Friday, May 27, 2022

Bear Country, 1973

Here are two more beauties from a batch of photos taken by Mr. X! These are "Souvenir Guidebook-Worthy" for sure.

On March 4th, 1972, a new land (its seventh!) debuted in Disneyland - Bear Country! Built on the site of the old Indian Village, it only had one attraction, the Country Bear Jamboree. And for a while, the CBJ was extremely popular - Disneyland had two identical theaters side by side to handle the enormous crowds. I love this bright, sunny view with the C.K. Holliday crossing the trestle to our left, and all of the folks in their groovy 1970s fashions.

The covered bridge near us was the entrance to the entrance, if you will; you can see the turnstiles and actual entrance in the distance to our left. The Great Stroller Infestation has begun!



Nanook said...

Groo-VY, indeed-!

Thanks to Mr. X.

JB said...

First pic: A very nice 'you are there' scene. The train going by, catapults this photo into 'better than your average (country) bear' territory. All the pine trees are a plus as well.
Disney's trashcans must be magnetic; one of them has attracted a herd of strollers.

Second pic: Yep, Major. By 1973, feral strollers will soon outnumber Disneyland guests. This is why one should always spay or neuter their strollers.
The gal in the light blue harem pants(?) is gonna be mad when she gets home and sees that the bottom hem is all ratty and worn away.

Thank you X. And thank you, Major.


Mr. X / these are BEAUT-i-full!! Thank you for sharing them. I loved how when you were in BEAR COUNTRY you really felt far away …the scent of pine added to the feel of the far off wilderness. I remember a late 80’s visit to Disneyland on a rainy day. When we exited the Country Bear Theater , there was a heavy must and a super low cloud over the tips of sone of the trees - it really felt like we were in the Northwest or the High Sierras!! WED did double the capacity of the popular bear show , but many critics said “it was never crowded” when in fact imagineers intentionally solved the crowd problems Walt Disney World’s bear show suffered from - and still does : the lack of space for the guests in line. Disneyland set the twin theaters far back behind the timberline …. Abs to access the loading “den” were heavy set timbers creating a mine shaft like feel taking guests into the theater free up the the outside land . Once inside of ready felt like you were in a old music hall possible could converted from a bear cave! And the Country Bear Jamboree was an attraction perfect for the time as country western music was at a peak of popularity , hit tv shows like Green Acres , Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction , Hee-Haw , Here Comes The Brides , and Bonanza reigned with their old west or old time country charm.

Now this location still retains some of its wilderness feel , but it has evolved into a mini DCA … a themeland that has lost its focus and has become a dumping ground for attractions. …… a hint of country bears ….all gone now …. English plush toys …. Folktale characters from Georgia …. And soon 1920 Jazz frogs-voodoo and princesses!

Pegleg Pete said...

Bring back the bears! These really are some great photos – thanks Major and Mr X! You're really spoiling us this week, what with yesterday's Hungry Bear pic and now these today. You really do feel as if you could step into these photos. It's a shame that WDW's CBJ didn't have this level of immersive theming. I haven't yet been to the park since the Wookie World extension and I'm worried that whatever charm this area still retained has been lost completely. They really do ruin everything.

K. Martinez said...

These photos are great! Always loved Bear Country because it felt removed from the rest of the park and had a quietness that most of Disneyland didn't have. With the addition of Splash Mountain, it was no longer that relaxing quiet little corner of Disneyland.

Thanks Mr. X & Major too!

Chuck said...

Always loved this corner of the Park, especially after the pine trees grew up. The little waterfall, masking any outside noises, that flowed into the “creek” that ran under the covered bridge and on into the Rivers of America was a brilliant touch. I never thought about it before, but he huge holding area and dual theaters for the Country Bear Jamboree (which we mistakenly called the Bear Country Jamboree until visiting WDW and my dad noticed the error) really did help make the area feel less crowded than it actually was.

First photo, covered bridge…there’s a woman with long, reddish hair wearing red plaid pants. She’s taking off a red jacket and holding an enormous red bag in her left hand. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s color coordination.

