Six Things We Miss Most About the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Thanksgiving has come and gone, bringing us to the end of the year.
At Walt Disney World, the holiday season will be a muted affair in 2020.
Disney’s doing what it can, but COVID-19 concerns remain a factor.
We won’t have the Candlelight Processional for the first time in ages, and storytellers appear unlikely to entertain guests.
Still, there’s one holiday tradition that regrettably ended before Coronavirus.
Here are six things we miss about the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Roaming the Streets
The federal government refused to save Jennings Osborne in a court battle over his use of excessive Christmas lights.
After Supreme Court Justice Clarence Justice finalized the shutdown, Disney offered to transport the lights to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
This led to a hilarious misunderstanding when a park official indicated the new location would be Residential Street.
A miffed Jennings Osborne took this to mean that they wouldn’t be at Disney but rather a random residential street in Orlando.
Once everyone cleared up the misunderstanding, Residential Street became the lights presentation’s home for many years.
Later, after it’d outgrown this spot, Disney moved it to Streets of America and expanded the experience with even more lights!
Over the years, Disney added dimmer switches, new methods for making the lights dance, and LED illumination to make it all stand out.
Each year, during the holiday season, guests adored roaming the streets.
Part of the joy stemmed from staring at familiar sites like the gigantic Christmas tree and illuminating signs.
The other marvelous part involved the search in determining what Disney’s magic-makers had introduced during the current year.
Cast members had a cheeky sense of humor about Christmas spirit, even going so far as to add a leg lamp major award to one section.
Something we all miss is walking down those crowded streets and embracing the communal experience of the Dancing Lights.
The Hidden Mickeys
Oddly, MickeyBlog hasn’t talked about Hidden Mickeys as much as you might expect.
We’re aware of the many Mickey Mouse-shaped items guests can find across Walt Disney World.
Personally, I try not to fixate on them for the same reason I stopped playing Chess. If I paid them much attention, I’d get obsessed.
Still, I love when I notice that restaurants serve dishes that make subtle Hidden Mickeys. Any three circles will work, which makes it easy to do.
Well, when Jennings Osborne created his light show, he didn’t include any Hidden Mickeys.
Once they arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, cast members changed that.
After ten years at the park, Disney had added more than 40 Hidden Mickeys to the show.’
Each time they updated it, workers would get a kick out of adding one or two more for observant guests.
We definitely miss the search for new Hidden Mickeys.
Nobody does music better than Disney, and that’s especially true of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Disney had its pick of every holiday classic ever made. So, it meticulously combed through the catalog to find the perfect songs for the show.
Some of the songs would have sounded right at home during the Main Street Electrical Parade, as they were synthesizer-heavy in just the right way.
I always loved the usage of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which had two different songs used during the final year.
Disney wasn’t afraid to use songs from its own shows and movies, either.
Music from Prep & Landing and Phineas & Ferb modernized the show a bit during its final years.
Classics like Feliz Navidad and Mele Kalikimaka stood out as annual favorites, too.
And I know that many guests felt particularly fond of Barbra Streisand’s rendition of Jingle Bells.
During the dancing of the lights, the musical accompaniments always set the tone for the magic of the moment.
The Radio Station
I always date myself a bit when I mention Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, a long-running radio show that fittingly ended in 2016.
I say fittingly because that’s the same year that Disney ended the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Disney officials undoubtedly took inspiration from that comfortable show, as the Dancing Lights mimicked it.
During the performances, we’d hear audio from a fictional radio station, whose hosts would swear they were live.
In truth, Disney played a recording that cycled through at least once per hour, and the genial hosts connected the music to the lights.
Their narration really brought the story together seamlessly.
I’m amused when I talk about the lights with other fans. Disney had so much going on that people sometimes missed obvious stuff.
For example, Disney characters frequently explored the area as if they, too, were drawn to the lights.
As you explored Residential Street/The Streets of America, you’d sometimes encounter Mickey Mouse, Goofy, or other members of the Fab Five.
Better yet, they’d be dressed in Santa costumes or other seasonally appropriate attire.
The best part is that you might not even notice if you were too busy looking up at the spinning carousel or massive Christmas tree!
Sometimes, costumed characters would prank less than observant guests, much to the enjoyment of those who were looking right in front of them.
Also, I couldn’t help but feel that the energy of the lights show always excited cast members and got them into the spirit even more as characters.
What the Lights Represent
Have you put up your Christmas tree or other holiday decorations yet? And have you had any of your lights not work?
Figuring out which light has messed up an entire string of lights feels slightly more challenging than solving a Rubik’s Cube while brushing your teeth.
Seriously, putting up a batch of decorations requires the patience of Job.
Back in 1993, Jennings Osborne had already added three million lights to his collection. That’s before they ever got to Disney!
At Disney’s Holiday Studios, Disney indicated that the strands of lights would have covered more than 10 miles!
Can you imagine the patience and discipline that cast members must show in stringing up all those lights?
Disney didn’t do this because it was easy. It knew that the Osborne family’s lights brought joy into the hearts of all who watched them.
So, when the government shut down the presentation, Disney appreciated this opportunity to provide a permanent home to something people love.
For more than 20 years, the Spectacle of Dancing Lights provided holiday comfort to Disney fans.
We all understand that Disney had its reasons for shutting down the show. Obviously, it was a massive undertaking.
But Disney fans like us really miss those lights, don’t we?
Feature Image: Disney