Yesterland

The Osborne Family
Spectacle of Dancing Lights


Presented by Siemens
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

You might think you have an impressive light display on your house this holiday season. But unless you have 5 million lights, an incredible audio system, and synchronization between the two, your display isn’t even close to The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. That’s good. The supreme court of your state would probably pull the plug on your display.


You’re at Yester Studios Theme Park. It’s getting dark. How do you find the spectacle? Just follow the crowd. It might seem as if every guest in the park is heading there at the same time.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

New York Street

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Angel carousel, in the tradition of Jenning Osborne’s displays

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Santa Claus and reindeer and crowd

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

San Francisco Street

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2012

Tree with a not-so-hidden Mickey

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Bathed in blue

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Mickey’s railroad with angels

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Nativity scene

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Star of David

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Menorah

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Osborne Electric window

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wooden soldier

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Lights on anything that’s not moving

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Mickey basketball

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Jack Skellington wreath

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Mickey and Minnie at a picnic table

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

The alley behind Tony’s, from Lady and the Tramp

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Stich in a tire swing

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Baby Sinclair (“I’m the baby, gotta love me!”) from Dinosaurs

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Olaf, of course

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Dalmatians from 101 Dalmatians

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Photo opportunity

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Hazelnut Hot Cocoa and other hot beverages in souvenir mugs

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Decorate yourself at Youse Guys Moychindice

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

It’s snowing Disney snow. Merry Christmas!

This spectacle had its origin as a Christmas lighting display at the house of Jennings and Mitzi Osborne and their children. As you look at the crowd that has now enveloped you, you’ll see why this might not be such a good idea in a real residential neighborhood.


The Disney-MGM Studios Spectacle of Lights, featuring Osborne Family holiday lights, made its first appearance at Walt Disney World during the 1995 holiday season—after being kicked out of Arkansas.

Here’s how an Orlando newspaper article (“Dimmed By Courts, Bulbs Will Glow At Disney,” by Christine Shenot, Orlando Sentinel, November 3, 1995) announced that the lights were coming—and why:

For one Arkansas neighborhood, 3 million Christmas lights were too garish and attracted too many gawkers. For Walt Disney World, they seemed “the perfect way to celebrate the spirit of the season.”

Disney officials announced Thursday they are bringing the extravagant Christmas creation of Little Rock businessman Jennings Osborne to Disney-MGM Studios for the holidays.

Osborne made headlines last year when the Arkansas Supreme Court sided with angry neighbors and ordered his family to tone down their Christmas decorations. The neighbors called the display a public nuisance, saying the 70-foot-high tree of lights, the 65-foot-high “wall of angels” and other blinding symbols of the season were attracting too many crowds.

Jennings and Mitzi Osborne had begun their annual light display on their house in 1986. The number of lights—and the number of people who came to admire them—grew larger every year.

On November 24, 1995, just 20 days after the Orlando Sentinel article, guests at Disney-MGM Studios could walk down the 760-foot-long Residential Street of the Backstage Studio Tour to admire the whole neighborhood decorated with lights—not just the house facades, but also cars, bicycles, mailboxes, and just about anything else that could not walk away on its own.

It had only been December 1994, less that a year earlier, when the Arkansas Supreme Court made its ruling. The Osbornes had cut back their display to “only” 175,000 lights that Christmas season, but the neighbors still objected. After losing in lower state courts, the Osbornes argued to the Arkansas Supreme Court that their light display was protected as religious expression under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a new Federal law from 1993. But the court ruled that this law did not provide the right to turn one’s property into a “nuisance.”

The Osbornes appealed the ruling. The court turned down their appeal in July 1995. The Osborne’s Little Rock house could no longer be the setting for a display of more than 3 million lights.

Disney-MGM Studios guests loved the lights. They were a huge hit with park—and they kept those guests in the park until well after dark, spending money. Although the light display ended on January 6, it was clear that this would become an annual tradition. The display would get bigger and better each year, just as it had in Little Rock.

In 1997, the name was simplified to Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights.

There was just one problem. Residential Street was demolished in 2003 to make way for the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. The 2003 holiday season had no Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights. Guests were unhappy. It seemed the spectacle would never return. But it did.

Beginning with the 2005 holiday season, the lights adorned the park’s Streets of America section. The show was bigger than ever. Osborne had around 3 million lights in Little Rock. Initially, Disney had around 2 million. But, by now, Disney had around 5 million. Jennings Osborne’s strings of lights had long since been replaced, but the display kept his spirit and style.

In 2005, as part of the strategic alliance between Disney and Siemens, Siemens’ Sylvania lighting division became the sponsor of the spectacle. When Siemens divested Sylvania, Siemens remained as the sponsor until the 12-year contract ended.

In 2006, the lights began to “dance” to synchronized holiday music every 15 minutes. It was not just a display. It was a show. The name became Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

The show improved every holiday season. It wasn’t just a big spectacle. As the photos in the article show, it was also a collection of clever details.

All good things must come to an end. The final performance of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was January 6, 2016. A few months later, Disney demolished the Streets of America to make way for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.


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Updated December 6, 2019.