I’ve often wondered how different Disneyland would be if this area had been called “Bare Country.”

Thanks, Major & Mr. X!

Bu said...

"Bare Country Jubilee"..sounds like the Vegas "Nudes on Ice". I never saw NOI, but I thought it would be among other things...cold. Speaking of cold, Bear Country was home to AIR CONDITIONING, and a cute small employee break room and bathroom! It was also home to another one of my favorite "rides" in the park the "Flying Gomer"...a silly arcade game that I could probably play for hours. What happened to that game? I want it. But for free please. I listened to the LP of The Country Bear Jamboree before I saw it in person...presented by "Pepsi Cola and Free-tow lay". I like when Audio Animatronics say commercial-type things. Like Betty Taylor saying "you keep drinkin' that Pepsi Cola as it is good for what ails ya'"...oh wait...she was a human. The Bear Country popcorn wagon was not open all the time, and was a bit of a hike...The Inn Between was far away. The "Pit" AKA "DEC" (creatively name the Disneyland Employee Cafeteria" was always so crowded...and I frequently got lost going through the tunnels and doors over there where you bought a mint julep in New Orleans Square. No one really showed you how to get anywhere through that labyrinth from the in-berm side. From the out-berm side it was easy.. and was recently posted on GDB as "Walts Secret Entrance" on the backside of NOS. The big tunnel. The big tunnel got smaller and smaller like that scene in Willy Wonka before they get into the chocolate room. The Pit was NOT the chocolate room. Not at all. It kind of smelled like old spaghetti and vinegar down there. I did like Friday's where they would often have Fried Shrimp...or trout...which was OK, but a bit oily. They also made "Sourdoughs" which the Inn Between didn't make. I don't know why the menus were different, but they were, and the Pit if I remember had a different menu each day of the week, while the Inn Between had a static menu...maybe someone else remembers. A Sourdough was basically a Cheesesteak sandwich on Sourdough bread. It was VERY meaty and cheesy made on the flattop. All the burly guys got a Sourdough...and then there was me. Eventually, 30 years later the Sourdoughs caught up with me. The Sourdough bread was awesome and from the DiCarlo bakery. Believe it or not, Michael Jackson ate at the Pit once...I was not with him. I think things became untenable on-stage that day in his presence. They (a few handlers and MJJ) were coming out of the tunnel as I was going in. They didn't look particularly "joyous". We said our "hello's" and Micheal was the only one to answer back. I don't know what he had for lunch. It was a weird interaction- and "just another day in the Park". Mr. Jackson was the exception to the rule of the backstage policies. Unless security is threatened there is no "backstage" for anyone. I was with some rather high ranking world leaders and I don't remember ever taking a shortcut backstage for security purposes. Back to Bear Country: great costume. Loved it. Boots and belt and suspenders supplied. The boots had a high heel so I was 2 inches taller. The shirt was blousy and cool, and we'd roll up our sleeves super high mid bicep as it was the "look". I honestly think Bear Country was too far out there for anyone to take the time to visit...hence costume inspections may have been more relaxed out there. This was before I started to wear a three piece wool suit in the heights of Summer. Which is why Bear Country was known for...AC. Thanks Major and the MX.

Chuck said...

Nudes on Ice…doesn’t sound very uplifting. And now I’m conflating that concept with Disney on Ice (which was an awful name) and coming up with Mickey’s Birthday Suit Land. That’s the naked truth. I also poured a scoop of protein shake mix in the coffee maker this morning. Not sure I am firing on all cylinders today. I could use a three-day weekend about now…

And for the record, Betty Taylor was an Audio Animatronic. ;-)

Bu said...

I forgot...America Screams...Yes...I stand corrected...Betty Taylor was an animatronic and I will ignore where that owl is looking.

DrGoat said...

Sounds like everyone liked the Country Bear area, including me. Chuck is right. The Pines and foliage were very peaceful (relatively speaking). The covered deck area outside the restroom was a great place to sit and decompress for a while. Many trips to the park from the late 70s to the 90s found us there at least 3 times a day.
I'm kind of amazed that these were from '73 and not a little later. Most definitely a 'you are there' scene JB. Just want to jump right in and stay. I guess I didn't notice the strollers so much back then. They hadn't grown to be the horde of metal munching moon mice yet.
Wonderful photos Major.

