July 10, 2024, 3:46 PM ·

Walt Disney World today started previewing its new Country Bear Musical Jamboree show at the Magic Kingdom.

The Audio Animatronic show in Frontierland opens officially July 17. Disney has scheduled hard-ticket previews for D23 members this weekend, but it’s possible that the show will be open on a soft-open basis anytime after today’s media preview and the official debit next week.Country Bear Musical Jamboree is the fourth version of Disney’s Country Bear show. This time, the bears are singing Disney songs, rearranged in country pop styles. The brisk, 10-minute production offers snippets from each, rather than entire songs or even verses. Here is the songlist, along with which characters are performing:”Country Bear Musical Jamboree,” Five Bear Rugs and Henry”Try Anything,” Trixie with Bunny, Bubbles and Beulah”Kiss the Girl,” Romeo McGrowl”Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” Ernest (instrumental, but it’s smokin’!)”A Whole New World,” Wendell and Teddi Berra”Fixer Upper,” Terrence”Remember Me,” Big Al”You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” Henry and Sammy the Raccoon”Bear Necessities,” Company”Come Again,” Henry (the original show’s exit music)Here is a video of this morning’s preview performance. The show starts at 2:01.The show retains the “punny” banter among Henry and the trio of Melvin, Buff, and Max between the songs. I especially liked the Easter egg reference to “Mineral King” that Henry dropped before introducing Ernest. California’s Mineral King was the proposed site for a never-built Disney ski resort for which the Country Bear show was first considered. I also appreciated Chris Thile’s voice work with Wendell, which helped the character retain his personality from previous productions. The creative risk with bringing in name musical talent for a show like this is getting voice work that sounds like the artist rather than the character. I love listening to Emily Ann Roberts sing “Try Anything,” but I felt like I was watching Trixie, Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah mime her off-stage performance.

I suspect that the most divisive creative decision in the show will be having Big Al sing “Remember Me” from “Coco.” It works for me – Big Al seems the perfect choice of a spirit animal for Ernesto de la Cruz.My biggest beef with Country Bear Musical Jamboree is its length. It’s frustrating to have so little time with these characters, when Disney could have leaned into them to create unique takes on some of the company’s popular songs. Disney’s Country Bear shows rarely attracted much of a wait. Does the Magic Kingdom really need to squeeze four cycles into an hour instead of three, if that comes at the expense of creating memorable moments in the show? That seems a false economy, to me.That said, it’s nice to see the bears back on stage again, and I am certain that many Magic Kingdom guests will welcome the chance to sit down in a nice, dark, air-conditioned theater to watch them.* * *
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