Plenty of people pecking away on laptops in coffee shops wonder how they might turn the hours they spend observing the scene around them into something. Now, three writers on "The Simpsons" have done just that, as Starbucks will being running an online animated series they conceived while sitting, of course, in a Starbucks.
The idea for the series, "1st & Main," comes from Joel Cohen, John Frink and Rob LaZebnik, who have worked on "The Simpsons" for years.
"Often on the way into our day job at 'The Simpsons,' we will most mornings stop at Starbucks and work there," said Mr. LaZebnik, who said the trio often sits at the Starbucks on Pico in West LA.
The idea was sparked when they would log onto the internet at the shop and see the page that pops up with content from Starbucks. "It just kind of hit us, I wonder if they might be open to doing a cartoon on the landing page," said Mr. LaZebnik.
After sending messages about the idea to Starbucks employees via LinkedIn earlier this year, they went to Seattle to discuss the project. Production began in earnest in October.
Starting Friday, Starbucks will run a series of eight weekly animated short pieces, each about 60- to 90-seconds long. The series will be posted on Starbucks.com/1standmain, where visitors can also find character bios and a masthead. Starbucks will also use itse website, mobile app and social channels including Facebook and Instagram to drive people to the episodes.
It is the second content series from Starbucks. The "1st & Main" series has a much different focus and feel than "Upstanders," a series of stories, videos and podcasts released in September meant to highlight 10 positive and inspiring tales from across the country.
Starbucks is not the only restaurant chain trying to strengthen its relationship with its patrons through content. Last week, for example, Taco Bell launched a "Taco Tales" series on YouTube.
The "1st & Main" work for Starbucks features animal baristas and patrons. The title is meant to give the series a feeling that the observational ideas depicted could be seen anywhere, not just at the Starbucks on Pico that the men visit a few times each week.
"The Starbucks we work at, it's actually all trained animals that work there," joked Joel Cohen. "There is an actual bear."
Using animals including a bear, giraffe and octopus give the videos "a cute, funny look and a fun visual style" and provide "a bit of a blank slate" on which to put human characteristics, he said.
Iggy the octopus, who appears to be half-submerged in a fishbowl on wheels, and some others characters including a cat barista with a man bun named Diego, are voiced by Tom Kenny, most famous for voicing SpongeBob SquarePants.
Among the characters, the one that perhaps best represents the writers themselves is Alexa, a "neurotic, frustrated writer beagle" who always seems to be working on her novel, Mssrs. Cohen and LaZebnik said.
"I think we are able to pour a lot of our own frustration into that character and her neuroses and frustration about not being able to write anything," Mr. Cohen said. "I would say she's a bit of a cumulative character for all of us."
Head Gear Animation worked on the animation for the series and Dave Pelman did the music. Other voice actors include Tress MacNeille and Jason Hightower.