Whatever Happened To Paul Frank?

Maybe you don't know the face of the man behind the monkey, but you certainly know of his work. Does the name Julius mean anything to you? How about when I tell you that Julius is a monkey with an unnaturally flat expression? If that doesn't ring a bell it should, because for many years in the early 2000s and beyond, Julius' face was one of the best known in the world of pop culture, appearing on stickers, clothes, bags, and merch which proved popular across all age groups and demographics.

The designer responsible for Julius is a man named Paul Frank Sunich, better known as Paul Frank, who began his career in his garage in Huntington Beach, California, in the mid-1990s, having been gifted a sewing machine by his mother, according to Vanity Fair. He began by making wallets as gifts for friends and soon settled on a monkey logo based on the classic sock puppet. Soon, his designs built up a cult following in his local area and attracted a devoted base of repeat customers who turned Julius and Frank's other creations into a word-of-mouth phenomenon. Soon, local businessmen John Oswald and Ryan Heuser came calling, ready to help Frank take his pop art design business to the next level and bring it to the world. Within the space of just a few years, Julius the Monkey was an icon, and Paul Frank Industries had proven to be a roaring success. However, Frank wasn't allowed to enjoy the high life for long.

He parted ways with Julius

The growth of the Paul Frank brand in the late 1990s and early 2000s was staggering. Within the space of just a few years, the business went from being a cottage industry operating in a garage to an enormous franchise with an estimated $40 million in annual revenue, according to The LA Times, along with 14 flagship stores across the globe in locations including

But at the height of his fame, designer Paul Frank was about to face an almighty downfall. In 2005, it was announced that the creator of Julius the Monkey — as well as every other notable piece of intellectual property in the company's portfolio, including such characters as Clancy the Giraffe – was stepping down from his creative director position at Paul Frank Industries Inc., ostensibly "to pursue other interests," as the LA Times reported.

Frank himself would later argue that he had been forced out, leading to a protracted legal battle between him and his former business partners for control of his creations, including one case in which he sued the company for breach of copyright and another in which he attempted to have Paul Frank Industries dissolved. Neither was ultimately successful.

Back where he belongs

Being chewed up and spat out by the world of business would threaten to bury the career of most artists, and truly the experiences that Paul Frank had to go through in terms of being squeezed from the company based on his own intellectual property were certainly challenging. However, it seemed that the creator of Julius the Monkey wasn't going to be shut out of the industry that easily.

As a 2013 Orange Coast Magazine profile showed, Frank proved willing to strike out on his own, with a new venture, Park la Fun, showcasing his newer concepts and designs. Meanwhile, Paul Frank Industries changed hands numerous times, eventually landing in the portfolio of Saban Brands, who in 2016 invited its former creative director to come back to the company he had co-founded more than two decades earlier. "Julius and all of the Paul Frank characters are a part of me, which is why it's such an amazing feeling to reunite with them. I'm excited to join the Saban Brands family and see what the future holds," Frank said in a statement, per Business Wire.

Frank's LinkedIn page claims that since 2022 the designer is once again a freelancer, working as a fine artist and designer as well as a consultant and design instructor. His creations, especially Julius, continue to enjoy broad brand recognition across the planet.