Invader Zim

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Invader Zim
Invader Zim title card.png
Genre
Created byJhonen Vasquez
Directed by
Voices of
Theme music composerKevin Manthei
Composer(s)Kevin Manthei
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes27 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Jhonen Vasquez
Producer(s)
  • Monique Beatty
  • Christine Griswold
  • Steve Ressel
Running time23 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor
Release
Original network
Picture format480i (4:3 SDTV)
Original releaseMarch 30, 2001 (2001-03-30) – August 19, 2006 (2006-08-19)
Chronology
Followed byInvader Zim (comics)
External links
Website

Invader Zim is an American animated television series created by Jhonen Vasquez for Nickelodeon. The series centers on an extraterrestrial named Zim, from the planet Irk, and his mission to conquer Earth and enslave the human race along with his malfunctioning robot servant GIR. He is antagonized by Dib, a young paranormal investigator who is determined to stop Zim from succeeding.

Vasquez pitched Invader Zim to Nickelodeon, who desired a series for their older demographic. As the series went on, ratings declined and budgetary issues became more frequent. Before the second season was completed, Nickelodeon cancelled the series, leaving several episodes unfinished. The show first ran on Nick from 2001 to 2002, with a handful of completed second-season episodes initially going unaired; these episodes were later seen on DVD in 2004 and on the Nicktoons Network in 2006.

Invader Zim won an Annie Award, an Emmy Award and a World Animation Celebration Award, with nominations for six additional Annie Awards and a Golden Reel Award. Despite its early cancellation, due to increasing popularity and above average merchandise sales[2] it has been labeled a cult classic.[3][4][5]

An upcoming television film based on the series, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus!, is slated to premiere sometime in 2018 or 2019.[6][7]

Premise[edit]

From left to right. Top: Zim, Zim in his human disguise, GIR, GIR in his dog disguise, Dib, and Gaz.
Bottom: Professor Membrane, Ms. Bitters, Almighty Tallest Red, and Almighty Tallest Purple.

The series centers on Zim (voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz),[8] a member of the imperialistic Irken race, an extraterrestrial species whose social hierarchy is based on height, rather than any type of skill. The Irken leaders, known as The Almighty Tallest (Wally Wingert and Kevin McDonald), rule the Irken Empire together because they are exactly the same height. As recounted during the series premiere, "The Nightmare Begins," Zim, who is both very short and very naive, was banished to the planet Foodcourtia for absentmindedly attacking his own planet and allies[9] during Operation Impending Doom I.[10]

When Zim learns of Operation Impending Doom II, he leaves Foodcourtia and arrives at the Great Assigning, where Irken Elite soldiers are chosen to become Invaders–soldiers whose missions are to blend in with the indigenous life forms of their assigned planet, collect intelligence and prepare the planet for conquest by the Irken Armada. Zim pleads with the Tallest to assign him a planet and, in a desperate act to get Zim as far away as possible, they send him on an arbitrary mission to a planet on the outskirts of their known universe which has never been explored. Zim is joined by GIR (Rosearik Rikki Simons), an ineffective and erratic Standard Issue Information Retrieval (SIR) unit.

As it turns out, this "mystery planet" is Earth and Zim forms his base of operations there. According to the DVD commentaries, Invader Zim takes place in an alternate universe of its own, with a present-day Earth somewhat more technologically advanced than the real Earth. The remainder of the show focuses on Zim's time "infiltrating" the human race at a school, or in his home planning attempts at world domination and the enslavement of humanity. Opposing Zim is his classmate Dib (Andy Berman), who is obsessed with the paranormal and supernatural and is determined to expose Zim as an alien.

Supporting characters include Dib's cynical sister Gaz (Melissa Fahn); Zim and Dib's teacher Ms. Bitters (Lucille Bliss); and Dib's father Professor Membrane (Rodger Bumpass). Later in the series, villains begin to appear, including Tak (Olivia d'Abo), a fellow Irken seeking revenge against Zim; Lard Nar (Fred Tatasciore), the leader of a resistance group called The Resisty who wants to overthrow the Irken Empire; and Sizz-Lorr (Jim Wise), Zim's former employer on Foodcourtia who attempts to recapture his employee.

Apart from eight double-length episodes (including the debut), each episode is a self-contained storyline. Some occurrences from previous episodes are mentioned, but there is little continuing storyline other than the main invasion plot. However, towards the end of the show, a larger universe of characters and organizations were introduced to build continuity: Tak appearing and seeking revenge against Zim; Dib's capture and repair of Tak's spaceship to travel through space; resistances to the Irken Empire such as the Meekrob and The Resisty; and other various devices which were becoming more and more a part of the show's central mythology.

Episodes[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedNetwork
PilotDecember 24, 2011Nicktoons
120March 30, 2001September 28, 2002Nickelodeon
27December 10, 2002 (2002-12-10)August 19, 2006 (2006-08-19)Nickelodeon (2002)
Nicktoons (2006)
Television film2018/19[11]Nickelodeon

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Invader Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez

Prior to creation of Invader Zim, Nickelodeon desired a series to suit its "eleven to fifteen year-old" demographic.[12] The network hired then 22 year old comic book writer Jhonen Vasquez, who had zero experience in animation at the time, to create a series for them.[13]