Stu29573 said...

You know, it just occurred to me that I went to Disneyland in 1973, and WDW in 1981, which means I probably went to CBJ at Disneyland before WDW!
We now return to our regularly scheduled Gorillas.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, SOLID!

JB, they obviously planned out Bear Country well in advance, it is brand-new in these photos, but those trees don’t look scrawny and thin like much of Frontierland’s trees did in the 1950s. Smart! I noticed that gal’s pants dragging on the ground as well, if nothing else you’d think that they would be filthy by the end of the day.

Mike Cozart, I don’t remember much about the pre-Splash Mountain area to be honest; we moved away from SoCal right around the time that Bear Country opened, and I’m not sure I even saw it until years later. I do love that pine scent though, it’s amazing how evocative it is. A few weeks ago I was somewhere, and got a strong jolt of a specific conifer aroma, and it took me right back to my childhood trips up to the Sierra Nevadas with my grandparents. Bam! I love all the space they allowed for the CBJ, although I have admitted that I was never the biggest fan of that attraction. I think I was just at that age when I was too critical. Maybe? That being said, I also am puzzled by Marc Davis’ love of those animatronics musical shows. I loved the Carousel of Progress, and was less of a fan of “America Sings”, and by the time the Country Bears came along, I wanted more from an attraction than just watching mechanical performers on a stage. But that’s just me. Wasn’t 1973 around the time of CBS’s “Rural Purge”? Or was that a few years later? I am very curious about what they are going to do to Splash Mountain, I hope it’s not lame.

Pegleg Pete, as a kid I always assumed that the Magic Kingdom had all of the theming that Disneyland had, only they had more room to work with. But it seems that the sheer acreage overwhelmed them, and they sometimes did less with the space than you might expect. Not in every instance, but enough times that it is noticeable.

K. Martinez, on one hand I am glad that they added another attraction to Bear (Critter) Country… all that space for one attraction seems wasteful. But I agree, Splash Mountain, as much as I like it, completely changed the atmosphere of that area.

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, I’m all for any water feature, be it a rushing creek, a lagoon, a booming waterfall, or playful fountains. Water just makes an area nicer! There is a photo in some vintage Disneyland book (I can’t recall which one) that shows Bear Country when it was new, and there is so much “Indian Red” slurry, but not many people, I couldn’t help thinking that they should have used the space more efficiently. Maybe on super busy days, they needed all that room? “Bare Country”, now that’s a whole different idea. Hard facts. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Bu, ice shows are nice and all, but I they’re not for me. I’m simultaneously impressed by the athleticism and kind of bored by everything else. I’ve heard stories of people going into the CBJ just to relax in the air conditioning, and to that I say “Good for them”. Think of the thousands of times Betty Taylor had to acknowledge Pepsi Cola. Hey, they were paying the bills (presumably). And maybe they got all the free Pepsi they could drink. I seem to recall that Bear Country was kind of a weird cul-de-sac that you had to purposely head for… you wouldn’t just pass it and accidentally wander in. “Old spaghetti and vinegar”, oh yeah, I’m there. What about industrial cleaner? Fried trout… straight from the river? Did the trout have three eyes? As for a cheesesteak sandwich, I am ashamed to admit that, even at this point of my life, I have still never had a cheesesteak. If I ever get one, I want it to be authentic, not a theme park or fast food version. I guess it would have been interesting to see Michael Jackson at Disneyland, but I would not have freaked out like so many people did (apparently). Why did you have to wear a three piece wool suit?

Chuck, don’t make me say “hard facts” again. Oops, I did it anyway. How was your protein shake coffee? Did the coffee maker survive? Does it now say “Oh yeeeeaaaah!” when the coffee is ready? I didn’t know that Betty Taylor did the voice for that animatronic. Couldn’t they make her something other than a pig?

Bu, Sam the Eagle isn’t much better.

