The Last Kids on Earth, the middle-grade series written by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate, and published by Viking, has been making inroads into television, gaming, and licensed products. The latest ventures for the franchise include a new interactive television episode, which premiered on Netflix on April 6, and a graphic novel from Viking released the same day.
The expansion of the book series, which has seven million copies in print, began in 2017 when Thunderbird Entertainment and its kids’ and family division, Atomic Cartoons, approached Brallier to option the rights for a TV series. The show was acquired by Netflix in 2018 and premiered in 2019 with an Emmy-winning special, followed by two seasons of 10 episodes each in April and October 2020. In the new standalone interactive episode, Happy Apocalypse to You, viewers decide what happens and use their remote controls to move the story forward.
The one-off graphic novel, Thrilling Tales from the Tree House, includes six new short stories by Brallier, illustrated by Holgate and five other artists. One of the stories serves as a bridge to the seventh novel in the core book series, The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race, set for a fall 2021 release.
Cyber Group Studios handles agency duties for licensing and video games and has signed Jakks Pacific as master toy licensee in May 2019—it released its first toys in spring 2020—and Hot Topic for a line of t-shirts. Outright Games is producing a video game with developer Stage Clear Studios, The Last Kids on Earth and the Staff of Doom, which features an original storyline tied to the TV series. It has a June 4 release date.
Brallier is heavily involved in all of the extensions, from television to licensed products. For the TV series, which he writes and executive produces alongside Jennifer McCarron and Matthew Berkowitz of Atomic, “I was in the writers’ room all the way,” he says. He also brainstormed and reviewed the script for the video game and gave feedback on toy proposals. “I felt like I was Tom Hanks in Big,” he said.
Christina Colangelo, executive director of marketing, middle grade and YA, pointed out that having a whole universe of products opens opportunities for promotion and cross-merchandising. The back of each book highlights the entire scope of the program, for example, including the full list of titles, the TV series, and the products. An insert in the video game will do the same.
“I’ve been lucky in that Viking and Atomic have both been really wonderful in sharing all of their plans, so we can all be on the same page, which doesn’t always happen,” Brallier said. “It has been a very collaborative experience across multiple companies.”
“We couldn’t be more excited to see how our Last Kids publishing has gone from a two-book acquisition seven years ago to a mega franchise today,” said Ken Wright, president and publisher of Viking and Philomel. “We’re constantly brainstorming with Max about new ideas, and fans can look forward to many more stories set in the Last Kids world with more adventures to come through 2024.”