Jhonen knew from the start that his previous works were definitely not suitable for Nickelodeon, so instead of adapting something he had already done, he decided to make something new. Since he was creating a show for a children's network, Jhonen compiled together many things he loved during his own childhood, including: robots, monsters, horror films, paranormal investigators, sci-fi flicks, Monty Python, the works of Douglas Adams and of course, aliens.[14] Before settling on the darker concept of an alien invader, Vasquez briefly considered doing a more lighthearted show along the lines of Mork & Mindy, with a zany alien misunderstanding Earth customs and ultimately, learning a lesson at the end; Vasquez said that while this idea probably would have found more success on Nickelodeon, he quickly dropped the idea, believing it would not fit his style of writing.[13] Jhonen came up with the entire premise for Invader Zim in about an hour, while sitting in bed when he couldn’t sleep. He was inspired by the idea of an alien who came from an incredibly advanced race and has access to such powerful and advanced technology that he could easily take over or destroy the Earth single handily, but instead, he decides to stay in school all day, never even thinking to sneak out.[15]

A pilot for Invader Zim was originally pitched to the channel in 1999,[13][16] which led to the series being greenlit. Vasquez indicated that very little of his writing style was changed over the course of Invader Zim, other than restricting certain language and visuals that may not be suitable for children.[17] Vasquez cited that the biggest change for himself was going from working alone on a comic to working with thousands of people at Nickelodeon, saying "it’s an absolute misery". However he said that the experience of working on Invader Zim was “incredibly gratifying” but also “fiendishly frustrating”.[17][18]

Animation[edit]

Invader Zim was produced by Nickelodeon Animation Studio with Nick Digital providing the CGI animation services and Sunwoo Entertainment providing the 2D animation services. Salami Studios provided the post production and sound services for most episodes of the series and Encore and Hollywood Digital, provided the post production services for a few episodes in season one. In season two, the animation style became slightly more stylized and pronounced in motion than in season one.[19]

Invader Zim’s art style was initially difficult for the animators to learn. Director, Steve Ressel even admits that it was the hardest style he had ever worked on, citing the characters heads as the most complicated aspect of their designs.[20][21]

Invader Zim was one of the first animated television shows to merge 2D animation with CGI animation.[22] When the development on Invader Zim was first getting started, Steve Ressel consulted with the crew of Futurama to figure out how to integrate 2D animation with CGI animation, since they were one of the first animated television shows that merged the two mediums. When the Futurama crew saw the show they were very impressed by how seamlessly the Invader Zim crew integrated both mediums, specifically in the episode “The Wettening”.[23]

While the average episode of an eleven-minute animated television show usually has around 80-120 pages of storyboards per episode, Invader Zim’s storyboards were around 250-350 pages per episode. This is because Invader Zim has a very dedicated attention to detail outlining every ounce of a character’s movements and method of acting, which is something Nickelodeon was very impressed by.[24][25]

Voice casting[edit]

When casting voice actors for Invader Zim, series creator, Jhonen Vasquez didn’t want actors who were just capable of doing zany voices because it sounded less natural to him. He made a point to cast people with speaking voices that were naturally distinct and out of the ordinary so that the cast didn’t have to do unnatural voices, but instead just speak naturally.[26]

Mark Hamill was originally hired to do the voice of Zim for the pilot episode, but was replaced before the pilot was shown to Nickelodeon executives because his voice didn’t feel right for the character according to Jhonen.[27] Mark Hamill was replaced by voice acting professional, Billy West, who remained the voice of Zim for the pilot. After the show was picked up for a full series, Jhonen decided to replace Billy West with Richard Steven Horvitz, saying that Billy West was “too well known” and that he wanted all of the voices for the main characters to be unique and not similar to something that people have heard before. Also, due to Futurama still being on the air at the time, Jhonen did not want the same voice actor to be the lead in two current sci-fi comedies.[28]

Jhonen Vasquez wanted someone with no experience in voice acting to play the part of GIR, as a reflection of how broken and messed up GIR really is.[29] Jhonen wanted someone who sounded unprofessional and broken, but all of the actors who auditioned for GIR were “good actors” who just did a “stock crazy robot voice” and he was mad at that. Jhonen then asked his friend, Rosearik Rikki Simons who was working with him on his comic called “I Feel Sick” at the time, to try to audition for GIR saying he “couldn’t screw it up anymore than anyone else”.[30] Rikki Simons did a few different voices for his audition for GIR, including one where he was trying to imitate his mother-in-law, but decided it was too ”shrieky”. He then he remembered when he used to play with hand puppets with his father as a kid and tried to do one of those voices. Rikki was also a colorist on Invader Zim and in the same month he auditioned for GIR in November 1998, he also helped color the pilot episode.[31] Jhonen said that he gave Rikki the part of GIR because he was “bad at it” and that fit the character.[32] When voicing GIR, Rikki's voice was edited to make it sound higher pitched and metallic. While Rikki eventually learned to perform the voice without the high pitch editing, the metallic quality still had to be added. Unedited versions of Rikki's voice-overs can be heard in voice recordings for the unfinished episodes.[33]

Music[edit]

Jhonen Vasquez asked his friend Mark Tortorici to come up with the theme music for Invader Zim. Jhonen said that all he really wanted for the theme music was military music to represent Zim mixed with futuristic electric orchestral music. Once the direction for the music was settled on, Tortorici produced the theme music on an Alesis QS8 very quickly and it didn’t go through many changes, but they did reorchestrate it for the TV series and stuck with it from that point on.[34]

Vasquez's team selected Michael Tavera, who is known for composing the music for The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and Stitch! The Movie, to compose the music for the pilot episode of Invader Zim. Vasquez said that he asked for several of the tracks that Tavera produced to be discarded and that ultimately the team had less than half of the number of tracks that they planned to submit. According to Vasquez, he and Tavera were not "a great fit" for one another creatively. Vasquez described the pilot music as having a "more 'children's television' sound," with a "much more traditional and not as surprising" theme as he wanted, but added that the music "worked for the pilot." Tavera's cover version of Tortorici's theme music did not appear in the pilot as there was no opening credits sequence. Vasquez said that members of the Invader Zim crew laughed at Tavera's version of the theme because it was "cheesy," adding that the reaction was not mean-spirited and that Tavera had received little information about the series before submitting the music.

