More Holiday Fun at Walt Disney World: Osborne Lights!

For me, one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective ways of getting into the Christmas spirit can be found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  It’s my favorite Central Florida holiday tradition although the nightly holiday festivities at Magic Kingdom aren’t far behind.  And last night we got to experience it for the first time this year!

For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is a large-scale holiday lights display that Disney puts up every year in the Streets of America section of Hollywood Studios.  Every inch of New York and San Francisco Streets is covered in Christmas lights.  The lights then “dance” to various upbeat Christmas songs, and “snow” machines pump artificial snow into the air.  This year is the first year that all of the lights had been switched 100% to LED, and because of that, they were able to do some pretty neat new special effects that really impressed us.  Also, the colors just seemed so much more vibrant and festive.

Here’s a brief blurb on the history of the display from the Wikipedia article:

Jennings Osborne (1944-2011[1][2][3]), along with his wife Mitzi, founded the “Arkansas Research Medical Testing Center”[4] in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1968[5]. The business’ success allowed him and his wife to eventually purchase a large estate in the middle of town in 1976. In 1980 the Osbornes had a daughter, Allison Brianne Osborne (nicknamed “Little Breezy”).

In 1986, Breezy made a very simple request of her parents for Christmas … to decorate their home in lights. Jennings gladly complied, stringing 1000 lights around their home. “Each year after that, it got bigger and bigger,” Osborne would later recall.[6] So big, in fact, that Osborne purchased the two properties adjacent to his own and expanded the display into them.

By 1993, the display had over three million lights. Some of the more prominent features included:

  • an illuminated globe, with Little Rock and Bethlehem marked, mounted in the back yard;
  • two rotating carousels of lights, placed on each end of the estate’s circular driveway;
  • a 70-foot (21 m)-tall Christmas tree of lights with 80,000 lights in three colored layers, mounted atop the home’s kitchen; and
  • a canopy of 30,000 red lights over a section of the driveway.[7]

The lights were a wildly popular attraction, both in Arkansas and around the world, as news crews often visited to film the display.

After awhile, some neighbors got together and filed a lawsuit, citing the display as a public nuisance.  Osborne appealed and it went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.  They were eventually forced to shut down the display, and that’s when Disney stepped in and took over, and have featured the display at DHS every year since.  And while they have augmented the size and scope of the original display a bit, and programmed it to music, it’s still completely put together with regular residential Christmas lights, rope lights, etc.  As far as I know, all of the larger pieces (the peace globe, the large light trees, the spinning carousels of angels, etc) were all part of Osborne’s original home display.  It’s an exercise in doing something truly amazing with items that are ordinary and accessible to all of us.

Jennings Osborne passed away earlier this year, so as a tribute, one of the angels surrounding the globe was all white instead of blue in his honor.  I thought that was a nice tribute.  The display also contains over 40 “hidden Mickeys” and a purple cat, which is hidden in a different spot every year.  For some people, it’s a yearly tradition to hunt through the display to find the purple cat (it was a Halloween decoration that the Osborne family inadvertently left out during the Christmas display one year…they turned the mistake into a new tradition).  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to find it this year.

Below is a video that we took last night.  Enjoy!


3 responses

  1. Pingback: #WDW at Christmastime Grand Finale: Candlelight Processional « Sunshine and some tea.

  2. Pingback: My 2011 blog year in review. « Sunshine and some tea.

  3. Pingback: Busy, Busy, Busy | sunshine and some tea

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