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TOURISM/LEISURE TIME : Disneyland's Bear Country to Get New Name to Match Its Critters

July 30, 1988|Mary Ann Galante, Times staff writer

If you want to visit Bear Country at Disneyland, you'd better hurry.

Early next year, the theme area will give way to Critter Country. No, the Magic Kingdom isn't adding a new land. But it is changing the area's name to better match the assorted critters that will populate Splash Mountain, its latest attraction.

Bear Country picked up its name in the early 1970s when the park added Country Bear Playhouse, home of the singing bears in Country Bear Jamboree.

Splash Mountain, set to open in January, keeps the bears. But they'll be joined by possum, families of rabbits, life-sized crocodiles, geese, frogs and a whole menagerie of country-style critters.

The multimillion-dollar attraction is a flume ride with more than 100 Audio-Animatronics characters playing and singing to log-boatfuls of patrons floating through Br'er Rabbit's brier patch. They will include Br'er Fox, Br'er Bear, bees and even a scene where a crocodile blinks and smiles at visitors as a tiny frog perches on top of its head.

And in typical Disney style, the theme won't end at Splash Mountain's turnstiles. Instead, there will be little hints of critters throughout the themed area. Critter Country will be dotted with hidden huts, nests and burrows to carry the theme through the northwest area of the park. Benches will be shaped like animals.

And never one to miss a good marketing opportunity, Disney is considering adding stuffed critters to sell in Critter Country's gift shops.

The entire area was inspired by a quote from "Song of the South"--the 1946 film that Splash Mountain and its characters are based on, Goldman said. The slogan--which may or may not be put over Critter Country's entrance: "Where the folks are closer to the critters and the critters are closer to the folks."

"And that kind of says it all, doesn't it," Goldman said.

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