If you've been around as long as I have you probably had one of these in your office. If you're a Disney geek you're sure to recognize the famous chair known by the name of its designer, KEM Weber. The famous designer was chosen by Walt Disney to design the look of the Old Maestro's new Burbank production facility. KEM Weber is worthy of an entire column about his amazing career, but for now, let's just talk about his famous chair.
The Cal Arts kids, including guys like Brad Bird, John Lasseter and John Musker were probably the last of the animation team to have a chair like this in their office. By the eighties, word about the cool KEM Weber chairs had finally reached executive level at the Disney Company and the famous chair was suddenly sought out by top managers. Believe or not the Weber chair began to rise in value much like a coveted piece of original Disney art. Having one in your office spoke to your status as a top Disney manager and the famous chairs were eventually removed from the offices of animation artists. It would appear only executives were worthy of a KEM Weber lounge chair. Lowly animation artists would have to make do with other seating arrangements.
The stories about the KEM Weber chairs are legend. Our boss, Andy Engman had one in his office and it always seemed to sink when you sat in it. Should you dare to ask Andy for a raise in pay, you would have to do so in an almost prone position. Needless to say, this gave Andy Leverage in this particular conversation. Then there were the long nights of overtime when I often dozed off in my KEM Weber chair. I would suddenly awaken to look out my window at a night sky. The darn chair was so comfortable I had slept for hours. Finally, the famous lounge chair was often put to use by animation artists (young men and women) in a way you'd probably never expect. As I said, the famous chair would easily convert from a chair to a make shift bed. What would young men and women do with a chair like that, you ask? I'll let you use your imagination.
By the nineties, the KEM Weber chair was such a prized procession, they began “disappearing” from Disney excutive offices. Some chairs were smuggled out in various ways using employee vans and pick up trucks. Rather than let some jerk off executive nab their lounge chairs, the Disney artists took the chair with them when they were let go. Many chairs “disappeared” this way…or so I'm told.
I still remember my KEM Weber chair. It was one of the perks of being a Disney artist and a reminder that the Old Maestro wanted his artists to have only the best. Hardly an issue now when Disney artists grow fewer and fewer with each passing day.