Walt Disney World
A History in Postcards
Chapter 2 The First Chromes page 6: Those Silly Singin' Country Bears

The Country Bear Jamboree

At the opening of WDW in 1971 there was a lot of emphasis on the features WDW would have that Disneyland did not. Remember those pre opening cards ? The only things that were featured prominently that are at Disneyland were the monorail, and the castle, and both are shown in ways that play up their differences. The monorail is shown emerging from the Contemporary Resort Hotel, and the caste is shown with a Royal procession in front of it accentuating the Regal nature of its sweeping curves (The castle forecourt), and Skyward reaching spires. Add to that the fact that of all the cards in the pre-opening series only three of them are dedicated to the park solely and two of those are to features not at Disneyland at all (Liberty Square and Western River Expedition). This promotion of what was different about WDW extended far beyond the pre-opening cards though. In anticipation of the opening of WDW a TV special was produced on the new resort complex and of the items on the Magic Kingdom. I remember that the first time I saw it (on Vault Disney) I was surprised at how much of the Jamboree was shown. A fair number of minutes were devoted to this show on that special. Knowing all that, it should not be a big surprise that one of the most promoted attractions, and one of the biggest hits of Walt Disney World, was the Country Bear Jamboree. It was so popular in it's early years that long lines often formed for it outside the large interior corral which hold enough people for the next show. Disney even closed a shop to provide greater indoor queue space for the lines, theres a great article giving details on that at Mike Lees Widen Your World web site at http://home.cfl.rr.com/omniluxe/westho.htm. Of course there weren't anywhere near as many other attractions on that side of the park to swallow guests up in their queues, not only was there no Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain, the Pirates of the Caribbean had yet to open that's three of the highest capacity rides in the park! No wonder the lines for the bears are shorter today! In fact on opening day there was not even any Frontirland Railroad station nor Tom sawyer Island Rafts. The only other Frontierland attraction was the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes.

The first MK

Many long time Disney parks fans may read the initials MK and automatically translate those two letters to the phrase "Magic Kingdom" but if Walt had gotten his way with one project he was working on in the 1960's there might be another connotation to those initials today "Mineral King" and that is where the Country bears story began. The bears show had actually been in development for several years before WDW opened. It was started as a part of Disney's plan to build a new a different type of ski resort. The "Mineral King" project was to have featured the bears show, and I think more importantly that some of Walt's Ideas for WDW and to a Lesser extent EPCOT would have been tested out here. Don't believe me? Well here's my thinking. The whole idea of having the Bears show, and any other non traditional Ski resort activities planned (I wish I knew how far along other plans might have gotten for the project) was to create an immersive resort experience, so folks wouldn't need to "head into town" for something to do after a day spent on the slopes, that is the part I think of as being a pre-cursor to the WDW resort.
mineral king art
image from Desert magazine July 1966 Mineral Kings Hidden "Paylode"
One thing that made me think that some E.P.C.O.T. s ideas may have started to blossom here is the fact that I seem to remember hearing that they were going to remove the automobiles from view by having the parking areas under the valley floor. Now you may be thinking "glorified parking garage" but I am thinking of two other things; The scale model prototype of E.P.C.O.T. , which had the automobiles passing under the city of tomorrow with lots of green space above (as well as monorails and peoplemovers for transit). And the utilidors of the Magic Kingdom. Yes, I know the magic Kingdom does not literally have a basement under all of it, but the vital infrastructure services a town needs are there and I presume some amount of goods move through it's passages to keep the Magic Kingdoms, shops and restaurants supplied. Yet while you are standing on "ground level" looking at the various attractions shops, and yes green spaces too. It probably does not occur to you that some of those green spaces are in a sense just planters on the roof of a structure, surely Mineral Kings "valley floor" would have had this quality too. Since my first writing of this page though I acquired a copy of "Desert" magazine from 1966 with a short article on Mineral King in it. Most of the article covers the history of the area but the last section of the article covers "... ten Basic guidelines which Mr. Disney and his staff intend to follow in the development." Item #1 in this list "Visitor automobiles will not enter the valley floor, but will park at the valley entry. Otherwise Mineral Kings unique flavor could be destroyed. Continuous transportation on the valley floor will be by a new conveyance system aesthetically compatible with the Alpine setting" So my original thought may have been a bit off, but "continuous transportation" by a "new conveyance system" sounds like some kind of peoplemover to me. How do you make it aesthetically compatible? I would think the style of the structure covering the guide way, and vehicles would be the main things to make that work. Since this had been a mining area perhaps design the cars to look like ore carts, with a open sided covered bridge style guide way, but thats just off the top of my head the imagineers probably could have come up with all kinds of ideas.

