For more than three years, The Simpsons writers Joel Cohen, Rob LaZebnik and John Frink have spent their early mornings working on a movie project from a Los Angeles Starbucks before heading to the nearby Fox studio lot.
To connect to the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi, they have to click through Starbucks’ website, which got the guys thinking: Why isn’t there any entertaining content on the landing page? So, the trio created a mini web series to fill the space and pitched it to Starbucks.
“We noticed that it might be fun to have some animation thing on this landing page,” said LaZebnik. “That gave us the idea, and then we emailed Kevin Johnson, the now CEO of Starbucks. He wrote right back and said, ‘That sounds really cool.'”
A few weeks later, the guys flew to the chain’s headquarters in Seattle and pitched a few ideas. Their familiarity with the brand fueled the creative process. “Every Simpsons script I’ve written, I’d say 75 percent of it has been written in a Starbucks—we’ve all been at them for a long time, and then collectively at this one for three years,” noted Cohen.
The group ultimately landed on a short animated series named 1st and Main that focuses on a cast of animal characters with personalities that are based on people typically found in a Starbucks store. There’s Chet, a beaver inspired by employees who “take a lot of ownership of the place—they know everybody and they know where everything ought to be,” said Cohen. Then there’s a bear named Susan, the store manager and a “bearista” who takes care of everyone.
Starbucks will debut the series on its website this week and Wi-Fi landing pages in January. People will also be able to watch the videos on Starbucks’ mobile app and Facebook page.
There are a total of eight 90-second spots that tell “a very quick story that’s hopefully funny, sweet and a little slice of life that happens with these characters,” explained Cohen.
In one short, a pretentious flamingo walks into the store and proclaims that his Starbucks store is better than the 1st and Main store, causing customers to “rise up and defend their Starbucks passionately.” Another mini episode features a porcupine couple that hug each other, only to discover that the husband gets a quill stuck in his wife.