DrGoat, I realize that I am a grumpy jerk, and that most people have nothing but love and fond memories of the CBJ. I didn’t hate it, but it just didn’t do it for me somehow. I wanted it to! Mr. X guestimated the year that these were taken, but the fact that there is another photo in the lot with the Carousel of Progress still in operation, that helps to date it to no later than 1973. X thought that they might be from ’72, but he wasn’t entirely sure. “Metal munching moon mice”, the name of my band!

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed, "You Are There.." and I wish I was...

There are two different guys in photo 1 that could have been me, but were not.

Guy on the right in plaid pants and sweater vest. Practically my uniform at that time. Similar hair and build.

Tall guy on the left in glasses, just visible over the two girls and green hat guy, looks like my 8th Grade portrait, suitably aged.

I think we can see Guy 2 in the second photo, his back is to us, and he appears to be wearing Levis 501s with the red tab on the pocket.

Thinking these are taken in Spring, several older folks in sweaters and long sleeves, and kids in tank tops.

I liked Bear Country, it had a similar "complexity" feeling to NOS, felt that there was more just around the corner, and of course, there wasn't. This seemed to be the last gasp of the 3D interpenetration theming that Old Disneyland did so well.

The theming was well done, but the Big Show wasn't good enough to wear well. It was fine when I was a kid, and my folks loved it, the C&W shows that Mike mentioned were all standard fare in our house. But when I came back with my family so many years later, the show was "bearly" tolerable. Even now, when I hear it on my soundtrack playlists, I just hit "skip". The best part was the theming, Air Conditioning, and the outdoor dining.

I'm sorry to be a heretic, but I like Critter Country better the way it is now. The Splash Mountain theming doesn't jar me (much, yet), and Winnie the Pooh is a cute little ride, perfect for little kids, and there isn't much in the Park for the tiny ones any more. I haven't visited since Wookie World opened, but I have seen videos showing there are still quiet corners to hide in. I have good memories of this spot with my little ones.

Thanks Major and Mr. X.


Chuck said...

Major, not only did Betty Taylor do the voice, she also sang one of her signature songs from the Golden Horseshoe Revue - “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?” I didn’t make the connection myself until I was listening to the entire 50th Anniversary Musical History of Disneyland CD collection in playlist order on an extremely long car ride (remember when cars had CD players?) and heard both programs within an hour or two of each other.

JG, would you prefer to be burned at the stake or drawn and quartered? ;-)

Melissa said...

Every single person in these photos looks like an extra from The Brady Bunch.

I like the idea that's being thrown around in fan spaces, that when Splash Mountain is re-themed to The Princess and the Frog, Critter Country could be made into a bayou country extension of New Orleans Square. But I'm not sure how Winnie the Pooh could fit into that. Fill the hunny pots with gumbo?

Anonymous said...

An idyllic location to work an 8 hour shift. Wearing moccasins, the Bear Country belt..still have that....the 'coonskin' hat with tail...that fell apart years ago... fringe pants, and an open couldn't get more relaxed than that. It seemed to attract the girls too. what an atmosphere. Oh yes...those mad dashes to the PIT with my partner, navigating the crowds quickly...that's a real skill needed to get to, eat lunch and return to the dock in around 35 minutes. Talk about fast food! Negotiating all the stairs and tunnels under NO Square as well. Remember it like it was just yesterday! However, I bet I'd get lost underground now. LOL Working Pirates downstairs was another treat. But that's for another day. KS

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I like the gumbo idea, because I like gumbo. But does WTP need any more theming, the Splash Mountain is already "Southern".

I would love for SM to be re-themed to the Frog movie, but I doubt it will ever happen, that IP is now too old.

It's a great ride, very well done, but the Song of the South theme makes no sense as a theme. Totally counter to the current "Every attraction must be based on IP", when SotS is an IP that no one is allowed to see or know about. I'm sure that no t-shirts, plush toys or keyrings are sold on the SotS theme, so there is motivation to do "something".

My theory is that SotS was selected originally because it already existed and was capable of grafting onto a flume ride, which is vaguely "country". Guarantee that no one under 50 rides it because of the theme or music, only for the 45 degree drop at the end. Also, the sound track is so grating, I can't stand to hear it. I've skipped it on my last two trips, but to be fair, those were in the winter.

