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Op-Ed: Christmas Isn’t Christmas at Disney World Without The Osborne Lights

osborne family lights hollywood studios
Credit: Flickr @Dennis D

One thing we all know and love around the holiday season is lights. Those beautiful, flickering, warm colors that don trees and homes each year add a sense of childish wonder and joy around Christmas. Adding to the allure of Christmas at Walt Disney World, lights are used often within the parks to bring holiday cheer to guests. However, one of the best light displays ever at Walt Disney World has come and gone in favor of galactic expansion, leaving many wondering if The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will ever return. 

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

The Osborne Lights were a beloved holiday tradition at Disney’s Hollywood Studios from 1995 to 2015. The display initially started as a personal Christmas lights display at the Arkansas home of Jennings Osborne in the 1980s. The collection grew larger each year, eventually becoming a full-blown tourist attraction. In 1995, Disney approached Osborne about bringing his display to Hollywood Studios, where it became a fan favorite.

The Osborne Lights featured millions of twinkling lights, synchronized to holiday music, and included special effects like snow machines and hidden Disney characters. It was a sight to behold as each multicolored bulb added a sense of magic to the already self-proclaimed “most magical place on Earth.”

Related: A Special List of Disney Theme Park Rules Sets Certain Guests Up to Fail

Although some may say this wasn’t an ordinary light show, it doesn’t hold up to today’s LED, computer-generated displays we see on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight. However, as Jennings built the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights for his six-year-old daughter, the display of over 5 million lights held a nostalgic place in the hearts of many. 

walt disney world tickets on sale event mickeys very merry christmas party jollywood nights

Credit: Disney

Typically running from November to January at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, according to Inside the Magic, the light show “contained by 10 miles (16 km) of rope lighting, which itself was connected by another 30 miles (48 km) of extension cords,” and “required 20,000 man-hours to install and 800,000 watts of electricity to illuminate every evening.”

A Fan-Favorite Holiday Experience Says Goodbye

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights treated guests to Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a beautiful, festive backdrop perfect for their holiday photos at Walt Disney World.

Guests would travel to Disney World each fall, through the winter, to experience the joy and excitement of watching the famous light show turn on. That is until 2016, when the lights, typically illuminating the Streets of America, would say goodbye on January 6.

osborne family spectacle of dancing lights

Credit: Flickr @Dennis D

As you probably are aware, although we all love Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios, the acquisition of Star Wars and including the extremely popular IP in Hollywood Studios meant there was no longer a place for the dancing lights. Streets of America would be part of a vast overhaul project to see Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge added to Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, meaning the lights would shut down for good.

Related: Fan-Favorite Character to Be Added to Disney’s Classic “Star Wars” Attraction

As Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge replaced The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s certainly exciting to see the beloved franchise come to life in a theme park. However, many fans of the holiday lights were sad to see them go. The Osborne Lights have been a cherished tradition for over 20 years, and their absence has been felt during the holiday season since their final appearance on the Great Christmas Light Fight

streets of america hollywood studios christmas

Credit: Flickr @Mj Hurley

Despite calls from guests to include the light show in other areas of Hollywood Studios like Sunset Boulevard, which isn’t likely due to obstructed views of famous park landmarks like the Hollywood Tower of Terror, the lights have yet to return to the park.

New Holiday Traditions at Hollywood Studios Don’t Measure Up to the Osborne Lights

Upon their absence, Disney World has supplied guests with other Christmas offerings at Hollywood Studios. However, none have lived up to the nostalgia and popularity of the Osborne Lights. Though inclusions such as Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! are nice, guests who’ve experienced the dancing light show often insist that the lights should be brought back in some way.

As the lights became part of holiday traditions for many, seeing them gone and replaced with what many consider to be a less-than-Christmas offering, it’s difficult for Disney to score a “w” in the win column with anything they attempt to provide as Christmas parties and events at Hollywood Studios.

walt disney world tickets on sale event mickeys very merry christmas party jollywood nights

Credit: Disney

However, Disney still needs to try to create new holiday traditions at the park. Despite Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party calling Magic Kingdom home this year, Walt Disney World introduced Jollywood Nights at their park, celebrating old Hollywood’s glitz and glam.

Despite the excitement around the new specialty-ticketed Christmas event, guests to the inaugural party quickly realized that Jollywood Nights needed to match their expectations. Although Disney World did what it could to salvage the Hollywood Studios holiday party, creating new family holiday traditions around the park seems like it could be better with Jollywood Nights. 

Related: If You Can Watch Disney’s New “Traditions” Reel & Not Cry, Then We’re Bigger Fans Than You

Ultimately, at Hollywood Studios, Disney may be learning what we all already know: Christmas isn’t Christmas at the park without The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and they need to return sooner rather than later. 

 

About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!

2 comments

  1. The Osborne Lights are irreplaceable. The streets were packed with people an hour before dark. Once the lights and music began, you felt as if you were attending a rock show. I have the spectacle on video, but it’s not the same. Just strolling through the backlot was relaxing. I half-expected Gene Kelly to show up, dancing down the street in a sailor’s suit.

    Alas, just as George Harrison sings, “All Things Must Pass.”

  2. I was fortunate enough to have seen the final 2 years of the Osborne Family Lights show — it was the primary reason for visiting WDW during that time of year (I’m an Annual Passholder that lives in SC, but I still visit WDW 3-4 times per year for 12 nights each visit). On my last visit & because I KNEW the show was sadly being deleted for other attractions, I decided to partake of the “Desert Party” that was offered at “additional expense”. Of all the “Desert Parties” that I’ve taken, & I’ve done them ALL over the years, THIS WAS BY FAR THE BEST!!! The vantage point for the “light show” could have been better, but it was still okay, but the food & drink was OUTSTANDING!!! Even though it appeared as though NOBODY was tipping the bartender, I DID, & I did it with brand-new straight from the mint Presidential Dollars — as a result, the bartender remembered me & made sure I was WELL taken care of… he even fixed me up with a 16oz “to-go drink for the road” once the show was over! Even though they weren’t permitted to call what I was drinking by its commonly known name of “Cinnamin Toast Crunch” due to copywrite/trademark laws, that WAS what I drank all night.
    Of note, I have never returned during the Christmas Season since they deleted that show, & haven’t attended another “Desert Party”, either for fear of being disappointed… & I HAVE been disappointed with some of the other “Desert Parties”, particularly considering the additional cost, which was & is similar to the cost of the “After Hours Events” held a certain parks at certain times, which I’ve ALSO attended!!!
    My chief complaint is that it seems to me that Disney could have just expanded The Studios in order to preserve that area of the park for the Osborne Family Lights rather than tear down that ENTIRE AREA just to add the Star Wars section, which I do love, by the way… but still!

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