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Everything Osborne Lights

In less than two weeks, Disney's Hollywood Studios will flip the switch one more time to begin a favorite holiday tradition the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  This annual event is something I know many Disney World fans eagerly look forward to seeing every year and those that haven't seen the lights before know it's something they need to check out.  Like so many popular events at Walt Disney World, it helps to have a plan and also to know what you're getting yourself into before you tackle the Osborne Lights this year.
Let's start with the basics of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  The lights are usually advertised as turning on "at dusk".  What that really means is they will turn on at 6pm and yes, it's really cool to see the lights first turned on and witness the Streets of America go from normal city facade to Christmas light fiesta.  One thing you will notice (unfortunately) is the crowds.  Without sugar coating it, you are going to be in a sea of people trying to see the lights.  It's just how things are and you need to be prepared.  With anything that is popular at Walt Disney World, there will be crowds so be prepared for that and know you're going to need to take your time to see everything.  If you really wanted to see everything and take it all in, I'd say an hour is a good amount of time to figure in.  
There's more to the lights than just strands of lights strewn about. Like everything in Walt Disney World, there's a story to the lights.  You see, you're on the Streets of America and like any city, there are people who live there and their stories are told through the lights on their apartments, offices, balconies, etc.  More than ever, it's important to pay attention to the detail that's there.  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.  
Speaking of stories, the story of the man who the lights are named after is important to know. Jennings Osborne started putting up Christmas lights in his hometown of Little Rock, AR and in a bit of Clark Griswold-ishness, he started putting up a lot of lights and every year his display would get larger and larger (more is better, right?). Well as you might expect, the neighbors complained (Honestly, who doesn’t want a decadent display of incandescence next door to them?) and after a lengthy court battle, the Disney company offered Jennings a solution: we’ll put your lights up at Walt Disney World every year for you. Jennings Osborne and his family spent years creating their light displays back in the late 1980's to early 1990's and keep in mind many of the light displays we see are the original lights he created.  In addition, there are references to the family all over so again, it's important to pay attention to the details!
As you know, the lights will "dance" to the music throughout the evening.  The lights dance about every 15-20 minutes and ideally, you should experience the dancing lights at the end of a street.  Doesn't matter which one really, but the perspective of being at the end of a street gives you a better sense of the aura of how cool it is to see the lights choreograph perfectly to the music being played.
The very best time to see the Osborne Lights is during a showing of Fantasmic!.  While the lights are great, Fantasmic! still draws much of the park attendance to it and as a result, it makes seeing the Osborne Lights a lot easier.  Of course the problem with this strategy is if you want to see Fantasmic! too and sadly the current Fantasmic schedule does not lend itself to making it easy to see the show.  Ideally, you will see either Fantasmic! or the Osborne Lights on a given night and not both.  Otherwise, I would try to catch the lights right when they turn on at 6pm and experience it all before the crowds really built.
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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 by