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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Disney's Country Bear Jamboree At McDonald's

Back in 2002, Disney's Country Bears got stuffed at McDonald's all over the United States. They were part of a collection of eight Teddy Bears (including Ted Bedderhead, #7 in the series) used to promote the live action Country Bears movie.

The movie was loosely based on the long-running Country Bear Jamboree attraction that debuted in Frontierland at Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971. A new super-fan character named Beary Barrinson was introduced in the film.

With his tie-dyed t-shirt, you'd think that Beary would be more likely to follow the Grateful Dead Bears.

The most popular character from the Country Bear Jamboree is Big Al.

Like the plush Big Al that was sold for many years at Walt Disney World, the Happy Meal Toy Big Al (and all the other characters in the series) is a stuffed toy with a vinyl face.

I have to admit that I've never seen the Country Bears movie.

The Country Bears Happy Meal really stands out because the bears have some nice detail work and costumes for a fast-food premium.

In the Country Bear Jamboree, Henry is the host of the show, which stars Audio Animatronic (robotic) Bears.

In the movie, the Bears were actors in suits with animatronic faces, created by the Jim Henson puppet wizards.

The Country Bear Jamboree was so popular in Florida that a version was created for Disneyland in California (it opened in 1972 in a land called Bear Country, which became Critter Country when Splash Mountain opened in 1989). The Disneyland version closed down (it was replaced by a Winnie the Pooh ride) before the Country Bears movie hit theaters.

The Country Bear Jamboree also opened in Westernland at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and is still playing today (and in Japan, audiences get to see more than one show, including a Christmas Special during the holidays).

Trixie is one of the diva stars of the Country Bear Jamboree.

The show also stars a Mae West-type character named Teddi Berra. At Disneyland in California, visitors could visit "Teddi Berra's Swingin' Arcade," which featured unique games starring the Country Bears (like the show, the arcade is long gone).

The Country Bear Jamboree had cutting-edge technology when it debuted. However, even Disney has made fun of the show. Nobody can forget the "Lester's Possum Park" sequence of Disney's "A Goofy Movie" (1995).

Characters like Fred Bedderhead still have fans because bears, especially teddy bears, are extremely popular with collectors.

The Country Bear Jamboree characters were originally designed by Disney animation legend Marc Davis.

When the Country Bears movie was in theaters, I thought it could have been much more popular if it had been a computer animated film that used the original Marc Davis character designs---essentially bringing the robotic bears to life on the big screen.

The Country Bears have a groovy tour bus.

The Bus used to belong to The Partridge Family, until the Bears ate them.

The Country Bears tour was sponsored by Charmin, the company that shows us that bears do go in the woods.

The Country Bears refused to perform at Chuck E. Cheese.

Beary would like to see more of the Country Bears.

I bet Beary has a Country Bears website with fan art and fan fiction.

The Country Bears have also appeared in comic books, and I believe an animated series was planned at some point.

For more fun, check out Disney's Country Bears At Grizzly River Run In California Adventure.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Disney's 101 Dalmatians Unleashed At McDonald's

Without question, 101 Dalmatians was Disney's Top Dog at McDonald's.

With promotions for the animated movie, TV series and live action "101 Dalmatians" and "102 Dalmatians," there have been more individual McDonald's premiums based on the spotted canines than any other Disney creation.

There have been so many 101 Dalmatians items at McDonald's worldwide that it would be extremely difficult to collect everything that was produced.

The fun began in the Summer of 1991, when McDonald's promoted the theatrical re-release of Disney's 1961 animated Dalmatian adventure.

This Happy Meal featured four different "action figures." Pongo has always been my favorite character in the film.

When Lucky watches TV, he enjoys chowing down on some Kanine Krunchies.

How is it that no dog food company makes a real brand of "Kanine Krunchies" using Lucky as a mascot?

The Colonel (a sheepdog) is friends with Sergeant Tibs, a rare Disney cat hero. Tibs was written out of the 1996 live action movie. Boo Hiss!

Tibs did appear with The Colonel in the 101 Dalmatians Animated Series in 1997.

Cruella looks fetching in her coat.

You've got to give a hand to the designers of these toys, as they did a great job capturing the essence of the characters in small pieces of plastic.

In 1994, Pongo and two Dalmatian pups were guest stars in Ronald McDonald Presents Happy Birthday Happy Meal.

This was sort of the "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" of McDonald's Happy Meals. This Birthday Train set honoring 15 years of Happy Meals also included cars featuring Ronald McDonald, The Happy Meal Guys, Barbie, Hot Wheels, E.T., Sonic the Hedgehog, Berenstain Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids, Tonka, Snoopy, Muppet Babies, The Little Mermaid, Looney Tunes, and Tiny Toon Adventures.

In 1996, Disney released a live action version of 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close.

For this Happy Meal, 101 different toys were sold in white packages, making each toy a surprise (by the way, the pup wearing Mickey Mouse ears is named "Fidget" per the embroidery on the back of his hat).

