Grumpy Cat After Death: Animated Projects, Books and Even Lottery Tickets
The feline phenom's lucrative seven-figure brand will continue to grow, with an increasing number of followers and plans to reteam with Aubrey Plaza.
After going viral in 2012 and ruling the internet as one of the first — and most prominent — social media pet stars, Grumpy Cat died on May 14, leaving behind 2.7 million Instagram followers and fans all over the world.
News of her death made the front page of The Times of London, took over thousands of digital billboards and led to dozens of memorials. Manager Ben Lashes says that May 17, the day that the Grumpy Cat team announced her passing, “was the day the internet cried. It was one of those big moments where the whole internet came together and collectively respected something that they’d helped create.”
Now that the social media star is gone, what happens to her lucrative, seven-figure brand? As it turns out, it’s bigger than ever.
Following her passing, Grumpy Cat gained 400,000 followers, even though Lashes said all of her social media accounts went dark for a month in mourning. “After the announcement post, a lot of people in the comments said, ‘Keep posting Grumpy Cat, don’t let this stop,’" Lashes says. "We’re going to continue to keep posting Grumpy Cat pictures; there are still Grumpy Cat pictures that people haven’t seen, and there’s lots and lots of ones that people still love and will never get tired of seeing.”
Outside of her online presence, there are also big plans to take Grumpy Cat, who lived in Arizona with her owner, Tabatha Bundesen, to the big screen. Lashes says he’s currently looking at options to bring the iconic cat into an animated world, and has been in conversation with Aubrey Plaza to reunite on future projects. The Parks and Rec star voiced Grumpy in 2014 Lifetime movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, and “after we did the movie Aubrey called and was like, ‘Hey, I know there’s all kinds of different business and it’s Hollywood and everything but I’m Grumpy Cat, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing,” Lashes says.
That commitment has carried over after her death, and Lashes and Plaza have been in development on a few upcoming collaborations. As the manager says, “it was agreed by both of us that we were going to keep carrying this torch and keep doing the things that we’re doing and letting Grumpy grow and keep touching people.”
Along with the Hollywood projects, the Grumpy Cat brand is also expanding into illustrated children’s books, cat and dog treats, a pet accessories line, and even lottery tickets. “Now might be the time for Grumpy to live on the screen in a new way,” Lashes says.
Grumpy broke out as a social media star from a single post on Reddit and has gone on to become the first cat in history to have a Madame Tussauds wax figure. In the seven years since her big break, pet accounts have become increasingly popular and competitive for superstardom, Lashes says, with lots of animal owners vying for the same goal.
"In one way, it’s never been easier to try and break out because there’s never been more people interested in it and there’s never been more tools easily accessible to you," he says. "At the same time, that brings tons of competition and other people with cute animals and great ideas as well. All of the people that write me and send me cute pictures of their cats and dogs and horses that play basketball and everything, my advice is always the same: You have to put it out there on your own and follow your own vision for what people are going to react to and have confidence in it."
As for why Grumpy Cat and other pets have had such online traction, leading to nationwide meet-and-greet tours, merch stores and brand partnerships, Lashes says, “With celebrities, they can let us down when they’re real people, and people let you down even at the grocery store. Animals somehow never let you down."
“I think there’s a deep connection people have with animals and there’s a safety to it when you’re looking at cute animals on the internet," he adds. "That’s just a basic rule of life.”