Animation Before Starbucks

In case you’re wondering, that’s Dave Michener grabbing a morning cup of coffee at the Walt Disney Studios back in the sixties. Dave was an animator, story man and a director at Disney Animation before he retired. Like most of us, he bought his coffee from the ghastly coffee machine located in F-Wing in the Animation Building. Today, we're pretty casual about a trip to Starbucks. It's way of life and we take it for granted. Such was not the case if you know your Disney history. Coffee options were few back then, and if you wanted something good you bought your coffee on your way to work.

When I started at the Walt Disney Studios back in the fifties no one had any idea that coffee would one day become big business. I worked in Disney's Animation Building and a hot cup of joe meant a trip down to F-Wing where the coffee machine was available to all. We're used to our fresh brewed cup of coffee from Starbucks today. We even have choices that include everything from Expresso to Vanilla Lattes. Such was not the case back in 1956 when a dime would buy you a dreadful cup of black gunk that resembled sludge, rather than coffee.

It's amazing what we settled for back in the old days of animation. And, it wasn't just us animators who frequented the dreadful coffee maker in the foyer of F-Wing. Sometimes I'd walk into the hallway and see big time motion picture and television actors buying a cup of java from the machine. One might have thought that a motion picture star would have a better option. Directing Animator, Milt Kahl would send his assistant, Stan Green to fetch coffee for him at break time. I can still see poor Stan juggling several coffees on an empty film can he used for a tray. You would have thought big time Disney might have had a better brew for it’s primo animation staff but it seemed everybody pretty much settled for the horrid concoction dispensed by the big ugly machine in the F-Wing foyer.

Things have changed in the cartoon business today and one would hardly think of consuming the poison potion served up in F-Wing's coffee machine. It was almost as if the deadly concoction had been brewed by the old crone in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Today, we have a Starbucks coffee house nearly everywhere we turn and we can simply walk into a spanking new facility and order our drink of choice. Yep, much has changed in the wacky world of animation. A cup of coffee costs a good deal more than a dime today. But, what the heck. All us cartoon makers are now getting rich off the fat profits our feature films make, right?

Walt Disney director, Dave Michener enjoying a morning cup of bad coffee. Back in Disney's early days we had to make animated films without Starbucks. It's a wonder we were able to do anything.

Walt Disney director, Dave Michener enjoying a morning cup of bad coffee. Back in Disney's early days we had to make animated films without Starbucks. It's a wonder we were able to do anything.