Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Live-action edition. The Country Bears

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: The Country Bears

Year: 2002

Source materials: The animatronic attraction at the Disney parks

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Budget: $35 million

Box office: $18 million

Plot: The Country Bears are an all-bear country rock band who have disbanded in 1991 after years of popularity. Beary Barrington, a large admirer of the band and a young bear raised by a human family, feels disowned for being different. His adoptive father tells him that his family will love him unconditionally regardless, and that differences lead everyone to their purposes. But Beary’s adoptive older brother, Dex, tells him the truth about his background.

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Angry, embarrassed and sad, Beary leaves home and ventures out to the Country Bear Hall, the former concert hall of the Country Bears. Beary learns from the property caretaker Big Al and the band’s manager Henry Dixen Taylor that Country Bear Hall is threatened with destruction by greedy banker Reed Thimple. After many attempts to raise $20,000 to save Country Bear Hall, Beary suggests to Henry to hold a benefit concert and the two of them set out to reunite the group with the band’s bus driver and drummer Roadie. Meanwhile, the Barringtons have enlisted police officers named Officer Cheets and Officer Hamm to find Beary.

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First, they approach Fred Bedderhead, the harmonica and electric bass player, who is working as a security guard on the set of Krystal’s latest music video and agrees to return for the concert. Henry needs promotion and Beary suggests the group’s former promoter Rip Holland whom Henry claimed had “stolen” the Country Bears from him. Henry phones Rip, who gladly agrees to promote the show. Fred then mentions a talent show history where they defeated an armpit musician named Benny Boggswaggle in a talent competition which caused Benny to strike Zeb Zoober on the head with a chair. Meanwhile, Big Al is approached by Reed who learns about the Country Bears’ plan and about Rip Holland promoting the show.

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Next, they approach the band’s fiddler Zeb Zoober, who has spent all of his years drinking honey at the Swarming Hive Honey Bar restaurant and owes $500.00 to the owner named “Cha-Cha”. Zeb wants to return, but cannot do so without paying his debt. Beary places a bet to let Zeb off the hook by beating the house band in a playoff. Zeb starts his performance off by sounding rusty, but warms up and eventually wins.

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Meanwhile, Officer Cheets and Officer Hamm approach Big Al for directions to where Beary went. Because Big Al does not mention that Beary is friends with them and has joined them, the officers think that the bears have kidnapped Beary. They then approach Tennessee O’Neal, the one-string guitar player, who is reluctant because he wants nothing more than to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend Trixie St. Claire, the band’s keyboard player. After being chased by Officers Cheets and Hamm through a car wash, the Country Bears stop at a motel where Beary learns that Trixie St. Claire is performing at the motel’s bar. Beary informs Tennessee about this and he goes in to reunite with her where they sing together. She subsequently comes with the band to their reunion.

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They finally head out to find Ted Bedderhead, the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist. Ted is supposedly very wealthy now when they find a mansion where they learn from Elton John that Ted is still at the local country club working at the wedding. After Ted has the other Country Bears members leave, Fred eventually finds out that he is nothing more than a wedding singer. Ted is knocked unconscious by Fred and forcefully dragged onto the bus. The Country Bears learn that Ted had been performing at weddings and birthday parties as he mentions that the “gardener” that they met was Elton John and that Ted rented a room over John’s garage. Zeb claims Ted to be the reason for the band’s disestablishment, but Ted claims that he held them together and that no one was grateful, as the other members were all busy letting their personalities and habits get in the way, citing Zeb’s drinking, Tennessee’s emotional outbursts, and Fred’s immaturity. Beary reminds them that they claimed each other to be family, but Ted claims it to be meaningless publicity. Beary realizes the real meaning of family and returns home.

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The Country Bears read Beary’s school essay about them, and they realize that Beary was right and decide that they must perform the gig. Reconciling with Beary, Ted insists that they allow him to join them during the concert. But Reed Thimple kidnaps the rest of the Country Bears and steals the bus. While holding them captive, Reed Thimple reveals to the Bears that he is really Benny Boggswaggle and is wreaking his vengeance on the Bears for stealing his one chance at fame. Beary, his family, and Ted use Beary’s tracking device to track down and rescue the band, and they head to the concert together.

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When they arrive at Country Bear Hall, they discover that Reed Thimple has paid Rip to not promote the show, so the concert appears to be headed for failure. Big Al suddenly arrives and reveals, to everyone’s surprise, that he promoted the show himself, and had everyone parked in the back field (because he did not want any automobiles out on the front lawn). Big Al then opens the doors and a surge of people rush in, as a defeated Reed Thimple is thrown out of the building by the crowd while vowing to the Country Bears that their feud is not over. The money raised from the concert is revealed to be enough to save the hall, and the Country Bears perform with Beary as member of the band, as the rest of the Barringtons and the audience watch the concert.

Background: The animatronic bear suits used in the film were created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. It was filmed in Franklin, Tennessee as well as various locations in California.

<b> Changes to the Source Material: </b> In the attractions, Tennessee, Fred, Zeb, and Ted are part of a group called The Five Bear Rugs

Songs: The original music was composed by Christopher Young, and the songs were written by Brian Setzer, John Hiatt, Jimmy Tittle, Krystal Harris and Bela Fleck.