As to the rest of those ten guide lines here they are:

  • 1. Visitor automobiles will not enter the valley floor, but will park at the valley entry. Otherwise Mineral King's unique flavor could be destroyed. Continuous transportation on the valley floor will be by a new conveyance system aesthetically compatible with the Alpine setting.
  • 2. A centralized village will be located at the lower end of the Mineral King valley. It will be convenient to all visitors entering the area, architecturally blending in with the terrain but with a minimum of interference with ski development.
  • 3. A dominant goal is to preserve one of the nation's most scenic Alpine and outdoor recreational areas in its natural state while making it available for more than a limited few to enjoy.
  • 4. The natural attractions of the entire area and certain facilities, such as warming huts, ski lounges, picnic areas, trails, etc., will be enjoyed by the public without charge.
  • 5. Clean, healthful fun and entertainment for all age levels, compatible with an outdoor recreational area, will be provided in the village area.
  • 6. A pricing structure will be maintained whereby such basic needs as food and lodging will be relatively inexpensive, particularly for families and summer tourists.
  • 7. Development will facilitate enjoyment of Mineral King's wilderness and such outstanding natural features of the area as its mountain peaks and snowfields, hot springs and other mineralized springs, lakes, natural limestone caverns, waterfalls, cool summer temperatures, etc.
  • 8. Mineral King can become the nation's outstanding winter sports area. Skiers will have a variety of terrain, ski runs, and facilities unequaled in the northern hemisphere. Other winter visitors will have their own area to engage in a variety of snow play activities.
  • 9. No development is needed for summer visitors to enjoy Mineral King except to provide basic facilities such as food, lodging if desired, hiking trails, picnic grounds, campgrounds, etc.
  • 10. By day visitors will be able to spread out over the miles of forests, mountains, and snowfields without crowding any area. By night Mineral King must be able to accommodate thousands of people in a cluster of essential buildings and facilities, leaving the forests and mountains to the wildlife.

mineral king map
click here for a much larger version of this map
In the end though, opposition from the Sierra Club lead to the eventual annexation by the park service into Sequoia national park. I wonder if though in the end this might have been a plus for Disney. How, you might ask? Well, perhaps the loss of that project to environmental concerns made Disney and his planners even more aware than they might already have been. A guy who thinks that there are enough problems with the cities of today to want to try to build a whole new type of city from the ground up, almost certainly aware that we did need to be more careful with the environment that we had been in the past, but still, I think this must only have added to the determination to make sure environmental concerns were handled up front in project Florida. It may be hard for folks today to realize that there was a time when a project being built in a lowland area in Florida would have almost certainly have had as it's first step draining the swamps. Disney's first steps on the other hand were to build a system of canals to maintain the level of the water throughout the property.

On the subject of the cards on this page. I have heard that they were sold from a vending machine in the waiting area/lobby of Grizzley Hall. I remember buying my sets from a similar machine at Disneyland. I think I even remember that the numbering of the cards in the two sets seemed jumbled to me, in other words not sequential, so some higher number cards were in the first set, and some lower numbered cards were mixed into the second set. I think that perhaps I now understand why. It may be that they wanted the sets to have the same images in the "A" sets at Disneyland as in the "A" sets at WDW and of course the same (remaining eight) cards would be in the "B" sets too but since the cards at Disneyland were numbered differently , both in using a different set of numbers, and in a different sequence, Disneyland numbers hopped all around in each set. If that is the case then I am betting that not only did the Magic Kingdom have these cards first but that 0110400 through 0110407 is set "A" and cards 0110408 to 0110415 set "B".

set "A"


set "B"

acknowledgments for this page: I got the phrase "Silly singin country bears" stuck in my head from a recorded spiel on the WDWRR and have used it off and on ever since. I reread the page on the bears planned use for Mineral King in Disneyland: the nickel tour before writing this page but mainly in a search for a few details (like the name of the national park that annexed the property.) The opinions about the loss of that project are solely my own and I realize that even if I am partially correct it would be easy to make more of it's impact than I intend. And there are probably others out there with better perspective on this subject, especially anyone who knew more of Walt's plans for the project .

E-mail Me martsolf@mindspring.com

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Last modified by Brian K Martsolf at 21-Aug-2006 05:28 AM