It’s slightly shameful to admit that we had no idea The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights even existed when we entered Hollywood Studio one evening on our Disney World trip. The short version of the long and disappointing story is that I messed up the dates that our Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointment took place on and we wasted half a day travelling to and from there for our appointment. Of course, we did get some shopping done and I bought substitute costumes for my little prince and princesses, but it was still quite a horrible morning. So we found ourselves entering Disney’s Hollywood Studios later into the day.
It was to our surprise that The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights was there in full glory: music playing, lights dancing in beat, and thousands and thousands of Christmas lights illuminating the area. There was even snow, which wasn’t much of a sight for us travelling from Canada, but still exciting to see on the Florida “street” all the same.
It’s of even worse surprise that The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is now ended and has since been replaced. Hope isn’t lost, some rumours are floating around that the renovations could just mean a new home for the spectacle, but until then why not learn about the history involving this amazing display.
Jennings and Mitzi Osborne welcomed their daughter, Allison Brianne Osborne, into the world. The little girl was nicknamed Breezy because of how quickly she came into the world. She was something special: born after 5 previous miscarriages and a long wait.
Thanks to a successful business venture the family owned a large estate in the middle of Little Rock, Arkansas. The estate was located on a busy road. Breezy, now 6 years old, asked her father if they could decorate their house with lights for the holidays.
Jennings agreed and put up about 1000 lights around their home.
Every year the lights got bigger and bigger. By 1993 the display had over three million lights. The display included:
- An illuminated globe in the back yard
- two rotating carousels of lights placed on each end of the estate’s circular driveway
- a 70-foot-tall Christmas tree of lights with 80,000 lights mounted atop the home’s kitchen
- a canopy of 30,000 red lights over a section of the driveway
The display was lit for 35 days during the Christmas season from sundown to midnight. Since they were on one of the busiest streets in Little Rock the traffic coming to see this wonderful display would sometimes back up for hours. News reporters were often outside the home as well.
Six neighbours filed complaints due to the noise, disruption (some said it took 2 hours just to run to the corner store), and fear that emergency vehicles couldn’t pass if needed. Jennings defiantly responded by adding an additional 3 million lights.
Sadly the courts didn’t agree with his approach and ordered an injunction on the display. He was limited to 15 days a year between the hours of 7 and 10:30pm.
Jennings didn’t agree with the court order and unsuccessfully appealed it in 1994. The biggest blow came in 1995 when the Supreme Court shut down the display altogether.
It wasn’t all hopeless, though. The court case brought national attention to the display and multiple cities offered to host it. Disney consulted Osborne and discussed the potential to move the light display to Florida.
Initially Jennings understood that they were looking to move his lights to a small, residential street in Orlando. This was a misunderstanding: when he found out the lights were planned to be moved to “Residential Street” inside Walt Disney World he agreed. Turns out Jennings Osborne was long time Disney fan.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights was moved to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then called the Disney-MGM Studios) and opened to immediate success.
All of the lights were added to a rely circuit of over 1500 dimmer switches. It was then that they had the ability to time the lights with music and where the display earned its current name of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
The biggest overhaul yet – all the lights were replaced with LEDs including the rope lights. They also added Light-O-Rama control to the system for even better light shows. The only downside is all the musical sequences had to be re-choreographed. With all these upgrades they also decided to update the canopy. In previous years it was entirely red and controlled by just 8 circuits. With the witch to LED each light could be changed to red, green, or blue. They basically turned it into a giant LED TV with 21,600 pixels capable of over 16 million colors.
This was the final year for The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. The last performance was on January 6th, 2016 and ended with the final songs “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater”.