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September 6, 2013 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Lisa Frank Is Real "The reclusive artist behind the iconic brand gives a tour of her kaleidoscopic headquarters."
posted by ocherdraco (61 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had no idea that she was a real person. Now I'm wondering: when will guys of a certain age get a corresponding interview with the notorious recluse Trapper Keeper?

Bonus: you get to see an ad with the tween Mila Kunis.

Demerits: Dancing bear is creepy. Also, the short was preceded by a 30-second commercial for Goldman Sachs.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:59 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Huh. I kind of feel the same way that I did when I realized Philadelphia cream cheese was actually from Philadelphia. I guess some things are so painfully obvious you just don't see them.

That being said, I just looked it up and it appears that Philadelphia brand cream cheese isn't really from Philadelphia. I can't wait to bring up this knowledge at the next social function I attend. I'm going to be such a big hit.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:01 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is it possible for someone to be "notoriously reclusive" if most people aren't even aware they're a real person?
posted by something something at 7:10 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is it possible to be "notoriously reclusive" if most people aren't even aware they're a Brony?
posted by Mblue at 7:18 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like I knew there was a real Lisa Frank because I used to get Lisa Frank Magazine when I was in the proper age group (and rocked an equal amount of Lisa Frank and Christian Riese Lassen on my school supplies) and she would include a letter to her fans in each issue. I had no idea she was so reclusive though, or that she lived in a walk-in acid trip.

FYI there is also a real Mrs. Grossman.
posted by capricorn at 7:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like others, I never figured she was a real person, just a pseudonym other people worked under like whoever the given author of the Nancy Drew books was...
posted by sparkletone at 7:34 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Somehow it is fitting that Lisa Frank is a whiskey and Pall Mall voiced silhouette in a corporate headquarters pretending to still be a child...
posted by jim in austin at 7:41 PM on September 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


How is it that I knew Lisa Frank was a real person? I didn't realize it was so under-known.

On another note, Trapper Keepers were considered unisex among kids I knew. I still have mine from early elementary school.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:43 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, off the tour...
posted by boo_radley at 7:44 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


My daughter loves Lisa Frank. I found a Lisa Frank lunchbox at Fallas Paredes in Los Angeles a couple of years ago and it's still her favorite.
posted by mogget at 7:48 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It never occurred to me that Lisa Frank wasn't real, but I don't think I want to watch the video. It would be disappointing if she didn't look like some day-glo rainbow composite of all those critters she draws.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:59 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


that's the best part, dingo.

you never get to see her.

you never get to see Lisa Frank.
posted by boo_radley at 8:02 PM on September 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


FYI there is also a real Mrs. Grossman.

Not only that, but there's a Mrs. Grossman's factory tour you can take? Where you get stickers?!?!

That *paffffffff* sound you just heard was my head exploding. Of all the things from childhood, I miss my sticker collection the most...
posted by palomar at 8:18 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Definitely seconding the dancing bear demerits. Otherwise surprisingly wonderful.
posted by mykescipark at 8:21 PM on September 6, 2013


I should take a pic of their warehouse. It's only a couple of miles from here; it's one of those big concrete warehouse boxes, but with hearts and stars and such on the side.
posted by azpenguin at 8:36 PM on September 6, 2013


Growing up in Arizona in the 80s it was AMAZING to me that Lisa Frank only lived a short drive away.

Later in my life I dated a guy from Tucson who claimed to know her personally but he never put his money where his mouth was, and I don't believe he really understood how serious I took it when he mentioned offhand that he knew her.
posted by padraigin at 8:42 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hadn't thought of Lisa Frank in years...until three weeks ago, when I played Gone Home and found one of those binders in the closet.
posted by danb at 8:47 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, basically Lisa Frank is the progenitor of the overlap in the Venn Diagram which involves furries and bronies. Until reality caught up with her, who could have known?
posted by hippybear at 8:57 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am in love with the rainbow leopard mascot opening the door and the larger-than-life man-sized kitty and unicorn statues. Both remind me of the ©MURAKAMI exhibit I saw at the Brooklyn museum a few years ago.

And OMG that hamburger graphic at 2:22. Air-brush painted hamburgers in space. *dies*
posted by maryr at 9:01 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


you never get to see her.

you never get to see Lisa Frank.


You sort of do. Who else do you think is in the bear costume?
posted by cmonkey at 9:14 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Everyone agrees that the Mrs. Grossman's stickers were vastly superior to the Lisa Frank stickers though, right? The die cut on the LF stickers was terrible. I used to buy the little squares of Mrs. Grossman's at the gift shop in the Winooski Woolen Mill mall and I treasured them. I couldn't bear to use them. I probably still have them somewhere in my childhood bedroom. The kittens and the puppies on the blue paper gave me an unhealthy love of stickers, even today.
posted by maryr at 9:17 PM on September 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


The headquarters was only marginally less insane than I imagined it to be.

