Several years ago, my husband and I were in Walt Disney World during the holiday season. The only “holiday” event I had researched that trip was the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We had decided that that the rest of the trip we were just going to wing it, minus our dining reservations. Thankfully, one of those reservations at Sci-Fi Diner at 5pm, introduced us to what I think is THE most amazing event in the parks during the holiday season. Leaving dinner, we noticed a “glow” in the sky towards the Streets of America and decided to wander back towards it and see what was going on. That, my friends, is when we discovered the awe inspiring, eye tingling, Holiday Spirit inducing Osborne Family Lights. To this day every time I see the lights, I am over-whelmed by the sheer number of lights and the wonderful shiny brightness they emit.
At dusk on the Streets of America over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios there is an amazing event called The Osborne Family lights. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights as they are officially called, originally started modestly as a Christmas wish at a single family home. Jennings Osborne’s light collection eventually grew from 1,000 red lights on their Little Rock, Arkansas property to a million light display. Eventually when this crowd attracting custom-made light holiday light attraction with illuminated globe, rotating carousels and 70-foot Christmas tree got to be to over whelming due to traffic congestion and lawsuits from neighbors the county stepped in. The lights were so popular in Arkansas that the legal actions against them made national news. By 1995 Disney had stepped in to save the lights so that people from all over the globe could see them while visiting the parks during the holidays. 2002 was the first year the lights appeared at Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM) theme park.
The lights are an amazing display, and the work that goes into setting them up is astounding! Starting in September, over 20,000 man hours are used to install the over 5 million bulbs made up by 10 miles of rope lights, and 30 miles of extensions cords which are held together by 2 million ties. The lights run from Mid-November until the first week of January and use over 800,000 watts of electricity. Recently Disney switched all 5 million plus bulbs over to LED’s to help conserve electricity. In 2006 the lights had 1500 dimmer relay circuits and control switches added to the existing light set up, allowing the lights to be switched on and off electronically. These switches are choreographed to the music playing on the Streets of America, and allow the lights to dance to the music, there is even “snow” falling on New York Street at set times.
The lights will stay on solid (also referred to as “intermission”) for about 15 minutes, and then a “light performance” will occur allowing the lights to dance in time to the music. During the dance, items that were not lit up during the “intermission” come to life, to include several Hidden Mickeys. During the “intermission” classic holiday music and Disney themed holiday music play on the fictional Disney holiday radio station as you wander the streets. It seems Disney likes to mix up the “radio station” airing during the show each year adding new songs and “relevant guest bits” to each years audio track.
One of my favorite parts is the overhead LCD light canopy over San Francisco Street, the update to LCDs allows the canopy to not only change colors, but have dancing, changing patterns. Another tip I can offer is to make sure you watch for other guests that have just stopped to look without pulling over from the walking area, this tends to happen a lot because the lights are just so amazing. Also make sure to give yourself a few minutes to play with your camera settings, because yes, it is dark outside, but there are so many lights it has been know to overwhelm my camera’s auto focus the first few snaps, and make my eyes buzz if I stare directly for to long. Do not forget to watch for Hidden Mickeys, and the Purple Cat. The cat, which was a part Osborne family’s Halloween decorations accidentally was packed along with the Christmas, lights and made its way to Florida. The cat is set out yearly in a new place giving regulars something to hunt for.
The Osborne Lights are part of your admission to the Hollywood Studios park and run from dusk until the park closes each night. Make sure you give yourself time to see them Dance and on Intermission. Though we have been known to go in to the lights when they start (about 6:15pm) and stay until the park closes, I would suggest staying 45-60 minutes so that you can see the lights dance from the north and south sides of New York Street and from the western side of San Francisco Street because each view is different, and of course the lights do different things during each song.
This year Disney is also offering premium viewing of the lights as a part of the Frozen Holiday Premium Package.
Here is our video from the opening night of the lights and also you can hear the telling that played for the guests who don’t know the story:
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