from legendary Disney Imagineers like Marc Davis, who shared: “Walt saw the drawings and said, ‘Marc, you know that little show you’ve been working on for the last two weeks? Well, I want you to work full time on it. So finish up what you’re doing now and get to work on my bear show.’”

When Walt Disney World was being planned in Florida, the bear show was incorporated into the plans for Frontierland’s Bear Country area (later renamed Critter Country). The Country Bear Jamboree opened there on October 1, 1971 with many of the characters still beloved today like Henry, Liver Lips, and Big Al. The show was an immediate hit, leading Disneyland in California to open their own version in 1972.

Over the next three decades, the bears entertained guests on both coasts with the music and comedy revue. Special holiday editions later debuted, as mentioned, bringing seasonal flair. In 1986, Disneyland introduced a new vacation-themed overlay called Country Bear Vacation Hoedown. This replaced the original show at Disneyland until 2001 when the attraction closed to make way for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh dark ride. Meanwhile, in Florida, the classic Country Bear Jamboree carried on entertaining Magic Kingdom visitors. So when the new, updated version debuts this year, it will mark the start of a new chapter for the iconic opening day attraction.

Country Bear Jamboree Merchandise & Special Events

As a classic Disney attraction, Country Bear Jamboree has amassed substantial merchandise and seen various special events over the decades. To celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2016, the Disney Parks Blog shared details on the bears’ backstory along with some commemorative merchandise. During its 50th anniversary celebration in 2021, Disney released specialty merchandise like a Country Bear Jamboree plush set and limited edition pins. A special 50th anniversary toy was also created showing the full cast of characters.

The Country Bears themselves have stepped out of their Jamboree at times to interact with guests. In 2012, the bears took over Frontierland for a day to celebrate the attraction’s 41st birthday. Special pop-up meet and greets have happened over the years as well, allowing guests to encounter Henry, Liver Lips, and other stars. With the bears stepping into the Nashville music spotlight this year, we can likely expect more fun merchandise and character interactions to arrive as well. Special dining packages or dessert parties could also debut along with the new show, immersing guests into the music revue even further.

Future of Country Bear Jamboree

While the exact details and date are still unconfirmed, Disney stated that the “reimagined” Country Bear Jamboree should debut sometime this summer. The timeless characters will embark on this new musical journey inspired by Nashville that retains the heart and humor families have cherished for 50 years. This refreshed take on a classic Walt Disney World attraction joins other updates like the upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. As Disney continues evolving their parks, they aim to strike a balance between modern innovations and preserving nostalgia.

The bears have proudly represented Americana music and early frontier spirit since 1971. As musical tastes change, this new show allows them to start strumming some more contemporary country genres while still tipping their hats to the original charm. So get ready to clap along this summer when the “wildest bunch of bears this side of the Smokies” reopens their jamboree with a Nashville twist! Whether you’re a longtime fan or first-timer, this musical comedy is sure to have you grinning from ear to ear.

Behind The Scenes: Country Bear Musical Jamboree Recording Session | Walt Disney World Resort