Chuck, I would prefer exile to Hawaii ILO the other options, thanks.



MELISSA: very , very interesting that you said BAYOU COUNTRY …….hmmmmmm…. (Wink!)

Very early on a Flume ride/attraction was being considered for Disneyland’s BEAR COUNTRY….as early as 1973 are plans for Wallahoo-Haler log flume (I may not be spelling that correctly) a named later borrowed for WDW’s River Country. The hesitation of adding a log flume to Disneyland was a WED courtesy : Disneyland’s neighbor Knott’s Berry Farm had a log flume attraction - and it’s one if the best! Disney at the time was all for competition , but was cafe full to not try and copy something from another near bye park. That changed with Michael Eisner. In fact WDI researched the best log flumes around the country and very much so copied the Knott’s Hurlbutt design. Look at Splash Mt and Timber Mt. Log ride head on ; they are identical : Knott’s is grandfathered by almost two decades.

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, maybe those guys are you, but from the Multiverse of Madness? The movies tell me that anything is possible! Yes, you can see some people from photo 1 (such as the lady with the yellow top to our right) in the 2nd photo as well. Not sure if Mr. X would know if it was Spring, but you’re right about the sweaters. It looks so sunny and beautiful, though! The perfect day. I love the idea of a new land feeling like a step into a completely different world, rather than being “just next door” to the other lands. It really puts your brain into an alternate mode. I was never a country music person; I respect those who love it, but it just wasn’t my thing. Maybe if we’re talking old Hank Williams or something like that, I will enjoy it. i’m with you, the soundtrack is not something that I personally want to listen to. I’m happy for the people who do love it! It’s OK if you like Critter Country, I don’t hate it. I just sort of miss the sleepy back-woods vibe of Bear Country. We’ll never get anything “sleepy” at Disneyland again!

Chuck, I do love Betty’s rendition of “Bill Bailey”! I honestly didn’t even recall that the pig in Splash Mountain could be heard singing at all - I thought she was just part of a chorus. A jumble of voices if you will. I love that 50th Anniversary Musical History of Disneyland set (that’s the 5 CD set, yes?), if nothing else because of the Rainbow Caverns choral music.

Melissa, on a sort of tangent, I was amazed to learn that the original Brady Bunch only lasted five seasons. I thought it was more like nine! That’s what years of syndication will do to a child’s brain. I’ve always wondered how they would work a mountain into the dead-flat Louisiana bayous, but the plunges into Dr. Facilier’s underworld could be fun.

KS, ha ha, there’s nothing wrong with having a job that you enjoy, and that the babes like too! In fact, I’d say that that’s the DREAM. I’m fascinated at the idea of all those stairs and tunnels. If only we could see a layout, or better yet, videos!

JG, sure, Gumbo is nice, but he sure gets into a lot of trouble with Pokey. See what I did there? I thought that it had been officially announced that Splash Mountain was being rethemed to The Princess and the Frog. Maybe I was mistaken? I confess that I love the dark ride portions of SM, and think that they were really well done. It satisfies that “Classic Disney” itch that so many more recent rides do not. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been annoyed by the SM soundtrack, and I get annoyed by everything! :-)

Mike Cozart, I can’t believe that you misspelled “Wallahoo-Haler” (joking)! You aren’t kidding, the Log Ride at Knott’s is one of my most favorite attractions anywhere (ditto the Calico Mountain Mine Train). Bud Hurlbutt really knocked those out of the park. So to speak. I’m so happy that Disneyland did not put Knott’s out of business, how awful would that have been?

Melissa said...

Ken, that sounds like an awesome costume, both for aesthetics and for comfort!

And yeah, at this point it does seem very possible that the Splash Mountain retheme won't happen after all. It wouldn't be the first thing Disney ever announced and then didn't do. (Or didn't do until much later than anticipated.)

DBenson said...

