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.
2004 Random House "Step Into Reading" Book
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