Over the past few years we have lost many attractions to current massive overhaul of Hollywood Studios. Of all the attractions sacrificed, its interesting that the one which seems almost universally the most missed (ourselves included) was one that was only around for a couple months each year.
For 20 years, The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights was the single best Christmas element in the Disney parks. Sure, the Magic Kingdom Christmas parties are great, but nothing filled us with Christmas cheer as much as taking in this magical display.
The display was first purchased by Disney back in 1995 from the Osborne family of Little Rock, Arkansas. Jennings Osborne initially build the display as a Christmas gift for his daughter. Over the years he expanded the display, buying additional land in order to accommodate the ever growing project.
The lights were unsurprisingly very popular to locals, and once news outlets picked up on the display, people began traveling from all around the country to see it. This caused severe traffic issues for the town. This would eventually lead to law suits being filed, sanctions being put on when it could be lit up, and the eventual total shutdown of the display in 1995.
The shutdown of the Osborne Lights made huge waves in the news leading several cities to make offers to relocate the display. When Disney came to Jennings Osborne with an offer to move the lights to inside one of their theme parks he accepted.
The lights display was an instant success for Disney. Every year, millions of people would head to Hollywood Studios to see the massive display. It became a quintessential part of the Christmas season at Walt Disney World.
Every few minutes, a Christmas song would play and the lights would be synchronized to match the music. Hence, the “Dancing Lights” in the name of the display.
Over the years, Disney would add to the display. It would eventually grow to over 5 million lights. They would throw in some Disney characters and hidden Mickeys as well.
Standing on the old Streets of America display (or the old residential street area of the Backlot Tour prior to Lights, Motor, Action), watching the snow fall, listening to Christmas music with millions of lights all around you; it was just awe inspiring. We could literally stare at them for hours.
Here are some more photos from 2015, the Osborne Lights final year at WDW.
Every year, millions of Disney World fans lament the loss of this wonderful attraction, us included. Any new holiday entertainment introduced at Hollywood Studios doesn’t stand a chance as it is always compared (perhaps unfairly) to Osborne Lights.
The truth is, nothing they ever do will compare. There are always rumors / pleas for the display to be moved to another location in WDW, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be in Disney’s plans anytime soon.
Part of this is due to not having a clear new location. I can’t think of one off the top of my head which would be able to accommodate the display. Still, its a bit surprising as Disney undoubtedly has the means to build something for these lights somewhere but is not interested in doing so. The demand is clearly there and it would be an instant massive draw. Hopefully someday they will realize this and the lights will make a glorious return. All we can do til then is hope!
For more photos of the Osborne Lights I recommend checking out Tom and Sarah Bricker’s post of it here on Disney Tourist Blog. I was still fairly new to photography when I shot this back in 2015 and they do a much better job of doing the beautiful display justice!
We’d love to hear your memories of Osborne Lights in the comments below! Thanks for reading!