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THE COUNTRY BEARS

About The Production Design
The filmmakers decided to create a believable make-believe world that presupposes that bears live naturally among people in the human world. "In the movie's world, bears make up 10% of the population and are treated just like any other ethnic group," explains director Peter Hastings. "For example, our reality has Thai restaurants, Russian restaurants, and bear bars."

Everything, including sets, props and costumes, created for the film adheres to this bear-centric point of view.

The Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall, CA, was home to the production for over half the shoot. A full-scale Country Bear Hall that can accommodate almost 400 people for a show, was constructed at The "Disney Ranch," as it is also known. The "Swarmin' Hive" Honey Bar, the interior of Beary's bedroom, and numerous outdoor scenes were also shot on the ranch.

"Peter came into his interview for the directing job with his drawing of what became the initial design of Country Bear Hall," recalls producer Andrew Gunn. Production designer Dan Bishop used that drawing as his inspiration in designing Country Bear Hall.

Once executives at the Walt Disney Studios saw a full-scale model of the hall, the decision was made to make Country Bear Hall a permanent structure. The design of the two-and-a-half story building was much too detailed, beautiful, and potentially useful to be torn down after production. The studio recognized that the building could be of use for many other things in the future, including concerts, corporate retreats and other film/television productions.

"We used milled and un-milled lumber, to build it in an Adirondack style, with open space in the rafters" explains producer Jeffrey Chernov. "It was Peter's idea that Country Bear Hall should be sort of a hallowed musical place and have the same kind of sentimental value for musicians that Preservation Hall in New Orleans or The Grand Old Opry in Nashville has. The architecture and the grandeur of the place had to reflect that."

"Building Country Bear Hall was a labor of love for the construction people," comments Construction Supervisor Steve Hagberg.

Country Bear Hall is 84 feet long, 47 feet wide, and about 40 feet tall including the "cupola," the bird-cage type box on top of the building. Hundreds of thousands of nails, screws, bolts, staples, epoxy bolts, powder-actuated fasteners and threaded rod hold together over a mile of beams.

The building features a front porch "tree-like" edifice that is actually made with a core of steel, surrounded by wire, covered with foam and then sculpted to shape. "The six huge pieces were transported on special trucks to the building site, installed and then covered with a coat of cement to give them strength and then a final finished surface," explains Hagberg. "When it was time to build a roof over the porch, of course, it started raining again. Once the roof was done, it stopped raining… again."

"Our construction crew reached a high of 90 people and on a typical day we had 40 carpenters, 30 painters, 12 laborers, and 5 sculptors working all around the project,"states Hagberg.

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