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Critter Country is one of the smallest areas at Anaheim’s Disneyland, but contains one of the largest rides in the park. The area has undergone many changes in theme and attractions, since opening as the Indian Village in 1956. The area is now a main location for the characters from Winnie-the-Pooh.
Originally considered part of Frontierland, the Indian Village was once home to tribal displays, Native American crafts, and live shows. After changing political views determined that the area could be offensive to some, Disneyland removed the Native American influences and reopened the area as Bear Country in 1972. As Bear Country, the largest feature was an audio-animatronics show called the Country Bear Jamboree.
At the show, audience members were treated to a variety of songs and jokes inspired by 19th century Americana. A holiday version also operated for several years. The attraction was revamped in the mid-1980s, being replaced by the Country Bear Playhouse. The updated version featured a vacation theme, but still included many of the characters from the original. The attraction closed permanently in 2001.
Bear Country became Critter Country with the addition of the enormous log-flume ride, Splash Mountain. In 1989, Splash Mountain became the latest addition to the Disney mountain range, towering above grounds of the park. The ride was not without controversy, as it utilized the characters from the 1946 Disney film, Song of the South which some believe incorporates racist depictions of African-Americans. Regardless, the ride was instantly popular.
Enormous lines became a standard of Splash Mountain, as countless visitors waited to follow Br’ers Rabbit, Fox, and Bear through their habitat of singing and dancing animals before taking a dramatically steep plunge down a waterfall. On crowded days, take advantage of the Disney Fastpass system, which will give you a specific time to return and board the ride without waiting in the long line. Be very prepared to get wet if you choose to brave this ride. Savvy visitors, intent on remaining dry, know that a good way to get a glimpse of the ride is by boarding the Disneyland Railroad Express at New Orleans Square, which passes through Splash Mountain on its way to Fantasyland.
After the eviction of the Country Bears from their home, a new sort of bear took over the former attraction. With the addition of the dark ride, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Critter Country became a haven for the characters of the A.A. Milne stories. Visitors have an opportunity each day to meet Pooh, Piglet, and other favorite characters from the popular books and films. Winnie-the-Pooh related gifts are also available at Critter Country’s Pooh Corner, a souvenir shop that also contains a candy store and bakery.
A main feature of Critter Country is the Golden Bear Restaurant, which looks out over the Rivers of America and the boarding area for Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes. The Golden Bear is a good place for a hamburger and a rest, and visitors may be surprised by the local population of feral cats that may stop by to beg for treats. The Golden Bear is a good way to escape midday crowds and wait for that Fastpass time to begin.
While Critter Country is a small area, it is picturesque and rustic, and a nice place for young children. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is an enjoyable ride, and almost always has the shortest lines in the entire park. While visiting the area, take care to note the high level of detail on the buildings, lampposts and benches. Though small in size, Critter Country is a wonderful example of the love and importance Disney Imagineers have for detail and atmosphere.