Tavera did not become a part of the regular Invader Zim crew, and was replaced with Kevin Manthei, who is also known for composing the music for Generator Rex, The Sims 2, and Robot Chicken, to compose the series' music.[35] Manthei's music for the series is industrial and techno in nature.

The anime internet radio station, “Anime Stuff R” did a radio broadcast special called, “The Kevin Manthei Invader Zim-phony Special” which featured a majority of the music Kevin Manthei composed for Invader Zim. The broadcast special was hosted by Kevin Manthei, DJ Richard Rae and Tom Mitchell (DJ Tomzer1) and was broadcast from September 13, 2002 to October 15, 2002. The entire broadcast is 5 hours, 26 minutes, and 28 seconds long and includes music from every episodes of Invader Zim, except for “The Most Horrible X-mas Ever”. The broadcast was extremely popular, so Anime Stuff R (temporarily renamed "Anime Stuff Z" for the special) decided to release a CD of the broadcast. However, due to financial reasons, they only made 100 copies of this CD. There are 325 tracks on the CD and the interior of the CD cover features messages from both Kevin Manthei and Richard Rae.[36][37]

Kevin Manthei's message says:

When I was approached by Richard E. Rae about the possibility of an internet radio show featuring hours and hours of my "Invader Zim" music, I was thrilled. What a great opportunity to let the fans of "Invader Zim" hear the music!

Richard went way beyond what I thought the show was going to be, and he poured his heart and soul into producing the "Zim-phony". Richard is not just a fan, he's a professional who uses his passion for music and his willingness to work hard at it to produce great shows. I am honored that he and Tom took the time to put the "Zim-phony" and this "Special Edition" together. Happy listening!

Richard Rae's message says:

We took chances with the "Zim-phony Special".

I took a chance by approaching Kevin Manthei with the idea. Kevin took a chance in trusting his music to someone he only knew from e-mail. My friend Tom took a chance too, okaying a show with music from an American cartoon series instead of a Japanese Anime. These chances definitely paid off! The "Zim-phony Special" broke every Anime Stuff R ratings record, thanks to the overwhelming response to this show from you, the "Invader Zim" fans. Of course, the "Zim-phony" is all about the excellent music of the remarkable Kevin Manthei. I certainly owe Kevin more thanks than I can ever hope to articulate for his terrific support during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. This Mini CD you're holding is proof that some chances are definitely worth taking. Thank you for listening!

Broadcast[edit]

Nickelodeon had initially desired a block of “edgy” programming for their older demographic when Invader Zim was green lit. But for unknown reason, no other “edgy” shows ended up being green lit for this block and Invader Zim was left as the only show on the network that could fit such a block, and as a result, this block of “edgy” programming never ended up happening; Leaving Invader Zim hard to place in an appropriate time slot suitable for its intended demographic. Invader Zim ultimately, ended up being sandwiched between The Fairly OddParents and Rocket Power, which didn’t feel like a suitable time slot for the show, according to the creators.[38] Invader Zim was originally intended for 11-15 year olds, but due to its poor time slot placement, it ended up being viewed primarily by 6-10 year olds, many of whom were turned off by the show's dark and disturbing nature, resulting in the show receiving poor ratings and viewership.[39]

Even though Invader Zim usually aired later at night, the show never found a time slot that the creators of the program thought was suitable for it and the show continuously suffered in ratings amongst 6-10 year olds, Nickelodeon's core demographic.[40]

In an interview with IGN in 2004, Jhonen Vasquez said that when it became apparent that Nick was the "place for kids" but not “kids who want their eyes ripped out”, they had asked for Invader Zim to be transferred to MTV or a more “adult network” similar to what Nick had done with The Ren & Stimpy Show, as the series did not feel right on Nickelodeon and would have likely found greater success elsewhere. Unfortunately, this never ended up happening and instead, Nick was all about trying to bury the show with ever-changing time slots, which further hurt the show's ratings.[41]

Invader Zim premiered on March 30th 2001, and contains 20 episodes in its first season. In August 2001, Nickelodeon renewed the series for a second season, which was originally planned to consist of 20 episodes. In January 2002, Nickelodeon announced that they had plans to cancel the series,[42] almost immediately after this announcement was made, fans launched an online petition to try to change Nick's mind or get the show picked up by a different network, and even though the petition collected over 55,000 signatures by April 2002, it was not enough to prevent Nickelodeon from canceling the show.[43]

The episode “The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever” was broadcast out of order, as evident by the presence of the new character, Minimoose, who did not get a proper introduction. Minimoose's introductory episode is called “Nubs of Doom” and was originally intended to air before “The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever”, but because Nickelodeon was planning on canceling the series, the show's staff had to pick and choose their final episodes very carefully and Jhonen Vasquez said that he was more excited for “The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever”, so that episode was made instead, leaving “Nubs of Doom” unfinished.[44][45]

The final episode of the series, “The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever” aired on Nickelodeon on December 10, 2002. The show finished with a total of 27 of its initially contracted 40 episodes; leaving at least 17 episodes and a TV movie titled ”Invader Dib” unfinished.[46] Concept art, scripts, voice recordings, storyboards and animatics for some of these unfinished episodes can be found online or in the special features of some of the DVDs.

