Elaborate greeting cards are a popular trend that have made cards themselves akin to presents. Companies such as Paper Pops, Santoro, Second Nature, and Love Pops have all made a name for themselves by creating unique and detailed cards. Yet it is a company known as “Up With Paper” that is the original pop up greeting card company and they have taken the process a step further by becoming a publisher of pop-up children’s books.
“Up With Paper” was originally known as “PopShots Inc.,” a brand that was established in 1978. Having earned more than sixty honors from the International Greeting Card Association’s “LOUIE” award, the company decided to establish the Jumping Jack Press in 2007. Now, ten years later, their pop-up books are one of the most beloved aspects of the brand that help to instill a love of literacy in children.
Recently, President George White discussed the books, and the creative processes behind them, in an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: What prompted the creation of Up With Paper and what makes it so unique and innovative?
George White (GW): The Up With Paper company was founded in 1978 by a designer, a Broadway set designer, and a businessman, who together had a vision to bring the marvel of pop-ups to greeting cards. I have served as president since 2004 and I have always endeavored to extend that vision, as we marry paper engineering with on trend design, and then add mixed media embellishments. The result is an innovative line of greeting cards that resonate with consumers around the world.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How many styles do you currently have and who thinks them up? For instance, can consumers reach out to the company offer ideas?
GW: We offer hundreds of greeting card sku’s across nine brands now, each with a separate identify—the original square card Treasures line remains our largest and best-selling brand, and we also offer Panoramics with pull tab movement (and some also add sound or light), Pop-Up Snow Globe Greetings, Sight ‘n Sound, and Trinkets gift enclosures, plus the Pure Alchemy and LAYERS card lines and Robert Sabuda and our own line of boxed cards from our UWP LUXE division. Cards are available for all everyday sending occasions, as well as seven seasons. Ideas for designs come from all of us at the company; we have quarterly meetings where we review dozens of new design concepts, and we discuss and agree on the ones to pursue. We are always happy for consumers to suggest new styles on our social media pages.
MM: Be honest, of all the cards do you have a particular favorite? Which would you say are the most unique or innovative?
GW: My favorite card since joining the company has always been our Treasures Beach Chairs design. It features two pop-up beach chairs under an umbrella on a sunny beach—who would not want to be there? But the really fun thing about this card is that the beach chairs are made out of real beach chair fabric. That demonstrates the length we will go to in order to make a card really “work”! It is impossible to pick out a design or group of designs that are the most unique or innovative, as each design includes an engineering, design, and./or mixed media element that makes it a truly unique work of art.
MM: Why did you decide to base two of your books in a zoo setting?
GW: I conceived and wrote these two books. I live in Cincinnati, and we have a terrific zoo. They do two big events at the zoo every year: a trick or treat event in which kids can roam the zoo and collect candy in different areas, and a Festival of Lights, in which they decorate the zoo with millions of lights. With two young boys at the time, I had spent time at both. In addition, every Halloween there is a photo in the paper of one of the big gorillas at the zoo with a plastic Halloween bucket, and that image always made me laugh. I came up with the concept for Halloween at the Zoo in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve (meaning the night of 12/23); I was so excited about it I got up and storyboarded and wrote the entire book on Christmas Eve morning before anyone in the house even got up. We all liked the concept, and as we discussed I thought about Christmas, and my long-time affinity for the Night Before Christmas tale, so I just twisted that into the Zoo!
MM: For the Halloween books, how did you decide which animals would wear specific costumes?
GW: I wrote the book to rhyme, and so played with animals that fit the meter and the rhyme. I am a terrible artist, but I did an initial storyboard, which we discussed within our team. Lots of great ideas from lots of folks, and then we also involved the artist (Jason) and paper engineer (Bruce) before finalizing, as we wanted to make sure they were each excited about what they could do with the animals on each page.
MM: You have a Christmas and Halloween book, might you create an Easter and/or Valentine’s Day one?
GW: After the first two, which were originally published in a smaller book size ten years ago, we decided to rest the Zoo ideas for a while. Christmas books have always been our best sellers, followed by Halloween. We have done Easter books, but not as many, and we don’t think there is as natural a fit there. My bet is you will see Christmas and Halloween in other habitats—we’ve already done the Arctic, so maybe aquariums–before you see another zoo book, but you never know…
MM: Who designed the illustrations for these books, especially the incredible peacock character?
