Tuesday Disney Tips: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

In just four short months something super spectacular is going to happen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The 2011-2012 run of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will begin and will bring joy to thousands of people this year. If you have never experienced Walt Disney World at Thanksgiving/Christmastime, let me encourage you to be a part of the celebration this year. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will be running from November 10, 2011 through January 3, 2012.

This special event is one of the main attractions I have planned my family’s vacations around year after year. In fact, a couple of years ago Disney published that they would not begin the Osborne festival until after Thanksgiving. I immediately started typing my letter to Disney explaining to them how much the Osborne festival has come to mean to annual visitors and how important it is to Disney fans when beginning the Christmas season. Of course my letter was not the reason they changed it, but I sure was thankful when they did.

For anyone who has not yet experienced this event, I wanted to tell you a little about it today. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is a super-spectacular light display held on the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Contrary to popular belief, the festival has nothing whatsoever to do with Ozzy Osbourne’s family, especially since there are no bats at Christmastime, only at Halloween. This event was begun at WDW in 1995 and here is the true story behind the magic.

Jennings and Mitzi Osborne founded a medical facility in 1968 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The business was a great success and afforded them the opportunity to purchase a large estate right in the middle of town in 1976. In 1980, the Osbornes welcomed a brand new baby girl named Breezy. At the ripe young age of 6, and having daddy wrapped around her finger, Breezy asked her parents to decorate their home in lights for Christmas. Jennings was very happy to comply with his daughter’s wishes and strung 1000 lights around their home; each year after that, the display got bigger and bigger. In fact, it got so big that the Osbornes decided to purchase the two adjacent properties on either side of their home and expand the display. By 1993, it included over 3 million lights, an illuminated globe, two rotating carousels of lights placed at either end of the estate’s circular driveway, a 70-ft tall Christmas tree with 80,000 lights in three colored layers, and a canopy of 30,000 red lights over a section of the driveway. The attraction was wildly popular and gained national attention by the news media.

Can you say traffic jam? What about 3 million lights shining into your window when you have worked all day? Needless to say, this caused a problem with neighbors who unfortunately sued the Osbornes in 1994 to have their display taken down. The Osbornes agreed to only run the display during certain hours of the night and then turn it off. The problem came when a family who had driven a long way to see the display arrived after it had been turned off. Jennings, being the kind-hearted person who had done all this for people to enjoy in the first place, just could not turn them away. So, he turned them back on and that cost him a $10,000 fine. The neighbors then took him back to court and won — the display was ordered to be turned off permanently.

Because of the national attention, the Osbornes received many offers from cities who were interested in hosting the display. John Phelan, Walt Disney World project director, contacted Jennings Osborne and, being a Disney fan himself, Jennings accepted Disney’s offer.

Through the years the display has morphed into its current location, which is the perfect location if you ask me. In 2005, Sylvania became the presenting sponsor of the lights. In 2006, Disney added dimmer relay circuits and control switches to enable the lights to switch on and off electronically. The light show is choreographed to special music so now the lights dance to these beautiful songs: ”Christmas Eve” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra; “Jingle Bells” sung exquisitely by Barbra Streisand herself; “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra; and “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano.

To say that the first time I saw the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights took my breath away is a gross understatement. My family and I were walking around the studios talking and laughing and enjoying a cup of hot cocoa, when we rounded the corner at the Streets of America and I was paralyzed – except of course for my mouth that fell open and stayed that way for what seemed like ten minutes. I just stood there – dumbfounded! Overwhelmed by the lights dancing, the music blaring, the snow falling; I gasped at the spectacle of it all. It was an unparalleled start to a grand celebration and I was forever hooked!

There are 5 million individual lights, more than 40 hidden Mickeys, a 70-ft tall Christmas tree displaying 58,000 shimmering lights and a 30-ft tall tree with 27,300 lights. The display uses 800,000 watts of electricity which spans along the 760-foot-long Streets of New York, Chicago and San Francisco. It takes busy Disney elves 21,000 hours to install all the lights. Sixty-six snow machines and 100 gallons of snow fluid are used to create a flurry of snowflakes over the street and into your photos.

There is even a hunt for a black cat, which is really a cluster of Halloween lights hidden somewhere in the display. I have yet to find it…year after year I come up short. But, I don’t care at all because I am in paradise on the Streets of New York.

Now, my family and I head to the Writer’s Stop for a cup of hot chocolate and spend hours enjoying this breathtaking display. There are Photopass photographers all around to capture your family in the Christmas scene. I am very excited about seeing this beautiful holiday tradition again. It really gets me into the Christmas spirit. I wish I could be with each person experiencing this wonder for the first time. If you will be one of those lucky people this year, please post about your experience here!

The very best thing about the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is that it is FREE with your park admission. It is not a separately ticketed event, so everyone gets to enjoy this breathtaking sight.

Want help planning your Disney vacation? Find out how the FREE services of a Disney World travel agent can make it all simple…and save you time and money too!

Brenda is a native Texan born and raised on the Gulf Coast. She visited Disney World twice as a teenager and always dreamed of growing her family Disney. She took her first-timer husband and their three children to Disney World in 2000 and they now spend every Thanksgiving there. Brenda writes with a comedic twist on various Disney topics. She will be sharing tips she has learned during her travels and also hopes to enlighten people on little-known freebies that Disney has to offer. She wishes she could have met Walt Disney and considers herself to be a student of Walt. In parallel to his dream it is her wish that everyone would take at least one trip to Disney World in order to share in its magic with their families.

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2 Responses to Tuesday Disney Tips: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

  1. Pingback: Wordless Wednesday: Thinking Cool Disney Thoughts

  2. Nicole says:

    ~What I like to do in the Park After-Dark is Ride Pirates of The Caribean over and over and over again. The waite time when is was there at DISNEYLAND back in 2006 was 5 minutes. No time to waite~ OK, at this time My daughters werent born so it was easier to run back up to the ride. :O) I Am a Disney Child inside this 39 year old, HE HE :O) Have a “MOUSERIFIC DAY!”

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