Six of the completed second-season episodes initially went unaired, these episodes were later seen on DVD in 2004 and aired on Nicktoons from June 10 to August 19, 2006. “The Most Horrible X-mas Ever” was the only second-season episode that aired on Nickelodeon, the rest of the second-season episodes were only ever aired on Nicktoons.

On December 24, 2011, the series pilot had its television premiere on Nicktoons (it had previously only been seen on DVD.)[47] followed by the result of Nicktoons' "Girreatest Zim Moments" online poll.[48]

Since November 25, 2006, both seasons of Invader Zim are available for download on the Xbox Live Marketplace,[49] Zune Marketplace and PlayStation Store. In addition, the majority of the show's episodes are available for download on iTunes.[50] The entire series is also available for streaming on Hulu and Amazon Video.

Challenges and censorship[edit]

Invader Zim would frequently find itself at odds with network censorships; as in many episodes, it was originally intended for certain characters (such as Keef and Iggins) to be killed off at the end of an episode, but Nickelodeon would not allow any characters to be killed off and demanded the crew add certain details suggesting that they survived or in some cases, rewrite the episodes to where they wouldn't die. They complied, however did so in an intentionally forced and sarcastic way to purposely convey their disagreement and reluctance toward the decision, such as the sarcastic "No characters were harmed in this episode" end-card message at the end of the episode "Hamstergeddon" where many background characters "died" onscreen.[51]

In the DVD commentary for the episode, “Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy”, Jhonen Vasquez reveals that the original idea for the episode was for Zim to kill Dib off permanently, and for Dib to be replaced with a new kid named Louie. But once again, Nickelodeon wouldn't allow any characters to be killed off permanently and so this did not end up happening.[52]

In “Door to Door” the Virtual reality world that Zim shows people was originally going to involve a demolished city that resembled New York, but Nickelodeon demanded that this be changed due to its similarities to 9/11. On reflection, Jhonen Vasquez said that he prefers the new virtual reality world to the old one, since he doesn’t like the idea of Invader Zim taking place in a big city.[53] The original version of this scene can be found online.[54]

One of the biggest problems Nickelodeon had with the show before it premiered was with Dib's design. Jhonen wanted Dib to wear a trench coat, but Nickelodeon opted against this because they feared Dib's clothing would remind people of the Columbine High School massacre, in which the two teenagers responsible for the shootings both wore trench coats during the attack. Nickelodeon ultimately lost this fight and Dib ended up wearing a trench coat in the show.[55][56][57]

Later, Nickelodeon wanted to cut Dib from the show outright because they did not think he was funny or interesting enough. Jhonen fought back with a project called “God Save the Dib” which involved making slight changes to Dib's character to make him more funny and interesting in order to avoid Nickelodeon cutting him from the show. One notable change that came out of “God Save the Dib” was making Dib's head bigger than his body, which became a reoccurring joke throughout the series.[58]

The original name for Gaz's Handheld game console was going to be “Game Slave Advanced”, a spoof of Nintendo’s handheld game console, the Game Boy Advance. However, the people at Nintendo did not like this parody and threatened to sue Nickelodeon if the name was used. So the name was changed to “Game Slave” instead.[59]

In the episode, “Hobo 13”, Skoodge was going to be shown eating his own skin to survive, but Nickelodeon denied this scene, and even the Invader Zim crew admitted that they thought it was “too much”.[60]

In the original ending of the episode "Walk of Doom”, Zim and GIR were dropped off in a ghetto with a banner reading "Welcome To Mexico”, feeling that it would come off as racist, Nickelodeon denied this and the scenery was changed to a vaguely Mexican-looking (but still filthy) town and the banner was changed to say "CARNE", which translates into "MEAT".[61]

Originally, the episodes “Dark Harvest” and “Bestest Friend” were supposed to air together, but Nickelodeon wouldn’t allow this, saying that those two episodes are “too twisted” to air together. So instead, “Dark Harvest” aired with “Germs” and “Bestest Friend” aired with “NanoZim”. Additionally, Dark Harvest was originally supposed to be called “The Hearts and Lungs of Zim's Darkness”, but Nickelodeon denied this title.[62]

Bloody GIR[edit]

Bloody GIR, which depicts an image of GIR covered in blood, was created when series creator, Jhonen Vasquez illustrated GIR covered in blood and wanted to put this drawing into an episode of Invader Zim, Nickelodeon, however, prohibited it.[63][64][65][66] Director Steve Ressel and illustrator Chris Graham then snuck the forbidden drawing into a single frame of the episode "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy." Post-production supervisor Jason Stiff has confirmed that the image does indeed appear in that episode,[67] and Ressel also confirmed it's existence in interviews.[68][69] The image of Bloody GIR was reportedly scattered throughout the “last fourteen episodes” of the series by Ressel and Graham.[70][71] Bloody GIR can be seen the most clearly during the intro to the episode, “Mortos Der Soulstealer”.[72] Although the idea for Bloody GIR was confirmed by Ressel not to have surfaced until the episode “Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy”, some claim to have found it in earlier episodes of the series, such as "Dark Harvest" and "Attack of the Saucer Morons”.[73][74][75] Additionally, some people have claimed that Bloody GIR was meant to debut in the episode "GIR Goes Crazy and Stuff", in which GIR was supposed to be covered in blood while floating with the data canister and draining humans,[76] But this directly contradicts Ressel's statements on the matter.

