#21: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (2012)!!!

I’m fresh back from my latest trip to Walt Disney World, and WOW!

The Christmas tree is one of the Centerpieces of the Display. Love the Hidden Mickey in the center, it’s not always visible.
One of the two full size rotating carousels high atop a building on “New York Street”

It’s amazing how much I was able to cover and was a great experience for the entire family.  Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party (Parade, Fireworks, Castle Show and Trick or Treating in the Magic Kingdom), New Fantasyland Preview, Our 2ndEpcot Segway Tour, our first visit to Port Orleans River Side (including Yeehaw Bob), Mickey’s Very MerryChristmas Party and a 4 day cruise!!!…  That’s enough material to take Sams Disney Diary well into 2013…    Even with all of that material, I’m going to start with something not on that list.  We were able to catch the first night of the “Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights” on the Streets of America in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.   Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit more than the Osborne lights. There’s nothing wrong with a little snow on the Streets of America.If you’re watching or listening to this podcast, I’m sure you know the history of the Dancing Lights…  The display arrived on “Residential Street” in 1995, part of the then “Disney/MGM Studios Back Lot Tour”.  Back then the Back Lot Tour would close at dusk, allowing park guest to walk Residential Street and get a close up look at the facades, including the “Golden Girl’s house”.  Residential Street is long gone, having been removed when Lights Motors Action was installed in 2005.  But the lights didn’t start there.  The lights originated in 1986 when a 6 year old Breezy Osborne asked her dad, Jennings, to put Christmas lights on the family home in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Jennings put up over 1,000 lights that first year.  He put up some more the next year, and more, and more, until he had over a million lights!  The display got so big that Jennings purchased the two homes adjacent to his to expand the display.   The collection grew to over 3 million lights including the two rotating carousels, the illuminated globe, the 70 foot tall Christmas tree, and the canopy of 30,000 lights.

(Sams Disney Diary Video Episode #21 below – Click the Photo to Play, the Blog continues after the video, so keep reading)

As you could imagine, the display attracted visitors from near and far causing huge traffic problems, to the point that a group of neighbors filed a lawsuit.  The lawsuit was appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  In 1995, the display was shut down by the Arkansas State Supreme Court.

The scenes in the windows change while the lights dance

Enter the Walt Disney Company. Disney offered to move the display to Residential Street, and the Disney tradition was born!!  In 2004, the lights moved from Residential Street to New York Street, and now “The Streets of America”.  Residential Street was removed completely and the Back Lot Tour cut short for the addition of the Lights Motors Action stunt show.In 2006 with the help of over 1,500 relay circuits and control switches, the lights started dancing!!!  The display continues to expand every year and, dare I say, has been plussed by Disney.  You’ll get a lot of additional details and interesting facts about the lights as the dancing lights are introduced through the evening…too many to mention here.

Right in the Middle of the Action!
Right in the Middle of the Action!

So, what’s the best time and way to experience the lights?  Well, not only do the lights get bigger every year, the schedule seems to expand as well.   For 2012, the lights debuted November 9th and run until January 6, 2013.  There are lots of opportunities to catch the lights in action.  According to the Hollywood Studios Times Guide, the lights are scheduled from dusk – 8 pm most nights.  Well, “dusk” is Disney speak for 6 pm.  In addition, there is an official countdown for the lighting every night (not listed on the guide).  So if you want to be on the street when lights are turned on, you’ll need to be in the park well before 6 pm.  (Always check the Guide and keep a watch for Extra Magic Hours)

If you’re entering the park specifically for the Osborne lights, there will be special routing to the Streets of America (especially on busy nights).  If you are not headed to the lights, you’ll be free to walk down Sunset Boulevard towards Tower of Terror, The Rock and Roller Coaster or even Fantasmic with no problem.  If you’re headed toward the lights, you will be routed past Echo Lake, past Star Tours through the Muppet Vision Courtyard and around Muppet Vision toward Lights Motors Action Courtyard.   That sounds a lot worse than it is. The Muppet Vision Courtyard is worth a look around.  Between the Christmas decorations and Muppet themed Christmas music, it’s a treat for the eyes and ears.  (I’m sure even Steve Swanson over at The Muppet Cast would approve).  That trip will put you at the very farthest part of the Streets of America, just in front of the Lights Motors Action Marquee.  This gives you lots of time to wander the Streets of America back towards Commissary Lane.  Cast members will keep you moving toward the start of the lights, but you’ll be free to travel at your own pace through the lights.  Take your time.  Explore all the nooks and crannies of the streets, there’s a lot to see.

