The holidays at Disney World will be a little less bright starting in 2016. Disney recently announced that this year’s Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios will be the last iteration of the popular seasonal event. 2015 marks the 20th (and final) year of the Osborne Family Lights at Walt Disney World, which overlays the Streets of America at DHS with millions of twinkling, colorful Christmas lights. During certain songs, the entire display comes to life as the lights “dance” to the music. It’s a fun way to spend an evening and get into the holiday spirit while sipping on some hot chocolate. The Osborne Lights are a holiday tradition for my family, and I definitely recommend checking them out for their last year.

The Osborne Family Lights first started in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1986, when the late Jennings Osborne purchased 1000 lights to decorate his house for his daughter Breezy. Every year after that, the display grew, until Osborne actually purchased the two properties adjacent to his house in order to expand the display. By 1993, Osborne was using over 3 million lights in his Christmas extravaganza. The light display was hugely popular in Arkansas, but caused major traffic issues and 6 of Jennings’ neighbors actually sued him to try to stop the massive display. The story brought national attention to the Osborne Lights, which led to Disney World approaching Jennings Osborne about moving the display to Disney MGM Studios. The Osborne Family Lights debuted at Disney World in 1995 on Residential Street (previously part of the Backlot Tour), and moved to its final location in 2004 when part of Residential Street was demolished during the construction of Lights, Motors, Action.


So, why is Disney ending something that has only grown in popularity since it debuted 20 years ago? You have to look no further than the announcements made at last month’s D23 Expo. With Star Wars Land coming to Hollywood Studios, it is very likely that the Streets of America will be a construction zone soon. Now, it’s not quite a story of “How Darth Vader Stole Christmas,” as this makes operational sense. With Hollywood Studios shifting its focus from being a “studio park” to a full fledged theme park, it makes sense that Disney would utilize this area, which only really served a purpose during two months of the year. There simply isn’t a spot for the Osborne Lights once construction for both Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land start in 2016.

While this is the last iteration of the Osborne Family Lights at Walt Disney World, I would bet that this isn’t the last time Disney will put on a huge Christmas light display somewhere else on Disney World property. The display was hugely popular and a big money maker for Disney. They could put on another light display under a new name at Disney Springs or one of the resorts and be able to satisfy guests who have come to love the lights over the years while keeping that revenue stream open. (This is all speculation on my part. But I would guess we’ll have a new light show somewhere outside of DHS by holiday 2016).

As for this year’s Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, there are two special events you might want to attend to commemorate the display’s final year. The Merry and Bright Dessert Party takes place on select nights from November 6 until December 30 and is $69 for adults and $39 for children. The Merry and Bright Dinner Reception takes place on January 1-3 and is $99 for adults and $54 for children. You can find more details and book your reservation through those links.

Even if there are no plans for a light display in the future, there are still plenty of ways to spend the holidays at Disney World: from Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party to the decorations at the resorts to the Candlelight Processional. While I’ll be sad to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights be turned off for the final time this year, I’m grateful for the memories I’ve been able to have, and I’m amazed and inspired that it all started with a man trying to make his daughter happy by decorating his home on Christmas.

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James is a lifelong Disney Parks fan. While at the parks, he loves finding new details, learning more about Disney World history, and taking pictures. His favorite WDW attractions include Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.
James is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles.

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