Many people believe that Bloody GIR was the reason behind the cancellation of Invader Zim, however, Jhonen Vasquez has revealed that Nickelodeon did not find out about the image's inclusion until after the show's cancellation. Vasquez also stated that when it was discovered by Nickelodeon, they were not particularly bothered by it, since kids would not notice it anyway.

Certain images of Bloody GIR can only be seen in a frame-by-frame viewing. Otherwise, it will be a flash, or, in some cases, blended into the movements of the animation. Bloody GIR is never animated and will always appear as a still image. However, the opacity and size of the Bloody GIR is varied.

Cancellation[edit]

On the subject of why Invader Zim was cancelled, creator of the show Jhonen Vasquez said, "I could go on and on with variations of the most fantastic reasons for why the show was cancelled, but in the end, even I couldn’t give you the whole and accurate truth for why the show got pulled," he wrote in a lengthy post on his website in 2010, nearly eight years after the show wrapped. "The most likely culprits are simply ratings and the sheer expense of the show, which was monstrously expensive at the time, especially when compared to more modern, flash-based savings fests."[77]

In an interview with syfy.com in 2018, Richard Horvitz, the voice of Zim, was questioned about why the show got cancelled, he responded:

There’s been a lot of rumors that have abounded for years about why Invader Zim was canceled. People think it’s the Bloody GIR episode, because there’s a quick subliminal shot of GIR all bloodied, but that’s not it at all. Nickelodeon knew about that shot and they didn’t seem to mind. But what [the cancellation really was] is this plain simple fact: We had horrible ratings. There were two things that were going on in 2001. Our ratings were not doing well, our demographic at the time was not The Fairly OddParents demographic, which is what we premiered with, and we premiered to really, really good critical acclaim. But ratings-wise, the only real barometer [was the] target audience, 6 to 10 year olds, and I think that it was a little too much for that [demographic], and the parents also might have thought it was a little graphic for them. Our ratings never really got off the ground. One other thing that people often forget, is that the show premiered in March of 2001. By September of 2001, we had the horrible downing of the twin towers. Given the mood of the country at the time, I don’t think people wanted to see shows that were about any kind of destruction or anything that had to do with someone trying to conquer the Earth.[78]

Controversy[edit]

Invader Zim became a controversial series when the show was mentioned at Scott Dyleski’s murder trail in 2005. Dyleski, who was 16 at the time, was convicted of murdering his neighbor, and cited the episode of Invader Zim, “Dark Harvest” as his motivation for committing the murder. Dyleski said that after watching Dark Harvest he became “fascinated with collecting body parts” and “curious as to how the human body would function without certain organs” which inspired the murder. Though, the people who defended Dyleski said that these comments were made in jest.[79][80][81][82]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Invader Zim received critical acclaim[83] and a cult following.[84][85][86] With many critics and fans praising it for its unique animation and art style, clever writing, mature tone, dark themes,[87] broad appeal,[88][89][90][91] weird sense of humor,[92] and memorable characters, quotes and music.[93][94][95] Many fans, critics and even the series creator and cast[96] have called the series “ahead of its time”.[97][98][99] The DVDs received positive response from critics.[100][101][102][103] In 2014, WatchMojo.com ranked Invader Zim as the ninth best cartoon to have gotten cancelled, and later ranked Zim as the ninth top alien in movies and TV.[104]

Despite its popularity and continued fanbase, Invader Zim has received criticism for its mature tone and dark themes. When Invader Zim was launched, the now-defunct magazine, Christian Parenting Today negatively criticized the program in their May 2001 issue (written by Jennifer Mangan), calling the show "non-Christian", "immoral", "offensive", "blasphemous", “unsuitable for Christian children”, and "insulting towards Christian values and beliefs" (due to Invader Zim's dark nature and negative characters like Gaz and Ms. Bitters, among other complaints).[105][106] Jhonen has not commented about these criticisms as of yet.

Ratings[edit]

Invader Zim garnered decent ratings for its premiere episode, with a 6.0 rating/17 share (about 1.8 million views) among kids ages 2 to 11.[107][108] But as the show went on, ratings and viewership began to decline amongst Nickelodeon's target audience of 2-11 year olds.

While Invader Zim was popular during its original run, Nickelodeon did not think the show was doing well because they were only focused on a certain age group of viewers: 2-11 year olds. Even though Invader Zim was praised by critics and popular with viewers ages 14-18,[109][110] the ratings amongst Nickelodeon's core demographic were just not high enough for the network to justify the expenses being put into the show, as Invader Zim was the most expensive show they were producing at the time. When Nickelodeon saw that some of their other shows with half the budget of Invader Zim were getting double the desired ratings amongst the 2-11 year old demographic, canceling the show just seemed to be the logical thing to do from a business perspective.[111][112]

Despite the poor ratings the show received during its original run, reruns of Invader Zim tend to receive average to above average views and ratings.[113] In March through July 2010, reruns of Invader Zim were aired on Nicktoons, these reruns became the second highest rated show on the network, behind Avatar: The Last Airbender.[114]

Shortly after its cancellation, Invader Zim gained abundant popularity through reruns, the internet and DVD and merchandise sales, eventually being labeled as a cult classic.[115][116] Even though its been almost two decades since the show premiered, Invader Zim's popularity only continues to grow with no signs of slowing down, due in part to the currently ongoing comic book series and the upcoming television movie.[117]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2001 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation [118] Kyle Menke Won
29th Annie Awards [119] Outstanding Achievement in a Primetime or Late Night Animated Television Production Nickelodeon for Invader Zim Nominated
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production Steve Ressel for “The Nightmare Begins Won
Outstanding Individual Achievement for Music Score in an Animated Television Production Kevin Manthei Nominated
Outstanding Individual Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Television Production Jhonen Vasquez Nominated
Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Television Production Steve Ressel for “Dark Harvest” Nominated
Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Male Performer in an Animated Television Production Richard Horvitz as “Zim” Nominated
World Animation Celebration Awards Best Title Sequence [120] Jhonen Vasquez, Steve Ressel, Mary Harrington Won
2002 30th Annie Awards Best Animated Television Production [121] Invader Zim Nominated
2002 49th Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing in Television Animation [122] Invader Zim Nominated