Look for the Hidden Mickeys, you’ll find over 40!
A view down New York Street

A few things to keep in mind…  Always check the schedule.  Make sure the lights start at “Dusk” and go till park closing typically 8:00pm (Check for Extra Magic).  Then check the Fantasmic schedule.  If there are two Fantasmic shows, they most likely will be at 6:30pm and 8:00pm. (That’s typically on a weekend or Extra Magic evening)  If there is only one Fantasmic, it will be at 6:30.  Now here’s the tip… The Osborne lights are most crowded right at 6:00, and again around 7:15/30.  That’s before and after Fantasmic. Most park guests will enter the park, and walk the parade toward the Osborne lights. They’ll rush through the lights then head straight down Commissary Lane to Sunset Blvd and the 6:30 Fantasmic show.  Others will head to the 6:30 Fantasmic then take in the Osborne Lights after Fantasmic.  Cast members will route them to the start of the lights as well.

The lights deserve more time than a quick rush through before Fantasmic.  In fact, if you arrive for the lighting, you’ll notice that the crowd slowly clears out as they head to Fantasmic.  That may be one of the best times to see the lights earlier in the day… The 6:00 pm madhouse will slowly head to Fantasmic, and you can get a better look at the display and its details.  But remember… after Fantasmic (or before the second show) the crowd may be back, clearing out once again before park closing.  So, what do you look for?

Everything is covered with lights, and Dances.
The Black Cat, always Hidden in the Dancing Lights
The Halloween Black Cat was mistakenly shipped with the Christmas Lights, it’s been hidden someplace in the display everr since. Can you find it?

The Disney details can be seen all over the Osborne lights, from the changing scenes in the windows to the lights covering everything.  I mean everything…the mailboxes, basketball hoop, tire swing, bicycles… you name it!!  Those are the easy to find things.  What about the “Hidden Mickeys”?  I Lost count in the 20s, but I hear there are over 40 Hidden Mickeys in the display.  Some are easy to spot, and others only light up for specific songs or are hidden in interesting locations.  In addition to the Hidden Mickeys, there is a hidden surprise that’s sort of, well, a little out of place.  When the Osborne family packed 3.5 million lights in 18 tractor trailers for the move from Little Rock to Orlando, they had a stowaway.  One of the black cats from the Osborne Halloween display was mixed with the Christmas decorations.  Every year since, the Disney Imagineers do their best to hide the cat in the display of Dancing Lights.  It’s a black cat so it can be hard to find with the lights turned off.  But when the lights are on, it lights up purple. Some years it’s always on, and some years it’s only visible during a specific song when the lights dance.  Can you find it???

The display is simply huge!!  So big that you can’t see it all from one location, and based on location, you may have a different experience from the same song.  There are about 8 songs the lights dance to, and in 2012 the list included:

  • Jingle Bells
  • Feliz Navidad
  • A Mad Russian’s Christmas
  • Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24
  • Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
  • Christmas Is Starting Now
  • I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas
  • Winter Wonderland

I was able to collect enough video from my trip that I created a split screen, showing the same song from two different locations.  As expected, it’s a unique experience from both vantage points.  Check out the accompanying video to see for yourself.

stoping for a quick picture
Leverage the Photo Pass System, the lights can be tricky to capture with a standard camera.

Plenty of concessions and souvenirs are available right on the Streets of America, with everything from a Santa Mickey filled with popcorn to holiday cupcakes, cookies or hotdogs.  Take advantage of the Photo Pass locations as well.  You can visit Santa Goofy (new for 2012) and get some amazing pictures right in the middle of the lights.  At least four Photo Pass locations are available:  In front of the Christmas tree, at the end of San Francisco Street (under the light canopy), at the end of New York Street, and with Santa Goofy.  The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights… A holiday must for your next Walt Disney World Trip!!

Thanks again for watching, listening and reading.  Visit my full blog at www.samsdisneydiary.com, like us on facebook facebook.com/samsdisneydiary e-mail samsdisneydiary@mail.com and all the videos over on YouTube youtube.com/samsdisneydiary   and watch for the audio podcast coming soon!!.

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