  • “Let it Ride”
  • “Where Nobody Knows My Name”
  • “Can Love Stand the Test”
  • “The Kid in You”
  • “I’m Only in it for the Honey”
  • “Kick it Into Gear”
  • “Straight to the Heart of Love”
  • “Bear Mountain Hop”
  • “Just the Goin'”
  • “Where Nobody Knows my Name (Reprise)”
  • “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”
  • “Friends”

Cast:

Haley Joel Osment as Beary Barrington. 1 2 After a small role in Forrest Gump, Osment rose to fame for his performance in The Sixth Sense. 3 He appeared in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Pay It Forward, and Secondhand Lions. He made his Broadway debut in a revival of American Buffalo. Osment is also known for his voice-roles of Sora and Vanitas in the Kingdom Hearts video games, as well as his later roles in comedies such as Sex Ed and The Spoils of Babylon. Diedrich Bader as Ted Bedderhead 4 5 and as Officer Cheets. He is known for appearing in The Beverly Hillbillies, Office Space, EuroTrip and Napoleon Dynamite and the sitcoms The Drew Carey Show, Veep, Outsourced and American Housewife. He is also a voice actor for multiple animated series; some of his roles include Batman on Batman: The Brave and the Bold and JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time, android Zeta in The Zeta Project, Warp Darkmatter in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, the Fiskerton Phantom in The Secret Saturdays and his recurring role as Hoss Delgado in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.

Candy Ford as Trixie St. Claire. 67 She best known for starring in the sketch comedy, The Rerun Show. Ford has also appeared in other TV programs including: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Will & Grace, and Girls Behaving Badly. James Gammon as Big Al. 8 Gammon may be best-remembered for his characters Lou Brown, manager of the Cleveland Indians in the Major League films, and Nick Bridges, the father of Don Johnson’s title character in the television series Nash Bridges. He appeared in the films Cool Hand Luke, Urban Cowboy, Any Which Way You Can, Silverado, Noon Wine, The Milagro Beanfield War, The Adventures of Huck Finn, Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill, Truman, The Hi-Lo Country, Cold Mountain, and Appaloosa. He also had an uncredited role in Natural Born Killers.

Brad Garrett returns as Fred Bedderhead. 9 Toby Huss as Tennessee O’Neal. 10 11 He is known for portraying Artie in the Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete & Pete. He is also known for his voice-over work on the long-running animated series King of the Hill and his role as Felix “Stumpy” Dreifuss on HBO’s Carnivàle. He played John Bosworth on the AMC original period drama Halt and Catch Fire.

Kevin Michael Richardson returns as Henry Dixon Taylor. 12 Stephen Root as Zeb Zoober. 13 He has starred as Jimmy James on the TV sitcom NewsRadio, as Milton Waddams in the film Office Space, and as the voices of Bill Dauterive and Buck Strickland in the animated series King of the Hill. His other roles have included Captain K’Vada in the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-part episode “Unification” (1991), Mr. Lund in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Gordon Pibb in DodgeBall, Hawthorne Abendsen in The Man in the High Castle, Jim Hudson in Get Out, and supporting roles in Boardwalk Empire and Barry.

Christopher Walken as Reed Thimple.14 His many roles include Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, 15 The Dogs of War, The Dead Zone, A View to a Kill, Batman Returns, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Antz, Vendetta, Sleepy Hollow, Joe Dirt, Catch Me If You Can, Hairspray, Seven Psychopaths, The Jungle Book, and Irreplaceable You. Stephen Tobolowsky as Mr. Norbert Barrington. He is known for film roles in Groundhog Day and Memento, as well as such television showss as Deadwood, Heroes, Glee, Californication, and Silicon Valley.

Daryl Mitchell 16 as Officer Hamm. He is known for such roles as Dexter Walker on The John Larroquette Show, Tommy Webber in Galaxy Quest, Leo Michaels on Veronica’s Closet, Eli Goggins III on Ed, and Patton Plame on NCIS: New Orleans. M.C. Gainey as Roadie. He made his big-screen debut in Pennies from Heaven. Other films include Two Idiots in Hollywood, The Mighty Ducks, The Fan, Breakdown, Con Air, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Sideways, Are We There Yet?, The Dukes of Hazzard, Wild Hogs, Mr. Woodcock, Love Ranch, Tangled, and Django Unchained. Gainey played Tom Friendly on the series Lost and Bo Crowder on Justified. He has guest starred on over 40 television shows, including The Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, Designing Women, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Walker, Texas Ranger, Criminal Minds, CSI, Girl Meets World, Cheers, Days of Our Lives, The X-Files, Desperate Housewives, Burn Notice, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

A number of singers appeared as themselves, including Krystal, Don Henley, John Hiatt, Sir Elton John, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Setzer, Don Was, and Wyclef Jean.

Critical Reception: Roger Ebert said “the formidable technical skills in The Country Bears must not be allowed to distract from the film’s terminal inanity.” Critic Sean O’Connell said of the film, “Bears is bad. Not ‘terrible filmmaking’ bad, but more like, ‘I once had a nightmare like this, and it’s now coming true’ bad.”

Legacy: Christopher Walken was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor for his performance in the film, but lost to Hayden Christensen for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

My take: Now, I like the attraction in the park, and they seems to go out of their way to make the movie completely unlike the attraction. Instead of the old-school country music, it’s 90s pop and country- and it’s terrible.

Available on Disney +?: yes

Next Week: Tuck Everlasting