I was never really into Lisa Frank (I was pretty much the only girl in the history of ever to hate both pink and horses), but I definitely had a folder with the artwork shown at 2:33. It was the folder I kept my sheet music in for piano lessons.

While we're on the topic of stuff like this, does anyone remember that Edgar Winter lookalike guy who had all the artwork of snow leopards on the moon and dolphins in outer space? Those were the bulk of the trendy folders I had.
posted by phunniemee at 9:17 PM on September 6, 2013


I asked my wife about this. She gave me a nasty look. "My parents were mean."
posted by Brocktoon at 9:21 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh my gosh, maryr, I had those puppy stickers too, in the 80s/90s. Agreed that Mrs. Grossman's stickers were the best. (Are the best? Bookmarking for later perusal...) She really does have a great eye for what would make a satisfying sticker, and the quality on those stickers was way better than on the cheapies.
posted by fussbudget at 9:24 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


While we're on the topic of stuff like this, does anyone remember that Edgar Winter lookalike guy who had all the artwork of snow leopards on the moon and dolphins in outer space? Those were the bulk of the trendy folders I had.

Oh god yes. It was the marginally-butcher version of Lisa Frank, and I can't quite remember the artist's name but I owned a couple of those too.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:31 PM on September 6, 2013


I couldn't decide if Lisa Frank was speaking of herself in the third person, or if she was talking about what it was like to be a corporation, but either way, that was weird.
posted by DrMew at 9:38 PM on September 6, 2013


Oddly enough, I was having a conversation the other day with my usual antagonism of baby boomers, and I said that I would take Lisa Frank's pop art visions over Peter Max's any day of the week. The people I was with were of the right age to stop and give this serious consideration. There's a thesis in this somewhere, but I really can't be bothered, so I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:40 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Christian Riese Lassen! I feel like there was someone else in this vein, too, but I am 95% sure I had a folder with this guy's art on it.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:41 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let's see, IIRC I knew Lisa Frank was a real person because my good friend's dad worked on several of her protracted and myriad legal battles.
posted by carsonb at 9:45 PM on September 6, 2013


Apparently this video is from 2012; this article from June kinda validates the unsettling feeling I had watching a video with a big colorful building with virtually no people in it.
posted by substars at 9:49 PM on September 6, 2013


Those seem to be the same article.
posted by maryr at 9:51 PM on September 6, 2013


If you are a female born in the 1980s, I don’t need to tell you what Lisa Frank is. In case you are not,

Let me take a brief bit of issue with this particular statement. I'm a male born in the eighties, and I actually (firstly) know who Lisa Frank is, and (secondly) love her work in a primal sort of way. When I was, perhaps, 9 or so my mom worked at an Ames in our town. Ames, for the uninitiated, was a department store ala` Walmart (and ironically once occupied the same place in my hometown where the SuperWalmart is currently located) that went kaput in the early 2000s.

At some point my mom saw a bunch of Lisa Frank merchandise on sale and bought it for me. A sticker book, replete with several hundred rainbow adorned teddy bears, dolphins, hamburgers, giraffes... I don't know, like, unicorns or something. Anyway, my M.O. for playing with this gift was to sit down and not place any stickers on the stickerbook, but rather to look through the available stickers and imagine the strange circumstances that would lead a neon colored space faring hamburger to be placed next to a bespoke tuxedoed rainbow bear. It was an incredible exercise in imagining, and an early chance to play with a bunch of constituent parts to assemble a coherent story-line where none had existed before. It's difficult for one to say with any fidelity what experiences gave them certain skills or contributed mainly to some personality characteristic they have, but I'd say Lisa Frank is partially responsible for whatever sense of creativity I have to this day with her wonderful and ridiculous designs...

It's nice to realize she's a human, she actually did a lot of the art on her products, and that she's not just a conceptual construction of a marketing department.
posted by codacorolla at 10:11 PM on September 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


maryr: Those seem to be the same article.

Yeah, by the same student journalist. The articles were posted within a week of each other; probably a joint venture. I don't think that's anything hinky, except maybe the old photo ADS dug up of Frank.
posted by carsonb at 10:53 PM on September 6, 2013


I think I visited Lisa Frank's palace in a dream once.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:50 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lisa Frank being a real person is kind of strange, like Battleship being a movie, but in reverse.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:32 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's definitely material here for a modern-day "Citizen Kane", call it "Citizen Frank". Have it start with a woman in silhouette dropping her brandy glass and rasping "rainbow". Then go back and follow her life from a childhood filled with waiting and coloring, succored by sweets, to her first encounter with acrylics and airbrushing, to massive popular success and the computerization and warehouseization of the business, to her wandering in the fireproof storage locker of her endless candycolored output, finishing with scenes in her built-to-purpose secret HQ, far from the madding crowds, consoled only by big yellow plastic dogs, brightly colored unicorns and mysterious people dancing dressed in bear and leopard suits.