InvaderCON[edit]

Invader Zim has its own Fan convention known as “InvaderCON” run by Wasabi Anime (also known as “Green Mustard Entertainment”.) The initial event was created to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Invader Zim and took place in Atlanta, Georgia on March 26–27, 2011. Special guests included cast members Richard Steven Horvitz, Melissa Fahn, Rosearik Rikki Simons, Andy Berman and writer Eric Truehart.[123][124] The convention had over a thousand in attendance and featured many Invader Zim-related panels and activities; including a panel where the voice cast read the scripts for the unfinished episodes “Mopiness of Doom” and “Day of da Spookies”.[125][126] One dollar of each ticket purchased for InvaderCON was donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).[127] The choice of charity was selected by Richard Horvitz,[128] who was one of the first guests to be booked. In the end, InvaderCON raised almost $2,000 for JDRF.[129] InvaderCON was not endorsed, sanctioned or in any other way supported, directly or indirectly, by Viacom International, Inc. or Nickelodeon.[130] But it was confirmed that a few representatives of Nickelodeon attended to observe the turnout and were quoted as being "overwhelmed”.[131]

InvaderCON was originally intended to be a one time event,[132] but due to the success of the first InvaderCON and demand from fans, an encore presentation of the convention, InvaderCON II: DOOMCON, took place on July 28–29, 2012, in Los Angeles, California, featuring all of the previous year's guests[133] (except for Andy Berman[134]) with the addition of series creator Jhonen Vasquez,[135] character designer Aaron Alexovich, voice of Professor Membrane Rodger Bumpass, post-production supervisor Jason Stiff, storyboard artist Ian Graham and a surprise appearance from voice of Almighty Tallest Red Wally Wingert.[136][137] During this convention there was a panel where the voice cast read the script for the unfinished episode “The Trial”.[138]

According to InvaderCON's official website:

Since the first InvaderCON was on the East Coast (Atlanta) and due to travel requests on Jhonen’s part, we opted to host InvaderCON II: DOOMCON in California. This was a MASSIVE undertaking on our part since our production team is based in Florida and Georgia. We made it happen, though. Over 1,000 fans from 42 different states and 7 countries showed up near Los Angeles for two days of Invader ZIM fandom goodness. The show was an expensive risk and a major stress on the Green Mustard Entertainment team – but it was worth it for us to see the fans and families that all appeared to share in the experience. Autographs, panels, breakfast, dinner, puppets, surprise guests, and more added up to a once in a lifetime weekend for the cast, crew, and attendees.[139]

With over 10,000 fans on Facebook asking for another InvaderCON, Wasabi Anime decided to do InvaderCON “one last time”.[140] The third and final InvaderCON was funded via Kickstarter on June 21–July 21, 2013.[141] The Kickstarter was a success and exceeded it's initial goal of $33,333. Wasabi Anime said that they wanted the third InvaderCON to be located “in the middle” of where the previous InvaderCONs were located. Thus, Austin, Texas was chosen as it's location since it's approximately 1,000 miles from Atlanta (InvaderCON 2011) and 1,300 miles from Los Angeles (InvaderCON 2012.)[142] InvaderCON III: FINAL DOOM took place on July 26–27, 2014 in Austin, Texas.[143] Special guests included cast members Richard Steven Horvitz, Melissa Fahn, Rosearik Rikki Simons, Rodger Bumpass and writer Eric Trueheart.[144] At this convention there was a panel where the voice cast read the script for the unfinished episode “Ten Minutes to Doom”.[145][146]

Even though InvaderCON III: FINAL DOOM was originally intended to be the last InvaderCON; fans, as well as Wasabi Anime themselves, have expressed interest in doing another InvaderCON. On February 1, 2016, possibilities of another InvaderCON were mentioned on Twitter by Tom Croom, the founder of Wasabi Anime.[147]

On April 7, 2017, a poll was uploaded to the official InvaderCON Twitter page, discussing the potential locations to hold the next event. The highest rated location is Orlando, Florida, at 33%.[148]

On September 12, 2018, Tom Croom, once again, discussed the potential locations for another InvaderCON on Twitter.[149] He also mentioned a possible Kickstarter in 2019 for a 2020 event.[150]

Merchandise[edit]

Home video[edit]

In May 2004, Anime Works released the first volume of an official Invader Zim DVD collection titled “Doom Doom Doom” in cooperation with Nickelodeon and Media Blasters.[151] In August 2004, volume two titled “Progressive Stupidity” was released and in November 2004, volume three titled “Horrible Holiday Cheer” was released, completing the series' initial DVD release. All three volumes contain animatics, Irken subtitles, digitally restored and remastered picture and sound, as well as a Spanish language track. They also include audio commentaries for every episode and interviews with the actors, writers, and the post production staff. A box set shaped like Zim's house, known as the House Box Set has also been released,[152][153] which includes all three volumes, plus an extras disc featuring the uncut version of "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever", voice recordings for seven of the unfinished episodes, interviews with Kevin Manthei on the sound design and music of Invader Zim, and a soundtrack of Kevin Manthei's main compositions for the show. Originally, this set included a duty-mode "GIR" figurine in the roof compartment of the box set, but Anime Works silently stopped including it with the termination of Palisades Toys, the toy company that had been producing Invader Zim figurines. Another DVD box set for Invader Zim called the “Complete Invasion Box Set” was released in 2006, featuring all three of the DVD volumes boxed together, with the art of Volume one on the cover. This box set does not contain an extra disc for bonus features like The House Box Set included.[154][155][156]

