/ The Disney Traveler
Disney — By Jenni Ingersoll on December 1, 2009 at 8:04 am

History Behind Disney’s Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Ask any Disney Traveler who visits Walt Disney World through the holiday season, what was the most amazing thing they saw during their visit, and I bet the Osborne Family Spectacle of  Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be high on their list!Osborne family

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights didn’t start out as a spectacle, in fact,  it was simply the wish of a 6-year old girl, to  have some lights on their Little Rock, Arkansas home.

The hard working family had always enjoyed the holidays.  In fact, for years, it was the only day of the year that Jennings Osborne took off of work from his emerging medical research business.

Osborne granted his daughter’s wish and placed a simple 1,000 lights on their home. Each year, more and more lights were added and the displays got bigger and bigger.  By 1993, their 22,000 sq. foot home was covered with more than 3 million lights and could be seen by planes almost 80 miles away.

A  few of the highlights included a flashing “PEACE ON EARTH”  on a 100 ft. high replica of Earth and a computerized light-display train engineered by Mickey Mouse.

Thousands came to see the “world’s largest home light display”, followed by  television crews from as far away as Japan and Australia.  While the Osbornes were thrilled to share their lights with everyone, their neighbors were not thrilled with everyone that came to see them.

OsborneCiting the light display as a nuisance, the Osborne’s neighbors filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the Arkansas Supreme Court. With some concessions for security and restricted hours, the light display was allowed to continue.

Finally, in an attempt to get the light show shut down for good, neighbors filed another suit. This time  the Osbornes attempted to have the case heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Chief Justice Thomas threw the case out for lack of being “unique”.

The heartbreak for the Osbornes soon turned to elation, as Disney World contacted them to bring the lights to Orlando.

In 1995, The Osborne Spectacle of  Dancing Lights lit up Disney Hollywood Studios with 4 million lights.  It has become the third most popular Disney attraction. Jennings Osborne couldn’t be happier.  He isn’t sharing his lights with his neighbors.  He is sharing them with the World.

When she was a toddler, my oldest sister had pneumonia at Christmastime.  Seeing the weary look on my mother’s face, the doctor prescribed a family outing — warm up the car, wrap this child up in blankets and drive around looking at Christmas decorations.  And so, a new tradition was born in my family.  Each year we would throw on our jammies, warm up the car and drive around looking at Christmas lights.  A tradition that I have happily continued with my own family.

Had we lived in Arkansas, I am sure we would have made the trek to the Osborne home.   If you would like more information about this remarkable family and the 32 additional light shows that they sponsor throughout Arkansas, log onto their website.

Merry Christmas, Osborne Family!!

Photo Selection: WDW News, Gene Duncan photographer



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