At the end you find out "rainbow" was some bad acid from the early 70s.
posted by chavenet at 2:21 AM on September 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'd Kickstart the hell out of that movie.
posted by book 'em dano at 2:32 AM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok, the artwork is sort of vaguely familiar I suppose, less so the name Lisa Frank...I was born in 1973 and I'm male, so have I been under a rock? Am I alone in not knowing this person and this, uh, genre?
posted by zardoz at 3:26 AM on September 7, 2013


I feel most sorry for the folks in fur suits in the Arizona heat in that video.

> I would take Lisa Frank's pop art visions over Peter Max's any day of the week.

Pop art is a marriage of the technology and sensibilities of its time: woodcuts, halftones, silkscreens, airbrushed acrylics… it has to be of its time, otherwise it loses the pop.
posted by scruss at 5:15 AM on September 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mrs. Grossman's stickers were the absolute best. Sandylion was a close second, but Mrs. Grossman had better quality and art. The best part was that on the back of the paper, it would say who designed the stickers, which I thought was so cool. I vaguely remember really liking the work of Melissa somebody? I think? I'd totally forgotten about that, and now it's my new career ambition to design Mrs. Grossman's stickers.

I had my fair share of Lisa Frank, too. I found some of her stuff cheesy, because I was a pretentious kid, but I had a collection of Lisa Frank stickers that I loved so much I tried to write songs about them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:43 AM on September 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Never heard of her/it. Must be one of those "only in America" things like those Great American Doll stores which are mind-boggling.
posted by dobbs at 7:01 AM on September 7, 2013


Christian Riese Lassen! I feel like there was someone else in this vein, too, but I am 95% sure I had a folder with this guy's art on it.

YES! THAT'S HIM! I totally had this on a folder for basically the entirety of my elementary school years, and inside the cover there was a little about the author blurb with this picture of the dude.

I have been searching for this guy on and off for a really long time, but you'd be surprised (or maybe not) by how many results there are for "dolphins in space" google searches. Thanks, r_n!
posted by phunniemee at 7:08 AM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


We have two daughters who are both in their early 20s now and we still find the occasional rainbow notebook or two hidden away somewhere. I am honestly surprised she's a real person, I was sure that kind of crack-like merchandise would have been designed by a bunch of behavioral scientists specializing in pre-teen girls.
posted by tommasz at 7:14 AM on September 7, 2013


I've never heard of her/it either, and
a female of roughly the right vintage. Maybe in Australia we just had the knock-offs.
posted by Salamander at 7:15 AM on September 7, 2013


I knew she was real :-) Lisa Frank stuff never seemed available in my part of Canada growing up - I had to splurge on it when eBay came around :-D A penpal found me a horse binder and I loves it!

It's sad to see that her factory is down to six employees though. It seems to me she could have a lot of success by becoming a partner on Zazzle or something like that.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:31 AM on September 7, 2013


I have no idea how accurate it is, but there's some internet chatter of Lisa Frank (and working for her) being utterly horrible.
posted by themadthinker at 7:33 AM on September 7, 2013


Not only am I the same age as her, but we grew up near each other and went to neighboring schools. I knew tons of people who would have been at school with her at Kingswood and Cranbrook. And I have kids who were born in the 90s, not too long after the peak Lisa Frank era, apparently. So how come I've never even heard of her before today? Weird.
posted by rodii at 8:09 AM on September 7, 2013


I was a parent of a little girl during the Lisa Frank heyday. Lord, it was everywhere. What struck me in this interview is her off-hand comment about the hours put into a single illustration. I can recall, myself (as a designer/illustrator) being intrigued by the art and seeing through the pre-teen gaudiness and recognizing the high-quality work put into it all. I actually had great respect for the brand and the work put into all the art.

I also make note that she said that they have kept a sample of every product and kept every piece of art. This made me sad, because, my former employer (whose brand was also on damned near every product during the same time period) hasn't done the same. In fact, they've actually destroyed a lot of old art and designs.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:17 AM on September 7, 2013


When I walk into the toy aisles to buy gifts for kids, I'm amazed at how little is new -- My Little Ponies, Hello Kitty, Ninja Turtles, American Girl dolls (albeit different dolls, esp. now that they are retiring Molly) -- I am familiar with like 80% of the kid culture out there from my own childhood, because it's all being reprised. And while I'd understand long-term classics like Barbie, it's mostly stuff that originated in my childhood years. I assume it's because people my age and our Boomer parents are buying the next generation the things we remember from the 80s and 90s.