On May 4, 2010, the complete Season 1 of Invader Zim was released on DVD in a Manufacture on demand format.[157] A Season 2 DVD was released in that same format on April 2, 2010.[158]

A Invader Zim DVD was released on February 22, 2011, called "Operation Doom". This DVD contains the eight highest-rated episodes that aired on the Nicktoons Network throughout 2010.[159]

Episodes of Invader Zim have been featured in several Nickelodeon compilation DVDs. This includes “Nickstavaganza! 2[160] which was released on September 2, 2003 and contains the episode, “The Nightmare Begins”. In 2015, the episode, “Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom” was included in the DVD, “Classic Nickelodeon Halloween Specials”.[161] That same year, the episode, “The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever” was featured in a DVD called, “A Very Nickelodeon Christmas”.[162]

Figurines and toys[edit]

A set of Invader Zim toys produced by Palisades Toys

Two series of Invader Zim figures were produced by the toy company Palisades Toys, including Zim, GIR, Dib, Ms. Bitters, and Almighty Tallest Purple in the first series. The second series had Zim in his human disguise, GIR in his dog suit, Gaz, Almighty Tallest Red, and the Robo-Parents. A third series was planned with Zim in his Santa suit, GIR as an elf, Professor Membrane, Tak, and Nightmare Ms. Bitters, but this series was not made because Palisades Toys, the manufacturer, ceased operations in early 2006.[163] A multitude of other toys were produced before the termination of Palisades Toys, such as figures of germ fighting Zim, germ GIR, Zim in his old man disguise, angry Zim,[164] and GIR in his dog disguise with hood down. Palisades Toys released the Invader Zim Miniature Figurine Set…of DOOM!,[165] a separate set of smaller non-articulated figurines, featuring Zim in his human disguise first seen in "The Girl Who Cried Gnome”, Gaz in her Beaver Suit, Bologna Dib and GIR riding the piggy. A miniature replica of Zim's house,[166][167] the Voot Cruiser,[168] GIR on the giant piggy with a UFO Convention background display[169] and a "Mega GIR" figurine that was twelve inches in height and included a removable dog disguise were also released.[170] The Invader Zim Special Edition set of Doom![171] was produced by Palisades Toys, but released after the company had shut down, this set contains figures of: Screaming Zim in his human disguise, Doggie Suit Duty Mode GIR, Neutral Faced Almighty Tallest Red, Hypnotized Dib, and “Shadow” Ms. Bitters.[172]

Several Invader Zim Palisades Toys were released as Hot Topic exclusives; these include figures of: angry Almighty Tallest Purple, Almighty Tallest Red on a command platform, Duty Mode GIR, screaming GIR, robot GIR with removable dog disguise, haywire Robo parents, Pustulio Zim, angry Dib and angry Gaz with her eyes wide open.[173]

Multiple official Plushies were made to promote the Invader Zim series. This includes plushies of: Zim, Germ Zim, piggy, robot GIR, GIR with hot dog, GIR eating pizza, Doggie GIR, Chinese takeout GIR,[174] GIR with piggy, Germ GIR, GIR fuzzy car dice,[175] GIR plush backpack,[176] GIR eating cupcake and GIR eating ice cream.[177][178]

Funko has released many Pop! Vinyl figures of GIR in several variations including: GIR in his dog suit,[179][180] Robot GIR,[181] GIR with cupcake,[182] glow in the dark GIR,[183] Zim and GIR on the pig,[184][185] and a mini GIR keychain;[186] these are usually sold as Hot Topic exclusives.

Diamond Select Toys released some Vinimates figurines of Zim,[187] Zim in his human disguise,[188] GIR[189] and GIR in his dog disguise.[190] All four of these figurines were released as Hot Topic exclusives and limited to 1,000 units each.

A toy company called Zag Toys has released some officially licensed Invader Zim Original Minis[191][192] and Plush Clip-Ons.[193][194]

Another toy company called Vision Toys released some officially licensed laser cut 3D keychains of some Invader Zim characters.[195]

A company called Ikon collectables released a 9-inch tall limited edition statue of GIR on the pig.[196][197]

FOCO released some Eekeez figurines of Zim and GIR that were exclusively available at San Diego Comic Con in 2018.[198][199]

Apparel and accessories[edit]

Nickelodeon has licensed a multitude of official Invader Zim clothing, accessories and other products. These include: a wide variety of T-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, watches, dresses, jackets, shorts, bikinis, underwear, sunglasses, towels, socks, pajama pants, Halloween costumes, belts, hats, shoes, slippers, gloves, earbuds, headphones, blankets, pillows, earrings, wristbands, necklaces, hair accessories, headbands, purses, wallets, perfume, makeup, lip balm, nail polish, phone cases, notebooks, playing cards, puzzles, posters, games, dice, magnets, bookmarks, inflatables, clocks, key caps, pencil cases, charms, rings, air fresheners, Christmas lights, backpacks, messenger bags, tote bags, lunchboxes, mugs, water bottles, coasters, iron-on patches, stickers, keychains, enamel pins, lanyards and more, all commonly sold at stores like Hot Topic,[200] Newbury Comics,[201] Spencer's[202] and other speciality retailers.

