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Does that mean that Paul Bunyan is hip again?
“I don’t think Paul Bunyan ever quit being hip,” he said. “To me, he’s always had it.”
Babe has his own T-shirt line, which was designed by Aaron Draplin, an Oregon designer who “fell in love with the North Woods” while attending the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
“Even though they morph from place to place, the Paul Bunyan and Babe stories are still great to tell to little kids,” he said. “We’re losing all that stuff now, that goofy, sentimental stuff that people roll their eyes at. Instead of telling kids stories, we hand them an iPhone. I think it’s important that Babe the Blue Ox perseveres.”
The shirts are available on his website, www.draplin.com. Will he soon be adding a Paul T-shirt?
“I’m going to have to now,” he said. “Who doesn’t like Paul Bunyan?”
In November 2011, New Balance introduced Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox versions of its athletic shoes. Paul’s shoes are brown to resemble a work boot, while Babe’s shoes are — what else? — blue.
This isn’t the first time Paul has shown an interest in athletics. In fact, he’s an avid football fan, having lent his name to two traveling trophies: Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which goes to the winner of the Minnesota-Wisconsin game, and the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which is up for grabs when Michigan plays Michigan State.
Of course, Paul also has been the subject of countless books, both of the written and comic variety, and several movies, videos and TV shows, including an animated feature film that’s in the works for release in 2015. And don’t forget the operetta, which was written in 1941 by Benjamin Britten based on a libretto by W.H. Auden.
“It figures that a couple of guys from England would write the quintessential American folk tale,” Shelby said.
Shelby knows that he has some big shoes to step into in portraying Paul, but he insisted that he’s not going to be intimidated by the challenge or the size of Babe.
“I’m a method actor,” he explained. “I’ve spent the last two weeks visiting giant animals — although I think some of them might have been fiberglass.”
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392