Home Disney Reviews A Tribute to the Amazing Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

A Tribute to the Amazing Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

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A Tribute to the Amazing Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Credit: KtP Writer Christina

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights was one of my (Christina) all-time favorite experiences during the holidays at Disney World. There was nothing quite like it and watching the lights come on made you feel like a little kid on Christmas morning. Years laters, Disney fans are still begging for its return to the parks. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and let’s take a walk down memory lane as we reminisce about this magical display.

The History of the Osborne Lights

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

The history of the Osborne Lights and how they came to Disney World is quite interesting. This magical story begins in 1986 in the town of Little Rock, Arkansas with a married couple named Jennings and Mitzi Osborne.

That year, the Osbornes’ daughter, Allison Brianne (nicknamed “Breezy”), was six years old and asked her father if they could decorate the house with lights for Christmas. 

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

Jennings Osborne strung up 1000 lights around their large estate that year. Each year, the display got bigger and bigger and the Osbornes’ eventually purchased the two adjacent properties next door for their display. 

By 1993, the Osbornes’ had added over 3 million lights to their Christmas display. Because of their size, the lights created a lot of traffic on one of the busiest streets in Little Rock.

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

This constant stream of traffic by locals, travelers and news crews drew a lot of complaints by the Osbornes’ fellow neighbors, who said it took 2 hours just to get down the street to the corner store. 

In 1993, six of the Osbornes’ neighbors filed a lawsuit against the family citing traffic and safety concerns. In response to this lawsuit, Jennings Osborne added another 3 million lights to his Christmas display. 

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

That year, the county ordered that the lights be limited from 35 days to 15 days and the Osbornes’ could only turn them on from 7:00pm to 10:30pm. The Osborne’s appealed the order through the courts, and in 1994 Justice Clarence Thomas declined to stop the county order. 

The United States Supreme Court ended up shutting down the entire display in 1995. The national attention the legal battle drew caught the eye of Walt Disney World project director, John Phelan, who reached out to the Osbornes’ to discuss moving the display to Walt Disney World.

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

Jennings Osborne was a fan of the Walt Disney World resort and accepted Disney’s offer to move the display to MGM Studios’ Residential Street. 

Residential Street was located by the backlot section of MGM Studios. By day, it was used by the Studio Backlot Tour trams and by night it was accessible to guests to walk through for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights. 

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights at Disney World

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

Throughout the years, Disney added more lights and over 40 Hidden Mickeys to the display. Cast Members began working in September to get the lights ready for the holiday season, which took about 20,000 total man-hours to complete.

When Disney announced the upcoming Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show in 2005, Residential Street was removed to make way for the new soundstage. Disney decided to move the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights to the Streets of America and added some enhancements such as snow machines. 

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

The following year, Disney changed the name of the display to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights an added in some extra features including dimmer circuits and controls that allowed sections of the lights to turn on and off as they were synced to musical scores. 

In 2011, Disney did a major overhaul of the Osborne lights and replaced all of the lights with LEDs. Another part of the major update included a new lighting system that required all new choreographed sequences and an overhaul to the Osbornes’ light canopy giving it over 21,600 pixels capable of displaying 16 million colors. 

My Experiences with the Osborne Lights

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

I was able to experience both the original Osborne Spectacle of Lights and the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and I can say there were no words to describe the experience other than “magical”. Even the original lights were amazing. 

The Original Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

I can remember walking down Residential Street as a kid with a cup of hot cocoa and just gawking at all the gorgeous lights. When the lights were on Residential Street, they were more spread out, so it felt like walking down a real neighborhood light display. If you watch those neighborhood battles on “The Great Christmas Light Fight”, that’s what it was like.

It is a shame the lights had to be moved, but what Disney was able to do in the smaller space was equally amazing.

The New Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

I remember hearing the sad news that the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing lights show was going to be permanently removed for the creation of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2015. My family decided to book a last-minute trip over Thanksgiving 2015 specifically to see the Osborne lights one more time.

We had not been back during the holiday season since the early 2000s, so that trip was our first time experiencing the new LED dancing lights. We packed in on New York Street just before dusk to watch the lights come on. I can remember sipping on gingerbread hot cocoa from special Osborne Spectacle Souvenir mugs while we waited. 

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

That moment when the lights came on, literally took my breath away and filled me with tears. If real magic exists, this was the closest I have ever come to it.

There are no words to describe that feeling of standing there on the Streets of America and suddenly having 5 million lights come to life around you. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. It was a sensory overload in the best way possible. 

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

My family spent hours walking up and down the light display taking in all the sights and sounds. Each street had unique displays, and every few minutes the lights would being dancing to various Christmas songs such as “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12-24)” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, “Carol of the Bells” by Pentatonix and “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley. 

When it was time to go, I felt this deep sadness knowing that I would never experience this amazing display again. I, like many, have missed the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights ever since it ended. 

The Osborne Lights Reborn”e”

Credit: KtP Writer Christina

Although the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights is gone from Disney, the spirit of the lights lives on. Many of the lights were donated by Disney to the Give Kids the World Village for the “Night of a Million Lights” event. 

This event is used as a fundraiser for the GKTW village to sponsor Make a Wish children’s wishes. We here at KennythePirate are big supporters of Give Kids the World. In fact, if you attend the “Night of a Million Lights” event, you can see our Christmas tree that we co-sponsored with our friends over at Streaming the Magic

Credit: KtP

Many of our wonderful crew members donated to this amazing cause and you can see their names written on the special red and white stars that adorn the beautiful tree for years to come!

I am so thrilled that the Osborne lights have found a new home! While I will forever miss the amazing Spectacle of Dancing Lights, I am so happy that they have been repurposed to bring joy to thousands of families at the Give Kids the World Village!

How to help Give Kids the World by looking at Christmas lights!
Credit: KtP

If you are visiting Disney World for the holidays, we encourage you to make a trip over for the Night of a Million Lights event and share a photo of you in front of the KennythePirate/Streaming the Magic Christmas tree!

For more information on the Night of Million Lights Event and Ticket Pricing Visit: https://www.gktw.org/lights/.

Did you ever get a chance to experience the Osborne lights at Walt Disney World? Share with us some of your magical memories experience this amazing display below in the comments and on Facebook!


7 COMMENTS

  1. While I too was sad when the lights were ended at Hollywood Studios. So glad at least some have found a new open in such a special place as Give Kids to World. We went last year and have tickets for this year. If you have a chance to go, please do so.

  2. When I saw that they were extending the lights for 3 more days, I went on line and booked a hotel for the next 3 nights. My mom & I got up early & drove down. It was worth the time and money!

  3. I was there the last year for the dancing Lights only because they opened them a day or so early. I loved them. We walked around and look forever. There was always a sense of peace with the lights.

  4. We went to night of a million lights this past weekend….WOWOWOWOWOW
    And the admission goes to a great charity…..if you can please go and support GKTW

  5. We too went to DW as an unplanned trip when we heard it was going to be the last year for the Osborne Lights. They were one of my favorite holiday decorations and they were so magical! We went to the Frozen event and after walking down the street with all the lights we sat and had hot chocolate and just watched as the light show played the music in sync with all the lights. It just made you feel good all over!!!
    Where is Give Kids the World and how far is it from DW? I keep hearing of this but have no idea where it is. I imagine there is a cost to attend and so you know how much that is and am glad to donate to so a great cause?
    Thanks for any information anyone can provide.

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