Video games[edit]

Multiple interactive Shockwave games for Invader Zim have been posted on Nickelodeon's official Invader Zim website since the series' original broadcast, one of which is based on the episode, "NanoZim". There are currently three video games with Zim included as the only playable character from the series, these are: Nickelodeon Party Blast, the arcade exclusive game, Nicktoons Nitro and the Game Boy Advance exclusive game, Nicktoons: Freeze Frame Frenzy in which Zim and GIR are the main bosses, but Zim becomes a playable character once the photo album is complete; additionally, GIR, Dib, Gaz, Keef, Dirge, Ms. Bitters (mistakenly called "Mr. Bitters") and Bill the Paranormal Investigator (mistakenly called "Prof. Membrane") appear in the photo album and in the background of the game as well. Zim's Voot Cruiser and house can be seen briefly in the PlayStation 2 version of Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island. GIR is a playable character in the PlayStation 2 version of Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots, while both Zim and GIR are playable characters in the Nintendo DS version. Both Zim and Dib are playable characters in SpongeBob SquarePants featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom, with GIR as a boss battle in the PlayStation 2 version and The Almighty Tallest as a boss battle in the Nintendo DS version. The game Nicktoons: Android Invasion, exclusively released on the educational Didj platform, is set entirely inside Zim's base; Zim is the main boss in the game, with several other characters from the series making appearances. Zim and Gaz are playable characters in the game Nicktoons MLB; GIR appears in the game as one of the announcers, and there is a ballpark for the show called "Irken Field"; other characters appear in the game as cameos when the game is loading and on the character cards. The series has yet to have a stand-alone video game release.

Books[edit]

A book titled, “Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons!” was published on October 29, 2007 and written by Animation Historian, Jerry Beck. The book collects more than five hundred illustrations, images, storyboards, concept art, quotes, interviews, and anecdotes, among other special behind-the-scenes content for Nickelodeon's first thirty-one cartoons. ”Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons!” contains a short chapter about Invader Zim, featuring some storyboards, images, illustrations, turn-around charts, character model sheets and short, exclusive interviews with series creator, Jhonen Vasquez, executive producer, Mary Harrington and head writer, Frank Conniff.[203][204]

An official art book titled “DOOM DOOM DOOM: The Art of Invader Zim” will be released on July 2, 2019. Written and designed by Chris McDonnell, who has previously served as the author and designer for Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo”, “Steven Universe: Art & Origins”, and “BoJack Horseman: The Art Before the Horse”. “DOOM DOOM DOOM: The Art of Invader Zim” will contain the definitive history of both the Invader Zim television series and the television movie, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus!. It will be a fully authorized, all-access compendium of never-before-published production art, storyboards, behind-the-scenes photos, and ephemera, the book will feature exclusive interviews with Jhonen Vasquez and other key crewmembers that reveal the origins, art, and imagination behind the Invader Zim franchise.[205][206][207]

Comics[edit]

In February 2015, Oni Press announced that a comic book series based on the show, in collaboration with Jhonen Vasquez and Nickelodeon, would be released as a continuation of the series. Jhonen Vasquez said: "I'm always confused when people say how much they miss Invader Zim because the show never stopped running in my head, and then I remember everyone else isn't in my head". A pre-issue 0 was released on May 23, 2015 as a zine and foreshadow to the comic book series. The first issue was released on July 8, 2015, and since then most issues are released on a monthly basis.[208][209]

Failed revival attempts[edit]

In March through July, 2010, reruns of Invader Zim were aired on Nicktoons, The reruns were the second highest-rated show on the network, and according to Jhonen Vasquez, were part of a plan by the network to see if a revival of the series would be feasible. Unfortunately, the budget Nickelodeon proposed wasn’t quite big enough for what the crew wanted to do, so they respectfully declined the offer. Vasquez also asserted that, despite the widespread rumor suggesting otherwise, he would have returned to the show again had Nickelodeon not deemed the revival "too expensive" for what the crew wanted to do with it.[210]

In 2011, Nickelodeon approached Rikki Simons, the voice of GIR about doing some animated shorts revolving around GIR; while Rikki was open to reprising his role, nothing ever came of these shorts for unknown reason.[211][212]

Television film[edit]

On November 8, 2016, Harvey Beaks and Chowder creator, C.H. Greenblatt was asked by a fan on Tumblr if he would work with Vasquez on an Invader Zim movie, Greenblatt responded, “Jhonen IS making an Invader Zim movie for Nick. I’m not a part of it, but I’m excited.” However, Jhonen initially denied this on his twitter, most likely because he was under contract to not say anything at the time and was forced to dismiss it as a “rumor”.[213]

On April 4, 2017, over sixteen years since the series' debut and eleven years since the last unaired episode premiered in the US, Nickelodeon announced that they had green-lit a 66-minute[214] television film based on the series with three teaser trailers being released in a span of the following four days.[215] Jhonen Vasquez will be returning as executive producer as well as cast members Richard Horvitz, Rikki Simons, Andy Berman, and Melissa Fahn. The movie will follow "a perpetually desperate and delusional Zim hatching a new plan to achieve his goal". In October 2017, Rikki Simons, voice actor of GIR, in a video interview at the Gulf Coast Fan Fest, stated that the movie would be released sometime in 2018.[216]

On June 26, 2018, it was announced the movie would be titled Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus! and that there was a panel for the film at SDCC 2018 on July 20th featuring behind-the-scenes promotional art and exclusive sneak preview footage.[6][7]

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