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Hollywood Studios Blog


The ultimate guide to the Osborne Lights

Tonight the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will begin at Disney's Hollywood Studios and if you want to see everything this holiday event has to offer, take advantage of these important tips.

Osborne Lights Basics

Disney advertises that the Osborne Lights turn on "at dusk".  That's 6pm to the rest of the world.

The lights are on throughout the event but once every 20 minutes, a choreographed music sequence will occur where the lights turn on and off in coordination with the music that is playing.  It is a must see and there are eight songs that the lights can dance to this year.

"Snow" will fall on the Streets of America during the event.  It's really soap bubbles but the effect works.

What's new for 2012?

Disney has added a new song to the dancing sequences, a special arrangement of the classic “Winter Wonderland” by Creative Entertainment Music Director Dan Stamper.

Santa Goofy will meet guests at Goofy's Winter Wonderland, which is located in the "Tri-City Square".  This area is close to the Studio Catering Co restaurant and Monsters Inc meet-n-greet.

The manger scene has been moved to the area in front of the San Francisco back drop.

Important Touring Tips

Arrive Early

Getting to the Osborne Lights early is one of the most important things you can do.  First, you'll beat the massive crowd that will descend upon the lights once they turn on (guests turn into zombies, attracted to the glow of the lights and clog up the walkways leading to the Streets of America.  In addition, arriving early lets you experience the very cool transition from no lights to all the lights on at once.

You should arrive in front of the stage that is near the library by about 5:30pm.  Here you will have a great spot to see the turning the lights on ceremony.  About 20-30 minutes should ensure a great viewing location.

It will be crowded

There's no sugar coating it: the Osborne Lights will be a sea of people, so prepare yourself.  Keep your family together and take it slowly.  If you find it just too crowded, there's usually a break in the crowds at the end of the streets, especially closer to Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.

Look for the details

There's a slew of details hidden throughout the Osborne Lights.  To start with, there's over 50 hidden Mickey's in the lights and some are very difficult to find.  Speaking of finding, keep an eye out for the black cat that is hidden in the lights every year as an "easter egg" of sorts.  

On various balconies you will see lights that speak to the passions of who lives there, such as the sea captain who has naval themed lights to the surfers to the Jewish family.  Their lights, while part of the larger overall scheme of things, still have individual stories they can tell.  

In addition, there's a lot of great details in various light displays, especially on San Francisco street.  You will find the Chinese restaurant themed to lights as well as a snowman in a phone booth, a BBQ grill, a hidden Jack Skellington and a lot more.  Take time to look for these details because they are hidden treats that Disney loves to include.

Watch the lights dance at the end of the streets

When the Osborne Lights dance, it's hard not to be in awe of how amazing a spectacle it is.  Personally, I believe it's best to see the lights dance at the end of the streets because it gives a better perspective.  In addition, the ends of the streets are typically less crowded and I find it a great way to see everything going on (with a lot less head turning).  Be sure to catch the lights dance on the end of every street as well as smack dab in the middle.

Catch the lights on school nights!

If you can, try to see the Osborne Lights on evenings Sunday through Thursday because you will have less locals to contend with.  Locals don't have a major impact on the crowds, but there's no doubt it's less crowded on weekdays and every advantage you can get helps.

See the Osborne Lights during Fantasmic!

If you'd like to see the Osborne Lights with less people around, try seeing them during a showing of Fantasmic!.  Those Fantasmic! shows will take about 10,000 people out of the Studios and it definitely makes a difference in terms of crowding during the Osborne Lights.  Take advantage of this 30-40 minute "lull" in the crowds while Fantasmic! is being performed.

Who are the Osbornes?

This is fairly common question and to summarize it briefly, in 1986 Jennings Osborne started putting up Christmas lights in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas as a way to cheer up his daughter, Breezy.  The lights became an annual tradition and each year Jennings tried to out do himself from the year before and so his light display became bigger and bigger.  

By 1993, Jennings Osborne had 3 million lights and as you might imagine, his neighboors were none too pleased.  A few legal battles ensued and it looked like Jennings would have to give up his light display until Walt Disney World offered to showcase his lights in the Disney-MGM Studios.  In 1995, 4 million lights were brought to the park and since then, the Osborne Lights have become an annual tradition in the Studios.

Special Food and Drinks for the Osborne Lights

Disney offers some food and drink choices that are unique to the Osborne Lights every year.  The exact menu can vary from year to year, but be sure to keep an eye out for a holiday cupcake as well as cookies, nuts and even holiday drinks.

The food (cupcakes, cookies, etc) can usually be found on the Streets of America, near Youse Guys Moichendise.  Special holiday drinks are usually available at the outdoor bar near the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant.

Photographing the Osborne Lights

As soon as you see the Osborne Lights in all your glory, there's an instinctive urge to start taking photos of them.  If you care about getting good shots of the Osborne Lights, then you'll want to take some basic tips to ensure your shots come out as impressive as the light displays.

First, bring a tripod.  I know it's a major hassle to carry one with you, but keep it in your car during the day or store it in a locker.  Tripods are worth it because to get the really impressive photos to come out, you need to have a very stable camera.

Next, put your camera in a manual mode of operation.  Turn the flash off and try experimenting with the camera on the tripod with the shutter open for a second or two.  You can also try using fireworks modes if your camera has it.  Even just the no-flash option can deliver decent shots.

In addition, if you want to get great photos of small details with the lights behind them, try shooting with a very wide aperture (f-stop).  You can go into your camera's settings, go to Aperture Priority (usually Av on your camera) and make the f-stop the loweest it can be.

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About Matt

is the founder of Studios Central and has been preaching for a greater appreciation for Disney's Hollywood Studios since 2002.