Monday, December 27, 2004

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

One of the great things about living in Celebration is that you can spontaneously decide to head over to Disney World for some holiday cheer. After my disappointment in the Lexin version of the Celebration snowfall on Sunday, on Monday night my husband decided that we should head to Disney-MGM Studio to witness the latest incarnation of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights.

For the uninitiated, the Spectacle of Lights is a display of zillions of Christmas lights and figures made from lights, imported from eccentric Arkansas millionaire Jennings Osborne. He made the news many years back when his neighbors sued him because the electricity-gobbling, eye-searing holiday display in his yard (and the yards of the two neighboring homes, which he had purchased to decorate) was bringing too much traffic. When he lost his court battle, the display was moved to Disney World.

Previously, the display used to be put up along the backlot street which was home to the fake fronts of the Golden Girls house, among others. But when the street was torn down last year to make way for a new stunt show arena, the light display was temporarily retired. This year it's back, bigger and better than ever, on the Avenue of the Americas.

At first, I wondered if I'd like it as well as the original version. Some of Disney's changes are good, but others (biggest example: the destruction and ruination of the original "Journey into Imagination") are the pits. Which way would the Osborne display go? Improvement or disaster?

Fortunately, the "Spectacle of Lights" still lives up to its name, and I actually found it to be even better than the old backlot version. For some reason, seeing all the pseudo-brownstones decked out like the Griswold homestead was really breath-taking. The building density is much closer together than the old fake-front houses used to be, so you get a really impressive, continuous blanket-of-light effect. Of course, the fake snow was drifting down on the mass of humanity, and Christmas carols were blaring on the loudspeakers.

I love the lights, but my favorite part was the "tree lot owner" carrying a Charlie Brown tree. And I mean literally a Charlie Brown tree, complete with the same type of sparse branchs and the one ornament bending down the scrawny top branch. It was a riot! I want one for the "Duloc Manor Chrismahanukwanzakah Spectacle of Tackiness" next year. Click here for a photo of "Crazy Andy" and the holiday tree, as well as a bonus shot of my silver tree (sorry, but only three out of the four color wheels are working) and my "Christmas Story" leg lamp gracing the front window. It's not a work of tacky art yet, just a quick dry run for my big display in 2005.

Of course, being Disney-MGM (the operative word being "Disney") there was plenty of merchandising at the Spectacle. My favorite item was the red light-up drink mugs. At the very end, there was a board displaying photos with captions telling the story of Jennings Osborne and the history of his light show.

I know it was a blatant exhibition of commercialism and excess, but somehow I still felt the Christmas spirit wash over me, even as I was trampled by crazed tourists and had my feet crushed by errant strollers while I struggled for breath among the wall to wall bodies. After all, the holidays were what had brought most of these people to Florida and Disney World. Sure, they might be a little rude and frantic now, but I'm sure that they were feeling the same awe at the display. And of course, that was just one part of a holiday vacation that I hope they were enjoying.

I remember when my husband and I used to visit Disney World between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. It was such a magical time, and we still treasure those memories, even though we live right down the street from Mickey now. I hope that the people we saw tonight were creating their own special memories. And even with all the gaudiness, there was a lovely nativity scene reminding everyone of the true meaning of Christmas.

The new year is almost here, but I will cling to a bit of extra Christmas for as long as I can. Tomorrow we see the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, and we're still planning to head to the Gaylord for the ice festival. That's the cool (no pun intended) thing about living in Tourist can stretch the Christmas season out just a bit farther. Goodness knows extra Christmas is never a bad thing.

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