The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was awesome in the truest sense of the word. Even if you weren’t a particular fan of what some may consider over-the-top tackiness, I’m sure you would still be in awe at the scale of this enormous holiday light display. Sadly, we all had to say goodbye to it back in 2015 to make way for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. But what if the lights were brought back to the Disney Parks in a different location? Where might they be displayed?
Before I share my thoughts on that question, let’s take a brief look back at the history of the Osborne Lights. It began in 1986 by a man in Arkansas named Jennings Osborne. For years following, the residential Arkansas display got bigger and bigger, eventually covering multiple houses. When the display became too large to legally and safely display in Arkansas, Osborne scaled it back. Then Disney came calling.
The Walt Disney Company had heard about the display in a public legal battle. When Osborne was eventually told that he could no longer do a display on such a large scale, Disney thought one of their parks may be a good fit. With Osborne agreeing to the move, The Osborne Spectacle of Lights were displayed for the first time on Residential Street at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM Studios) in 1995. The residential home façades from shows and movies like “The Golden Girls,” “Empty Nest,” “Ernest Saves Christmas,” and more were now adorned in Osborne’s bright lights.
In 2004, Residential Street was demolished to make way for “Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show,” which caused the holiday light display to be moved to New York Street (later named Streets of America). In 2006, the lights were choreographed to music and the word “dancing” was added to make it The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. It would remain in this location with this updated name until the lights dimmed for the final time during the 2015 holiday season.
One of my greatest theme park regrets is that I never witnessed this light display in person. Multiple times I remember seeing the lights being hung on all of the buildings, but the timing never worked out where I was able to see the display in all its glory. When it was announced the much-loved event would be ending at Walt Disney World, I was secretly (and selfishly) hoping that it would find its way to the Disneyland Resort. But where could it go?
My first thought was Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland park. This already colorful land feels like the perfect place for the lights to be displayed. Why not add Osborne’s dancing lights to kick the brightness up a notch? With a special event like this in the back corner of the park, it would also help disperse crowds throughout, as they’d have to travel a long way to get there. But alas, perhaps Mickey’s Toontown couldn’t handle the crowds that would show up for such a display.
If Disneyland couldn’t handle it, how about Downtown Disney? It’s definitely a much larger space. But, of course, this may cause a traffic jam in the shopping district – plus there would be no way for Disney to charge (other than parking fees) for people to see the display.
Disney California Adventure definitely has more space than Disneyland park. I wouldn’t mind seeing it all over Hollywood Land. I could picture the Disney Animation Building along with Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! and the surrounding buildings adorned with twinkling lights. Honestly, I’d love to see the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! show building get the Osborne makeover while it’s still a part of Hollywood Land.
The reality is, I think The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights truly did shine for the final time back in January of 2016. The story goes that many lights and pieces from the display have been donated to various other displays, but this doesn’t keep me from dreaming about how this magical event could have lived on. I know for a lot of people, whether experiencing it in person or online, The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights holds a very near and dear place in their hearts. So, thank you to Mr. Osborne for decorating his house for his young daughter way back in 1986 and unknowingly starting an event that guests from all over the world would get to enjoy thanks to Disney.
What do you think? If you were able to bring back the Osborne Lights in a Disney Park, which park and area do you think would be a good fit? Leave a comment below and let me know.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.