McDonald's understood that this promotion could potentially drive collectors stark raving mad, so complete 101 Dalmatians sets were sold through a mail-away offer.

The Dalmatian toys also double as Christmas ornaments.

The figures in the boxed set were not in packages, so I guess no collector can have a truly "Mint In Package" 101 Dalmatians collection.

The characters in this set are primarily generic Disney Dalmatians, but aside from Fidget, you can also "spot" Jewel here.

Wow, I wonder how long it took to design this set.

It is interesting that the cartoon Dalmatians are used to promote the live action film.

Notice how similar many of the toys are.

Were there any variants or chasers in this set? I'm not sure.

Pongo and Perdita weren't in the Happy Meal, but they could be found in the Dalmatian Snowglobe set McDonald's also offered.

There were four of these, but I only got two of them.

In 1997, Disney TV Animation launched a 101 Dalmatians Animated Series. Perdita was voiced by actress Pam Dawber, who played "Mindy" on the TV series "Mork and Mindy" with Robin Williams.

In the Animated Series, the Dalmatians live in the country next door to Cruella. Scorch the Ferret is Cruella's loyal pet.

The TV show is a mix of the animated film and the live action one, plus something different.

Two-Tone the Dalmatian was originally a character from the live action film. Lt. Pug was created for the TV series.

Lucky (voiced by Pamela Adlon and Debi Mae West) is the leader of the Dalmatians.

Cruella (voiced by April Winchell) is more of an annoying neighbor in the show than a real threat to the dogs.

Rolly (voiced by Kath Soucie) is quite the chow hound. The pigs on the farm might want to watch their backs.

The "Flipcars" used for this Happy Meal were first seen in the "Tiny Toon Adventures" Warner Brothers Happy Meal circa 1990. Kath Soucie was the voice of Fifi the Skunk on that show.

Dipstick the Dalmatian was portrayed as a rather goofy character.

Notice that the character names are not found on the packaging. I had to do some research to figure out that the snake is named Cydne.

Tripod the three-legged Dalmatian was new for this show.

Dumpling the Pig was voiced by Christine Cavanaugh, who also voiced Babe the Pig in the movie "Babe".

Like Rolly, Cadpig the dog was voiced by Kath Soucie.

Spot the Chicken (voiced by Tara Strong) thought she was a dog.

Like all the characters from the original "101 Dalmatians" film, Pongo was redesigned with a new look for the Animated Series.

The Swamp Rat is a character that I don't really remember much about.

In 2000, Disney released a sequel to the live action film called "102 Dalmatians."

This was the first big live action movie directed by Kevin Lima, who had previously directed "A Goofy Movie" and "Tarzan" for Disney.

Once again, McDonald's was the promotional partner for "102 Dalmatians." This time, the toys did all sorts of tricks. Some were wind-up toys, pull-back vehicles, light-up toys, train cars, had fabric features or other specialties.

The "102 Dalmatians" Happy Meal must have been very expensive for McDonald's to create.

This time, Cruella and other characters made an appearance in a movie set.

The movie characters each have a special feature. Cruella has two faces, Oddball has spots that magically appear, Fluffy has hair, Waddlesworth has sound, and Little Dipper is a squirt toy.

McDonald's and Disney really upped the game for 102 Dalmatians. Each week, a couple sets of different types of toys were released. Here we see the Movie Set, the Wind-up Set, and the Ice Set.
The Wind-up Set includes an acrobatic Dalmatian similar to the Little Brother the Dog toy seen in 1998's Mulan McDonald's Happy Meal. It also features a roll-over Dalmatian similar to the Thomas O'Malley cat from the European AristoCats Happy Meal.

Here we see Dalmatian Spinning Tops, Light-Up Dalmatians, and Flocked Dalmatians.

We also see Pull-Back Dalmatians and Rolling Dalmatian Vehicles.

Here we have Dalmatians with Clothing, the Dalmatian Train Set and Dalmatian Water Globes.

Don't forget the Dalmatian Village and the Dalmatian Band (with Sound!).

In the Land Down Under, things were appropriately turned upside down.

In Australia, McDonald's had toys that looked like the live action movie characters.

101 Dalmatians were also part of another really big set of McDonald's Happy Meal toys. The 100 Years of Magic Walt Disney World promotion celebrated 100 years of Disney with 100 different toys. This promotion is a bit confusing, since Walt Disney World opened in 1971, so it is clearly not 100 years old.

Walt Disney World in Florida does not have a 101 Dalmatians attraction, but you can stay in a Dalmatian hotel of sorts when you visit Disney's All-Star Movies Resort.

There have been even more 101 Dalmatians Happy Meal Promotions at McDonald's all over the world (Pongo was even in a Euro Disney Resort Happy Meal in 1992). If you ever try to track down all of them, use Lucky the Dalmatian to help you. Because you're gonna need all the luck you can get trying to find everything.