Exclusive: Netflix’s ‘Last Kids on Earth’ creator and exec producers talk about S3

Netflix has a new area of focus – animation! The global streaming giant has been extensively investing in creating original animated content in collaboration with noted animation studios and production companies. 

One such collaboration that has been quite successful and churned out a hit property is Atomic Cartoons, creators of Last Kids on Earth. The animated series had its third season launch in mid-October and has received a great response. 

The third season of Last Kids on Earth continues the journey of 13-year-old Jack Sullivan living in a mind-clobbering cool tree fort with his best friends during a zombie apocalypse. They discover they may not be the last kids on earth after all. This is great news for everyone …except Jack, who hopes to keep things the way they are and prove that everything is perfect – and crazy fun. One problem: it’s hard convincing his friends that everything is great when they’re being hunted by a monstrous Nightmare King and an ancient evil who won’t rest until Earth has been devoured.

Max Brallier

Animation Xpress spoke to series creator and executive producer Max Brallier and Atomic Cartoons executive producer and CCO Matthew Berkowitz about the third season, audience response and more. Read on:

What was different and exciting that viewers enjoyed in the new season? Are the previous two seasons a must watch before the third season, or can new viewers jump right into the third season and follow along?

Brallier: I definitely think this new season is more fun if you’ve watched the previous — but I won’t say “must watch” — it’s fun for all! And there’s so much in the latest season: we have a new and exciting and very monstrous villain with mysterious motivations and goals that really confound Jack in ways we haven’t seen before. For the viewers who’ve also read the books, I think they’ll be delightfully surprised to see some of the new things we have going on this season — moments from the books where we’ve really been able to blow things out, see things from a new perspective, or play with expectations.

How was the journey that the characters have been on so far led up to season three?

Brallier: Oh boy, they’ve all been through a lot! Jack has had to learn how to be a hero and lead while still being a good friend. June has wrestled with a huge range of emotions around joining this group of friends – and she’s just starting to really feel at home when the discovery of radio and other humans upsets all that. Dirk has begrudgingly – and surprisingly — found himself at home with these other kids. Quint has been this hugely valuable piece of the puzzle – but is now realizing he needs to stand up and take control of his own journey.

Can you shed some light on the behind-the-scenes process of creating this animated series so far? What have been some notable highlights and challenges to date?

Brallier: It’s been an absolute blast from the beginning. The real highlight, for me, has been working with other writers and seeing them play and breathe life into these characters that I’ve spent so much time with. And of course, working with the phenomenal voice cast is just an overall life highlight. I had absolute giggling fits in the writer’s room as this season is really funny, and seeing some of those weird, unexpected jokes and gags come to life on screen just makes me smile.

The challenges often involve mixing action with humour- finding the right level of intensity. It can’t be all jokes and it can’t be all action and it can’t be all drama – so, much of it is about walking that line.

How did fans react to the ‘Last Kids’ S3?

Brallier: Fans have really enjoyed it, and I feel really good about it. I’ve been pleased with the response from both new fans and old from the start of this thing. Readers who already knew the series enjoyed it – and that was the most important thing to me. If everyone new to the world hated it but the readers loved it, I would’ve been happy. But thankfully, the response I’ve seen has been great across the board.

Was it challenging to continue with production due to the pandemic and the lockdown that followed?

Berkowitz: In the first few weeks of the transition of moving the production from the studio to working from home, it was a challenge to make sure everyone’s tech needs were met. We also had to adjust the flow of communication given everyone is no longer in the studio and able to have desk-side chats. But, once everyone shifted over, the show was right back in rhythm – in large part because we have an amazingly talented crew on the series. Very grateful to be working with this team at Atomic!

Matt Berkowitz

How much of the series was created remotely and how did that process go both for the cast and crew?

Berkowitz: The bulk of the front end of production was complete before we switched to our remote workflow in March (design, storyboards, writing, almost all the recording) but we did quite a bit of animation, lighting and composition, FX, score, and audio and video mixing remotely! Therefore, the main shift to the process was getting our animators, lighting, comp and FX teams set-up to be able to work from home!

Can you shed some light on the behind-the-scenes process of creating this animated series so far? What have been some notable highlights and challenges to date?

Berkowitz: This was a really ambitious and challenging production – but in the best of ways! While the final look of the show is 2D, we also integrated 3D/CG elements for various vehicles, sets and props, and also employed a unique lighting and compositing workflow to try and add a lot of depth to the shots and bring the viewer into the world. Each shot had its own lighting set-up, and the characters had various lights on them to set-up the proper shadows and depth within the character builds.

Also, every time you see the kids in Big Mama (their main vehicle) or in their boom karts, it is actually a mix of the 2D character models being animated within the CG vehicles. We wanted the vehicles to be in CG so you could get the proper “weight” in the animation of them – but of course, we then had to apply an approach to have them integrate properly into our 2D world.

And of course, there were SO MANY MONSTERS – both recurring and one-offs, and so we animated and built a lot more complex creatures than we are used to in TV productions!

Tell us about the animation company/team who worked on this project. Any notable shout-outs or people you want to highlight?

Berkowitz: The production is an original series produced and owned by Atomic Cartoons! Huge shout-out our creator and EP Brallier, who not only trusted us to adapt his beloved book series into animation but also partnered with us at Atomic every step of the way. I’d also love to highlight our showrunner and EP Scott Peterson, who led the production from day one and worked alongside Max to not only bring the book series to life into animated form but also find ways to push the characters and stories in our animation medium!

I’d also love to heap some praise on our directors – Steve Rolston and Will Lau, as well as art director Alexia Tryfon, and the whole creative team at Atomic Cartoons for all the amazing work they put into the series!