Like many, three writers of “The Simpsons” make Starbucks a part of their morning routine. John Frink, Joel H. Cohen and Rob LaZebnik frequently work from a Starbucks store on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles before heading to their day jobs as writers for the pop-culture animated comedy. The store, its customers and baristas are the inspiration for Starbucks first-ever animated series.
“As much as we are supposed to be working, we are even better at procrastinating,” says LaZebnik. “Looking around, you can’t help but see the vibe in there—the partners [employees], the regular customers, the flow of morning traffic. We thought we could bring that to life in a really fun way.”
The trio of writers and Starbucks have come together to co-create “1st & Main,” a series of animated shorts highlighting warm and familiar everyday moments that happen in Starbucks stores across the country. The seven-episode series is set in Starbucks and stars a cast of animated animal characters. The series debuts December 16.
“Starbucks talks about the ‘third place’ between work and home,” says Cohen, “That’s ultimately the theme of the series: every person at every table has a story. At our table, we are the three weird guys watching the other tables.”
The series’ cast of characters will seem familiar to those who’ve spent time in Starbucks. There’s Julie, “1st & Main’s” store manager and matriarch who fittingly, is a bear; Chet, a beagle, is a contractor who seems to know everyone in his store community and has a kind word for everyone; and Diego, a barista cat with a man bun, takes pride in creating the perfect beverage for his customers. These characters, and others, make up a community that’s tight-knit and innately relatable.
Each episode runs approximately 90 seconds, about the length of time it takes to place a Starbucks order. The brevity of “1st & Main” provides a “fun challenge” for the writers, who have their own production company called Tolerable Entertainment.
“Telling a story in that amount of time is tricky, because it’s so brief, and you still want a beginning, a middle and an end. We tried it without an end, but that didn’t feel satisfying,” says LaZebnik.
“Obviously, we want something that will be funny and resonate with viewers,” Frink says. “So we tried to come up with simple, small stories that pay off quickly with the right amount of humor and emotion in them. Also, writing longer stuff takes more effort, so we went shorter.”
This is Starbucks second original content series. In September, Starbucks released “Upstanders,” a 10-part series about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. The company’s second series, “1st & Main,” celebrates the connections that happen every day in Starbucks stores in an unexpected way.