Goodbye to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After a 20 year run, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will go dark for the last time after the 2015 holiday season. Jennings Osborne, a Little Rock, Arkansas, businessman, began putting up lights at his residence in 1986, at the request of his young daughter. Each year, Jennings would add more lights and displays. By 1993, the display had grown so large and popular, Osborne’s neighbors filed suit to shut it down because the traffic congestion was a concern if emergency vehicles were ever needed in the neighborhood.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights takes its final bow at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2015.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 135mm focal length.

The legal issues came to the attention of Walt Disney World officials who offered to move the lights to its Residential Street in what was then called Disney-MGM Studios. Jennings was a fan of the park and agreed. In 1995, the Osborne Lights came to Walt Disney World.

Over the years, Disney slowly shutdown the Residential Street and moved the lights to the Streets of America. Imagineers swapped out the lights with LED technology and relays so the lights could “dance” to favorite Christmas songs and music.

The Spectacle of Lights includes (more or less): 5 million lights, 32 miles of extension cables, 66 snow machines using 100 gallons of snow fluid a night and 43 Hidden Mickeys.

Knowing this was going to be my last time seeing the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights earlier this month, I wanted to photograph not only the wide views of the display but the many details found along the streets and alleys of the Streets of America.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights details on the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights Details.

Starting from the top left and going clockwise, Fire Hydrant leaking water, Phone Booth or a Tardis for Dr. Who fans with a snowman wearing a bluetooth, Stitch on a tire swing and the table outside Tony’s restaurant setup for Lady and the Tramp’s date.

The view down San Francisco Street is just as impressive as the view down New York Street. The overhead canopy of lights flashes and changes colors to the music during one of the many “shows”.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on San Francisco Street in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on San Francisco Street.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

I was not the only one photographing or videoing the lights, smartphone and tablets (which did not exist 20 years ago) were held high anytime a musical show would start. In between, people were taking photos of everything or getting in a PhotoPass line to get themselves, families and large groups one last photo of the largest Christmas light display started by an individual.

A guest uses a tablet to record the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

A guest uses a tablet to record the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

As excited as I am for all the new things coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I will miss the Osborne Lights. Who knows, maybe they will reappear someday.

Here is an early photographic gift for you. This link will take you to a post with more links to more posts with even more links on how to photograph Christmas lights outside and inside to bring even more joy to your holiday photography this season. Enjoy!

Christmas Light Photography

Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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3 Replies to “Goodbye to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights”

  1. I am so glad we were able to see them in 2010. Will the Streets of America area remain after the planned expansions to DHS?

    Scott replies: It is my understanding the Streets of America along with most of the old Backlot Tour will be replaced with the new Star Wars and Toysland areas.

  2. I was never able to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights so I decided last week to go see them this weekend. I was super excited to see your article right before I hit the road! Can’t wait.

    Scott replies: It is indeed fortuitous. Be ready to be amazed.

  3. The lights were part of our family memories for the last 10 yrs.
    Luckily we had the chance to seee them one last time … !!
    Goodbye, Osborne’s Family Christmas Lights !!