Review: Nickelodeon revives ‘Invader Zim’ and ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ for two new specials


Artwork by Cheyenne Hernandez

Cheyenne Hernandez, Staff Writer & Graphic Designer

Fans rejoiced when it was announced several years ago that several classic Nickelodeon cartoons would be receiving revival specials. These shows included “Hey Arnold,” “Invader Zim” and “Rocko’s Modern Life.” The latter two are favorites of mine, having seen them at ages 9 and 11, respectively. 

“Invader Zim” was a Nickelodeon cartoon that aired from 2001 to 2006, and it’s about an incompetent alien who wants to conquer Earth, all while a human named Dib wants to stop him and expose his true identity. 

“Rocko’s Modern Life,” on the other hand, aired from 1993 to 1996, and it chronicles the daily life of a wallaby named Rocko who immigrated from Australia and experiences the struggles of the “real world.” 

The specials were both released on Netflix in August of 2019, and after years of waiting, it all may have been worth it. Even if you don’t watch cartoons like you used to, “Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling” andInvader Zim: Enter the Florpus are two wonderful specials that turned out just right, and those who grew up watching these cartoons may just feel all the nostalgia after watching them.

Before the trailers were released, I had my doubts about how they would turn out, fearing that completely different people would work on it instead of the original production crew.  I thought this would’ve led to poor production of the specials, story and style-wise, due to certain cartoon reboots at the time having received this sort of treatment. However, the cast and creators returned to work on both their respective specials which was a total relief, especially once I got to see the trailers. 

Before someone watches  “Static Cling,” it would be wise to watch the episodes of the original series, ”I Have No Son,” ”Wacky Delly and Future Schlock to have a better understanding of the special. Rocko, his dog Spunky and his friends Heffer and Filburt are returning to Earth after being stranded in space for 20 years. I’ll admit that I became a bit worried that the special would pull a “phone-bad, book-good” kind of joke, like in political cartoons where everyone is on electronics and “addicted” to social media. However, the jokes about the 21st century were refreshing and unique without being forced.

 “Static Clingturned out to be very interesting, and the story was cleverly staged. The special’s main conflict of reviving Rocko’s favorite TV show felt sort of meta as people over the past several years have been wanting their favorite cartoons such as “Rocko’s Modern Life” to be revived, and even I could relate to the desire of wanting to see a favorite show back. “Static Clingalso demonstrated the theme of “change” not always being a negative thing very well without being disrespectful, and it approached the subject surrounding the theme perfectly. However, towards the end of the story, Rocko has a sudden outburst, which felt slightly out-of-character, and I honestly thought that was better for the other characters to express instead of him during that particular moment. The rest of the characters do remain in-character for the most part, though, and the voice-acting was on point. The animation was beautifully done, and the style still matches the original series perfectly.

As for “Enter the Florpus,” things were good for the most part. One could watch this special without having to see any actual episodes, for the series is summarized briefly at the beginning in a visually beautiful way. The plot very much seemed like an actual “Invader Zim” episode, with Zim and his robot servant, GIR, suddenly reappearing after being absent for a long time, which catches the attention of Dib who has been waiting for his alien nemesis to return. Zim also discovers that his leaders, The Almighty Tallest, did not have any plans of reaching Earth, which bums the alien out completely, giving Dib an opportunity to expose Zim. 

Although this special was also blessed with having the cast and creator return, there were times when the jokes felt obnoxiously quirky, even compared to the humor of the original series. The animation was also a bit imperfect at times, switching from the smooth, digital animation to what looked like flash animation. As for the style, I would have likely been thrown off by the slightly round, softer designs, but due to the current comic series of “Invader Zim,” which has that style, I wasn’t bothered by it too much. However, I did always prefer the original geometric, clean-cut style of the show. The pink-purple color scheme makes up for the design a bit, though, and gave “Enter the Florpus” that creepy outer space vibe I’ve always loved. The characters, as well as their voices, match up like in the original series, which was great to see and hear. Like most “Invader Zim” episodes, there was no moral or a particular theme, which was perfectly fine. However, there was a very unusual moment where Dib and his father shared a sentimental moment, which was strange to see, but I wasn’t put off by it. 

“Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling” deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars, while “Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus” fell a bit behind at 4 out of 5 stars due to animation, humor and character flaws. Although it could have been better, I found “Enter the Florpus” to be a fantastic watch, and I would definitely see it again. I also found it fascinating for two different cartoons from different decades to “bring back” characters after being gone for an extended amount of time, which was likely coincidental, but rather interesting to notice. I would highly recommend everyone, whether you’re a teen or an adult, to check out these two specials on Netflix and their original series- especially if you have a satirical view of the world, which both “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Invader Zim” demonstrate in very unique, comedic ways.