Let Me Be Frank

Paul Frank talks about what's next and why, so far, it's not being Paul Frank

You mentioned also the idea of going into animation?

I would love to work on a stop-animation feature or a [computer graphics feature]. I feel like my experience over the past 10 years helped me become someone who can do that. And I want to do that. Because all my characters had personalities. You know, a lot of those characters happened by accident. Clancy was Julius in a giraffe outfit for Halloween, but then I made it all yellow. I never set out to do a giraffe. I was doodling Julius in a Halloween costume. Worry Bear was a sketch I did on a napkin flying back from Seattle. I drew this bear with his hands up, like "Woooo!" Those kinds of things, they come from a weird place. You're not thinking, "What can we do now to make money?" I do a lot of things that are kind of like a dream or a reaction or something about your personality. Julius started out as a sock monkey that my grandma made for Uncle Tony. And then I just started sewing him on wallets and selling them.

There's a real humor to your characters.

Paul Frank: the man with no name
Amy Theilig
Paul Frank: the man with no name

I like to use humor, you know. Humor goes beyond characters. I guess I don't ever think of it specifically—it's just an idea. You know, if I make a character that has a personality, I don't ever think that I'm making an animal who could talk. As a designer, the challenge is to work with what you're given in the medium that you're in. You don't think about Bugs Bunny as a rabbit all the time. He's this wise guy. You don't think of Goofy as a dog. He's just Goofy. His personality—you almost forget what species they are.

But then, once the company got big, it became a real job?

I think, you know, it got real business-y. And I'm not a businessman. And weird things started happening. They wanted to start changing some of the trademark logos, and the vice presidents started doing way more than they should have. I went on honeymoon last July, and when I came back, they'd moved my office out into the hall and put the marketing department in my office. And, it's like, that's not what you're supposed to do to the person whose name is on the label. That's disrespectful.

It's like they were moving away from . . . you?

I couldn't say it any better than you just said it. That's a clear indication right there. They're clearly saying the marketing and business is more important than the creative person.


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