Speaking as a backward-looking boomer, I always liked how old "IP" is laced through the Disney empire. Characters from out-of-circulation movies and shorts (hard to see in the pre-video era) were still omnipresent in books, records, merchandise, and especially comic books. There are plenty of Disney films I didn't see until I was an adult, but I knew all about them as a kid. There was what we now call an Extended Universe, with offhand crossovers left and right in the comic books and even on the TV hour. Of COURSE Big Bad Wolf belongs to a club where Madame Mim and Captain Hook are members. And in modern times, of COURSE you could do a movie about the descendants of villains from different classics. It was more than synergy. They were united in a sort of Disney mythology.

This naturally extends to the parks. When Disneyland opened, rides highlighted old flicks that would, at best, get re-released every seven years ("Alice in Wonderland" and "Dumbo" had already been run on the TV show). Pecos Bill was celebrated in the Golden Horseshoe show (and the actual film was once showcased at the Fantasyland Theatre). Parades would include characters from "Fantasia", "The Reluctant Dragon", and even the obscure Silly Symphony "Cock of the Walk". And while "Babes in Toyland" bombed, the toy soldiers soldier on every holiday season. For geezers at least, there's a pleasure in seeing references to old and now obscure "IP". Like the "Sword in the Stone" in Fantasyland, or "Johnny Tremain's" Liberty Tree in the Magic Kingdom.

Haven't been to Universal Studios Hollywood since the 80s, and was disappointed you didn't really see that kind of deep history (the studio predates Disney). The good old Universal Monsters certainly rated at least a dark ride (the coaster based on a Mummy remake doesn't count in my book), and I think Woody Woodpecker got elbowed out by "An American Tail" (a good film, but couldn't they make room for both?).

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, click here for different take on "Bear Country" and "Disney On Ice." (Scroll down to the last two images.)

The Family Circus and Bizzaro

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, it definitely sounds much nicer than those too-tight jumpsuits that they had to wear in Frontierland! I think that with the racial issues on SM, the redo will happen, even if it takes a while.

DBenson, I agree with you 100%, nothing makes me happier than to see an obscure Disney character in the park. There are SO MANY! This is why I am miffed at the introduction of Duffy the Disney Bear in Japan - a stupid money grab (insanely successful, from what I’ve heard). There are hundreds, if not thousands of actual characters from the history of Disney short films, features, comics, etc. Why not use one of those? Update it if necessary. At least then it will feel like something other than a way to sell toys (even if that’s what it ultimately IS). If I saw Baby Weems or Bongo the Bear or Tillie the Tiger at Disneyland, I’d be so thrilled. Sure, it would be lost on many, but if they made some effort to tell people who this character is and why he/she is in the parade or meet-n-greet, I’ll bet guests would be interested too. And yes, the monsters were always my favorite thing at Universal - give me those original 1930s characters any day.

TokyoMagic!, I can’t believe you would post something as naughty as that “Family Circus” cartoon! Bil Keane is way too controversial for me.

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, I meant Tomorrowland. Oops.

Chuck said...

JG, I’ll make sure it’s one of the nicer leper colonies.

TM!, great minds…

I remember the Family Circus went back to Disneyland again within the past decade. As I recall, the Park elements were drawn as spot-on accurate as that Bear Country sign.

Melissa said...

I don't know how well they'd do at DL, but if Figment and the Orange Bird came back to WDW as meet-and-greet characters, I think they'd be kept pretty busy! For a while, anyway.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I know....that comic strip was almost always obscene, but it went over most people's heads.

Chuck, the "family" in the comic strip were shown visiting Disneyland, for almost four whole weeks, back in 1978. The artist's son republished many of those panels in 2015, for DL's 60th anniversary. He had "colorized" all of the panels, and he also made a few other alterations to some of his dad's original artwork and captioning. I have all but two of the original 1978 panels, and I will be posting them this July.

Chuck said...

TM!, that would explain why the 2015 series looked so much like the earlier graphic style of the strip. Didn’t realize they were reprints. Looking forward to seeing those soon!

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, I'm really not sure why he did this, but the artist's son changed the appearance of the mother to the 1960s version of her, when he reprinted the Disneyland strips/panels. That is one of the minor alterations that were made, in addition to coloring them.