Armchair Imagineering: Dancing Lights at Wide World of Sports

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(Photo by Julia Mascardo.)

The recent announcement that this would be the last year for The Osborne Family of Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was both not surprising and not welcome. As Disney’s Hollywood Studios makes its transformation into a park that is home to both a Star Wars and Toy Story land, it was a given that some attractions, including seasonal offerings, would be on the chopping block.

The overall response I have seen has been one of “Can’t they move it somewhere else?” Some people have suggested Disney Springs (which would be problematic because the roads twist and turn and already have large nighttime crowds and live entertainment). In my view, the best location to relocate the lights—and expand the entire event—would be Wide World of Sports. Here’s some of my thoughts.

  • Better traffic flow and parking. 
    As surprising as it might be, people go to the Studios to see things other than the Osborne Lights during that season. The traffic along Buena Vista Drive is a nightmare on Friday and Saturday nights as locals flock to the Studios, causing frayed tempers, the need for additional security and police to direct traffic, and challenges for access to the Crescent Lake resorts. Once the evening is over, it can take an hour or more to just get out of the poorly designed parking lot at the Studios. By moving it to Wide World of Sports, and having the Dancing Lights being the only event going on there, you have more room to stack traffic on the road in, a dedicated light to let traffic out, and easier access to I-4 for people coming from off property.

    This is the type of experience we all want at the Osborne Lights--a relaxing view of the lights. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
    This is the type of experience we all want at the Osborne Lights–a relaxing view of the lights. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
  • Separate ticket event increases revenue.
    First and foremost, Disney is a corporation, and corporations are always looking for ways to increase revenue. By making the Dancing Lights at Wide World of Sports its own hard-ticket event, you are taking a venue that is only limitedly used at night and making it a profit-generating event. A price point similar to that of ICE at the Gaylord Palms (around $30 for adults, $17 for children) would make it an attractive alternative for the holiday season. It could also be rented out by corporations for their holiday parties for slow evenings.
  • Open space for larger crowds.
    Crowds at the Osborne Lights can be insane. On one Saturday night last year, the line to get in to the Streets of America stretched all the way back to Pixar Place. The Streets of America are fixed in their size and capacity, but at Wide World of Sports, putting free-standing structures with lights (similar to those seen at other outdoor light venues) means that you can make wider openings to hold more people in comfort. Who knows, maybe they could even bring back the Lights of Winter as a gateway into the light viewing area?

    This is the reality of the Osborne Lights--large crowds cramming into a narrow space. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
    This is the reality of the Osborne Lights–large crowds cramming into a narrow space. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
  • Setup could be done during the day over a shorter period of time.
    Because the Studios is open during the day and into the evening, the amount of time when setup can be done is limited to when guests are not in the park. For Wide World of Sports, setup work could be done during the day. This not only allows for more time each day for setup (and so fewer weeks to set the lights up), it also means that you’re not paying people to work night shift to set this up.
  • New, improved, and expanded.
    In addition to the Dancing Lights, which are a spectacle in their own right, you could have additional options available for entertainment at Wide World of Sports. An outdoor ice skating rink (similar to that set up each year in downtown Celebration) could be included. One of the indoor buildings could feature photos with Santa, meet and greets with Disney characters in their holiday finest, special food options for sale, merchandise offerings, a Rockin’ Rudolph dance party, and additional special entertainment.

So what do you think? Are you dismayed that this will be the last year for the Osborne Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Would you like to see it at Wide World of Sports, or does some other location sound like a more viable option?

Photo by Julia Mascardo)
(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Julia Mascardo

Freelance writer and editor, living the dream in Central Florida with my husband, cats, and spirited nine-year-old daughter.

13 thoughts on “Armchair Imagineering: Dancing Lights at Wide World of Sports

  • September 13, 2015 at 10:00 am
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    My first thought was, no way, I wouldn’t pay for that. However, by the end of your article I found myself swayed by your ideas for the setup. Pay to just see the lights? No. But, if they turn it into the type of event you suggested, I might,depending on the price charged.

    Reply
  • September 13, 2015 at 10:06 am
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    I don’t think any of us really doubts the event will return, do they?

    It’s quite possible this really is the last year for the “Osborne” lights, but let us not forget that Disney (ABC) runs a television show called “The Great Christmas Light Fight”. They have contact with a bunch of folks who put on spectacular light displays.

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    • September 13, 2015 at 12:59 pm
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      The official word from Disney was that there are no current plans to offer them in a different location, and given the construction plans for the Studios, it is unlikely they would be able to be put up again for at least 5-7 years. At that point, that B-rate reality TV show probably will have been cancelled for at least 3-4 years, so I would doubt a tie-in could happen.

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      • September 14, 2015 at 1:18 pm
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        We all know by now how to interpret official statements from the WD Company.

        the overwhelming popularity of the lights is not lost on the company, this courtesy an imagineer who has been with WDW since before the Contemporary was called the Contemporary. They will find a way, a time, and a place, and there are more than just the Osborne family who know how to produce serious light displays. Whether there’s a TV show running or not, the company now has established relationships with some of them.

        It may not be 2016, but I have little doubt there will be a display sooner than the 50th anniversary celebration.

        Reply
  • September 13, 2015 at 10:17 am
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    I was devastated (though not surprised) to hear the news the other day. I adore this whole idea and think Disney should scoop it up immediately. The only glitch is if it is already in use for any reason from mid-November to the end of December. Do they use Wide World of Sports for the Pop Warner week in early December?

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  • September 13, 2015 at 12:11 pm
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    Then the Wine & Dine 1/2 could start through them which could be awesome. I’m planning on this being my last W&D because the lights are the biggest draw to me. It they did something like this I might be tempted to come back.

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  • September 13, 2015 at 12:14 pm
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    This is a fantastic idea, and I hope you submit it to Disney. I would most definitely pay to do this, especially if you had a Santa meet or Goofy Santa, etc. as part of this.

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  • September 13, 2015 at 6:23 pm
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    I agree what a great idea to use the Wild World of Sports complex!
    I would gladly pay to see the Osborne Lights for the Holidays.
    We have see them every year but 1 and we fly from Chicago it is our Christmas gift to each other.
    Disney already took out the Tunnel of Lights at EPCOT a few years ago, stating they lacked the technology to go to LED’s really Disney lacking technology.
    Find a home for the Osborne Lights Mickey pull some strings, of lights that is.

    Reply
  • September 13, 2015 at 7:02 pm
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    I know I am in the minority, but I found the light show to be garish and overwhelming. The thick crowds did not help the situation in the least. I think relocating them to the Wide World of Sports sounds fantastic and would please those who like the spectacle.

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  • September 14, 2015 at 2:04 pm
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    On an entertainment scale ranging from (1) carnies in a mall parking lot with a tilt-o-whirl to (10) the Magic Kingdom, I would put paying to see Santa and Christmas lights at about a (4). It’s not really what I think when I think a Disney experience. It’s rather cheap (but not inexpensive!), and where’s the “magic”?

    Reply
  • September 14, 2015 at 2:07 pm
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    I am really upset they are taking away the Osborne Family Lights. It ranked up there with the Christmas Parade and Fireworks at MK on my Holiday trips. I can’t believe that people coming to Disney are going to go all the way over to WWS, park and pay to see the lights. We are aready paying alot for our Park tickets and taking a night from the 4 Parks just to see the lights probably wouldn’t happen.

    Reply
  • September 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm
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    I think WWS is a great location for the lights. Plenty of space, and lightly used. I however, would not be paying extra to visit. If you could still use a WP&M voucher for them, then I might.

    Reply

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