Broken ‘Country Bears’ Movie Animatronic Reminded Elton John of When He Did ‘Too Much Coke’
Chances are you've heard of the Country Bear Jamboree at Walt Disney World, but do you remember The Country Bears movie?
The 2002 film was part of Disney's idea to create movies based on their iconic theme park attractions, such as the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tower of Terror and Jungle Cruise. So it was only logical — if not a little bizarre — to create a movie based on the musical variety show featuring audio-animatronic bears.
Believe it or not, the strange movie is relatively star-studded, and even features music icon Elton John in a cameo role.
In the scene, the titular bears attempt to get past the gates of a Beverly Hills mansion that they believe belongs to their lost lead singer. Instead, they find a man dressed in overalls, a plaid shirt and khaki sun hat who they mistake for a gardener. In actuality, it's the "Rocket Man" singer.
In an exclusive interview with ScreenCrush, the film's director Peter Hastings recalled the exact moment they filmed the scene. Ironically, a Hollywood tour bus filled with tourists hoping to see some celebrity homes pulled up just as production was setting up outside John's home.
“We’re standing there on the street and the bears are there, the whole setup is there, Elton is standing there, and the tour bus comes by. Can you imagine?" Hastings recalled. "You’re on the tour bus and it’s like, ’Oh my God, there’s a bunch of mechanical bears and Elton John in the driveway!’”
The bear costumes were actually high-tech suits created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The actors did not control the suits, but instead they were controlled via remote by puppeteers. On this particular day, some of the cables for one of the suits evidently got crossed, subsequently giving John flashbacks to his bygone days of partying with drugs.
“Every bear has a rig; a rack with all the equipment,” Hastings shared. “When we were with Elton John, they accidentally plugged one puppeteer’s rig into the wrong bear. And they all had presets. So when they plugged it into this the wrong bear, his jaw just exposed all his teeth and his face got all crooked. And Elton John said to me ‘That looks like me after I did too much coke back in the day.’”
This is hardly the first time the music legend has spoken out about his history with cocaine, which he tried for the time time in his career back in the '80s. "I liked it because I could talk. I was very shy, so I thought, ‘This is the drug that has opened me up. I can converse, I can be verbose,'" John recalled while speaking to TODAY, revealing he finally got clean in the early '90s.
As for The Country Bears, while it isn't exactly a Disney classic, it does have its fair share of celebrity cameos and roles, including Willie Nelson, Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken and Don Henley. The movie celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.