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Disneyland Article
A Special Kind Of Weird
Darah Wood
Howard Johnson’s Anaheim branch hotel is less than half a mile from the Disneyland Resort, a roughly 8 minute walk. The hotel also has a webcam pointing at various spots at the Resort. The main spots are in Disneyland, with the Matterhorn acting as Sleeping Beauty Castle, so to speak, having the whole mountain and a zoom in on one of the Bobsleds. The mountain is featured prominently in the overview of the park, with the exception of a large pine tree previously dubbed Spikey. When the camera pans over from the main shot of the Matterhorn to Space Mountain, you can see a bit of Galaxy’s Edge, especially at night. The camera also shows us a bit of the Submarine Lagoon, which can sometimes give an idea of the weather.

California Adventure has an overview, as well. With how close the spots are together, it only takes a second to pan from right to left: from Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the Incredicoaster, Carsland’s Cadillac Range, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The overview for California Adventure spans from Guardians of the Galaxy to Mickey’s Fun Wheel, like Disneyland with Space Mountain to Matterhorn.

What could be considered to be outside the parks have a few shots, too. The Grand Californian (with Paradise Pier Hotel in the background) just about beckons to me, as I’ve wanted to stay there for a number of years. The Esplanade, the pathway in between the two parks, is typically obscured a bit by flora (but not Fauna or Merryweather — I’m not at all sorry for the terrible joke), but viewers can still see people walking by and buses transporting guests from the Toy Story Lot. A cool spot specifically programmed for the Mattercam, is called the Check-In Spot, where people will stand and wave, among other things. One of those other things was a kid doing backflips and dancing, which was a big mood for a lot of Disney fans. There is a small section of the Monorail that is the focus of another shot that is just outside the parks, as well as a bit of an intersection that contains six pillar type of things that light up at night, changing between a myriad of nice colors.

Everything in California Adventure lights up at night, which sometimes causes the camera to lose focus. In Disneyland, the one Castle turret that is visible by Matterhorn, Space Mountain, the bit of Galaxy’s Edge in the camera’s pan, and a little bit of Main Street, U.S.A are lit up. Apparently, the lights are on all night.

The camera stays on everything for around twenty-five seconds, until around 9:20 for the fireworks spectacular, “Remember. . . Dreams Come True,” which happens every night, weather permitting. It starts off going to “Home,” which is essentially the roof of the Howard Johnson, before going to the night sky a minute or two later. The fireworks start at around 9:30 and it’s a roughly fifteen minute show. The camera zooms out quite a bit, putting the Matterhorn in bottom left of the screen. The show, which seems to change every year, also has a light show, visible by the Matterhorn. After the show is done, it stays on the sky until 10:00, then it’s another minute on “Home,” and back to rotation.

* * *

The Mattercam has a Facebook group extremely passionate followers, called “Mattercammers United.” Established in 2014, it quickly grew to well over a thousand members, including me. There are five founding members, with 13 Administrators and Moderators altogether, one of whom is the hotel’s Marketing Manager. Members hail from all over the planet, including Australia and New Zealand, and all of North America. The Founding Five are Matt Allen, Susan Lugrin, Todd Young, Thomas Viano, and Paula Bausman. With the exception of Susan, who is from British Columbia, Canada, everyone is American. The other four are from Utah, California, and Iowa (there are two Californians).

It’s pretty unanimous that the cam was found by Googling some form of “Disneyland webcam.” It’s rather unfortunate that there isn’t a regular webcam actually in the Park, but the HoJo is a thumping good one.

The camera runs all day everyday, so viewers can watch in the middle of the night if they would like. The most popular time to watch is the fireworks, with twilight as a close second. Nowadays, though, you can rewind the camera twelve hours, so if you missed the fireworks, or saw something interesting, you can still go back and watch. Sometimes, you can see the third shift people finishing up, and early guests going to Rope Drop, hoping to get there early for the best rides. Watching the sun go up and down is a breathtaking sight.

The camera angles have changed a bit over the years. Tower of Terror, Carsland, Galaxy’s Edge, and HoJo’s neighbor hotel were built before watchers’ very eyes. One can sometimes see cranes doing detail work on the Castle turrets, and climbers scaling the Matterhorn, as well. We used to be able to see the masts of the Sailing Ship Columbia going behind the Castle.

The average number of years watching is five years, with one of the Administrators, Susan, watching since 2011, pretty much the beginning of the camera’s life, after going to celebrate her 50th birthday. At that point, it had been twenty-four years since she had visited the park, a period she calls “The Dark Ages.” Now, she watches daily.

The group also has merchandise, available on Teespring, depicting the group’s logo: the Monorail passing in front of the Matterhorn, with the words “Mattercammers United” in a circle around it. It includes t-shirts and hoodies, mugs, bottons, and at one point, pins. When meetups happen, the name of the group is written in the style of the original Disneyland sign, with the date where the hours would go, and the group logo is a bit smaller than usual (usually it’s about the same size as on a regular graphic tee) on the front. Meet ups seem to be annual, global health permitting.

Speaking of global health, when everything closed down in March, the Cam carried on. As of this writing, the Parks have been closed for many months, with California Adventure opening barely a few weeks ago for shoppers. It’s been quite strange seeing it empty, save crews doing maintenance on occasion.

The cam is mostly automatic, continuing to go to the fireworks shot, even when there are none, though there were apparently fireworks on the Fourth of July.

During the riots in May and June, sirens could be heard, which as one could imagine, was a bit disconcerting. June 1st, the cam momentarily ceased being automatic. On the switch over from California Adventure to Matterhorn, for almost a half hour, it was focused on other places, primarily a bridge. Apparently, during that time, a security camera facing north on Harbor Boulevard was getting an upgrade, so they borrowed the Mattercam. A bit later on a happier note, a high school graduate and his family went to the Check-in Spot to wave and celebrate. The camera stayed there for a good thirty minutes. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, with the grad in a blue cap and gown.

As far as I know, the camera has not been manned since, but it is still nice to see everything going on.

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