GW: Jason O’Malley is the artist, and while I honestly cannot remember if the original concept was his or someone else’s he deserves 100% of the credit for the amazing look of the artwork, which is also one of my favorites, and Bruce made it come alive with his paper engineering work.
MM: Be honest, what are your favorite pages from both the Halloween and Christmas titles?
GW: That is a very hard question, as these were my first two books and the first two books for the company, so every page is like our baby! I agree that the Peacock page is fun, and I always loved the way the monkeys are laughing at the vampire gorilla, but I will have to go with the final spread of “Halloween at the Zoo,” as that includes all the animals. A bit of a cop-out, but I cannot choose!
For “Christmas at the Zoo,” one of my favorite aspects of the book is the way each spread includes a different set of Christmas decorations, which naturally are based on how we envisioned each animal would decorate its zoo home for Christmas. For this reason, I like the polar bear spread. The decorations on the tree, the family photo, the stockings, even the cookies are all just how a family of polar bears would decorate their home—at least in my mind!
MM: One of your books–“Leaves”–is about the autumn season. Might you release books about the other three seasons too?
GW: Yes, we actually released our first seasonal book, “Snowflakes” seven years ago, and it is our best-selling title and part of the inspiration for “Leaves.” Our next seasonal title will be “Summer Shells,” releasing in 2019, followed by a “Spring Flowers” book in 2020!
MM: What’s your favorite aspect of the “Leaves” title?
GW: This was concepted by one of our paper engineers, Yoojin Kim, and she did all the paper engineering in what is her first book. I love the spread with the little hedgehog with moveable feet; it is amazing in its own right, but also great because this is an homage to Yoojin’s own pet hedgehog, Kimchi!
MM: You also publish books, so when did this aspect of the company form?
GW: When I joined the company, we really ramped up the variety of products we produce. In 2006, we were all talking about how much we love pop-up books, and finally one of us said, “well, how hard can it be; a pop-up book would just be like six or eight of our cards pasted together”. And from that naïve statement, our “Jumping Jack Press” line of books began! We started in 2007 with a Halloween and Christmas title, both of which I wrote based on the inspiration from our local zoo in Cincinnati. Both books won Moonbeam Awards, critical respect, and even generated some sales. Since then we have produced two or three new books every year, although we have gotten smart enough now to usually use a professional writer! Of note, our first two books, “Halloween at the Zoo” and “Christmas at the Zoo” are being reprinted in this, their tenth anniversary year, in a larger format, and I have to say, they look great and still make me smile every time I read through them.
MM: How do you select the stories and do you work directly with authors? Which books have been the most popular?
GW: The book creative development process has been similar to the format we use to develop cards: we discuss book concepts at each of our quarterly creative meetings, during which anyone can propose any concept. Sometimes we zero in on a concept quickly, while others take many meeting discussions to flesh out. Once we have a concept, which includes initial sketches and a rough storyboard, we hire a professional writer to develop the concept into a story, and then source the artwork and paper engineering, sometimes from our staff and sometimes from outside. We do not accept outside story submissions, as all concepts are developed internally.
Our most popular book has been our “Snowflakes” title, which has been reprinted seven times and is also available through our co-edition partners in France and Japan, with more co-editions on the horizon. Other popular titles that have been reprinted multiple times include “The Snow Queen,” “The Mitten,” and “Arctic Christmas” with the latter available not only in Japanese and French, but Italian as well. We believe our new “Leaves” title, available this Fall, is destined to join the ranks of our most popular, as the early reviews and sales have been terrific.
MM: What have been the best bits of feedback that you have received from people and how do you envision the company evolving from here?
GW: That is a hard one to answer, as we have received so much valuable feedback over the years. Probably the best feedback is along the lines of staying true to ourselves, which is to continue to combine amazing paper engineering with trendy designs, while also adding those extra touches that make a card or a book so identifiable as being from Up With Paper—from the little platinum Amex card in a purse card to the fur on one of our popular cat cards to the Happy Halloween pull tab in our “Halloween at the Zoo” book. My main job is to adhere to the company’s long-term vision to bring the magic of pop-ups to consumers, and I envision continuing to do that through an ever-growing diverse group of brands. We recently offered our first line of bath products—luxury soap in an amazing paper engineered gift box—as well as paper engineered Wall Art, and also just added LED light effects to new pop-up card designs, so the possibilities are endless. We’ll keep exploring them!
“Leaves” can be found here.
“Halloween at the Zoo” can be bought here.
“Christmas at the Zoo” can be ordered here.