At Nickelodeon, Jhonen Vasquez created the animated series ‘Invader Zim,’ which followed the misadventures of Zim, an alien on a mission to conquer Earth, and his relentless adversary, Dib. The show aired in 2001, attracting viewers with its darkly comedic style. However, it was canceled after just two seasons.
Looking at the reasons, firstly, ‘Invader Zim’ was one of Nickelodeon’s most expensive shows due to its frequent use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). The cost per episode was quite high, especially when the show’s style evolved in the second season.
The second factor was the show’s ratings, which were deemed poor in its target demographic of 6-11 year olds. Despite being popular among a wider audience, Nickelodeon primarily focused on this age group. The network’s decision seemed to disregard the show’s intended older viewers.
Nickelodeon’s mismanagement of the series was another critical factor. At the time, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ was the network’s main priority, receiving more marketing and airtime. ‘Invader Zim’ was barely advertised, often airing at odd times, which led to low visibility among the target audience.
Moreover, the show faced issues such as excessive violence and character deaths, which may have contributed to its cancellation. Despite all that, the animated series received acclaim for its humor, writing, animation, and art style. It won awards and spawned merchandise, video games, and even a fan convention called InvaderCON.
Years later, Vasquez returned to create ‘Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus,’ a TV movie that aired on Netflix in 2019. This revival was made possible by a new generation at Nickelodeon who appreciated the show’s enduring popularity. When asked about the return of the show in a 2019 conversation with Polygon, Vasquez said:
“Some Eternal Sunshine stuff went down. Mainly, I think that Nickelodeon, like most places, isn’t a person so much as a collective with a makeup that changes as people come and go. The Nick I dealt with back during the series isn’t the Nick I dealt with to work on that TMNT short or ‘Enter the Florpus.'”
Discussing the shift in the network’s perspective, the animator continued:
“It was a whole new bunch of people who, in many cases, were people who worked under the people of old, and they maybe just got it a bit more than those people of old. They had time to see what ‘Zim’ turned into and how it was still creating interest no matter how much time passed.”
Jhonen also explained how the show’s return caused a challenge for the new team at Nickelodeon:
“The tricky thing about returning was making it clear to the new Nick that inviting Zim back meant inviting Zim back, a thing that wasn’t going to be something else; they were still inviting a pulsating garbage bag of filth encrusted rabid weasels into their studio. For the most part, everyone understood what they were signing on for.”
In ‘Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus,’ Zim is still trying to destroy humans by pretending to be one, but he’s been missing for a while. Dib, who knows Zim’s true identity, has become obsessed with finding him. He’s gained weight, his eyes are tired, and he’s been waiting so long that he’s practically stuck to his chair.