That being the case, I'm surprised I'm not seeing Lisa Frank with the rest of the 80s/90s reprises -- I thought I'd seen her at Target, but no, searching their website says not. (Walmart, on the other hand, has LF coloring books, notebooks, paper dolls, toy cases, and more, many of them available in store. But it's only two pages of results, not even close to her 1980s numbers.)

Also, I'm not surprised the factory is down to 6 employees -- they can offshore everything much cheaper. Printing technology has changed, and the cost to upgrade a system would be prohibitive, especially compared to subcontracting to other factories.
posted by pie ninja at 8:19 AM on September 7, 2013


This may be why Lisa Frank didn't make it to Australia. Terrifying.
posted by maryr at 8:43 AM on September 7, 2013


The folders "for boys" were so much lamer than the Lisa Frank schwag. Like, some football player screwing up his face, or a red corvette surrounded by fog and a matrix of lasers. I was too gender-policed to admit it, but I sooo wanted the dayglo candy dream animal drug party on an alien waterfall planet :(
posted by naju at 8:43 AM on September 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


She should release some new, seapunk-themed art.

I suppose there wouldn't be a discernible difference.
posted by Monochrome at 9:24 AM on September 7, 2013


I grew up with Lisa Frank pretty hard. For many years, everything in my bedroom was a flurry of rainbows. I actually still have a lot of stickers, folders, notebooks, etc. that I stumbled over a few years ago and have decided to more or less enshrine as relics (I did use a few of the stickers on one project, but that was a very special case). I completely loved all that stuff as a kid. If you had eight year old byanyothername watch this video, she would have wanted to live in Lisa Frank's studio; twenty eight year old byanyothername watching this video just wants to live in the Lisa Frank archive. Or at least work that into a story, somehow.

Lisa Frank's rainbow dayglo psychedelic fantasy actually worked as the direct inspiration for a bigger project I'm still reluctantly playing with. Trying to imagine an alien world, I kept coming back to images like this that were just so far out of our frame of reference and understanding of reality that they appear cartoony. What exactly would touching that place do to you? Oh; Lisa Frank.

Also I just sincerely love all the ultracolorful rainbows and puppies and unicorns of it all.

ALSO also, haha! I remember that Mila Kunis ad.
posted by byanyothername at 9:35 AM on September 7, 2013


The main link made me so happy and nostalgic. I had so many folders, stickers, binders, pencils... I was subscribed to her fan magazine and I wanted to visit Tuscon so bad because of Lisa Frank. I would kill to visit that archive with one of every single product they ever made.

Then I read the links in the comments and they just bring me down. Metafilter, this is why we can't have nice things.

At least I got a hit of that Grade A high-potency nostalgia from those space leopards. I definitely had that folder too, and probably others by that artist. But I'm not going to google him in case he's a terrible person and/or dead.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:43 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


>Sandylion was a close second

Also real people: Sandy and Lionel Waldman. Their sticker outlet just north of Toronto made ms scruss exceptionally happy.
posted by scruss at 9:45 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: Lisa Frank being a horrible person, just going off the part of the interview where she says she's insane:

I have a theory, yet to be disproven, that people who tell you that they're totally wacky and crazy in are almost always unpleasant people. They are trying to communicate their unpleasantness in a joking fashion. They are not crazy, but they fit their jerkishness into a framework of "quirky" to justify it to themselves.

Actually crazy people, or actually wacky people, don't feel the need to announce it. Steer clear of those who tell you they're crazy.

So I believe it.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 10:02 AM on September 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am too old. My first reaction was "Sandy Frank? Isn't that a Simpson's character?"
posted by happyroach at 11:17 AM on September 7, 2013


This whole setup; mysterious figure making impossibly cheerful rainbow artwork for tons of cash, in the middle of the desert, targeting kids, but you never get to see her and there are mysterious rumors...is perfect for a Doctor Who episode.
posted by emjaybee at 12:07 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sandy Frank wasn't from the Simpsons, but MST3K!

(actually, he was a real guy too. He was a film distributor who brought a lot of films from Japan to the US. Hence, MST3K.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:05 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Before computer!
posted by geeklizzard at 11:00 PM on September 7, 2013


More stories on the apparent hell of working for Lisa Frank including shouting, cocaine, affairs, and, well, rainbows.
posted by disillusioned at 1:10 AM on September 8, 2013


« Older An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments This book ...  |  Many years ago, I found a quar... Newer »


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