INVADER ZIM Fact #25

Fun for ALL, not just people with bad dye-jobs and terrible skin.

I know I destroyed The Ring in the last post, but I maybe should’ve held off on that because it’s not like there aren’t still several more days of the month left.  Now we just have to awkwardly sit around and pass the time until we can resume our regular operations, free from this hellish burden.

Remember a few days ago when I mentioned trying to track down something special for the final installment of these posts, a rarely seen interview with voice actor Rikki Simons?  Well, I’m still waiting to hear from the guy that said he saw bits of it to let me know if he can send me any information on it.  I’ve not seen the thing myself, but I guess it was to be included in a documentary about people’s favorite old cartoons and the personalities behind them.  I’d be all about showing more than just Rikki, not that that isn’t enough, but the thing never got completed from what I hear, and all that’s left is bits and pieces of footage, unedited and mostly unwatchable.

Not holding my breath on that, though, as even Rikki himself doesn’t remember doing the interview and it doesn’t sound like what’s there is all that interesting in anything other than for the curiosity factor.

So these last couple of days are going to be like finishing a race when the top slots have already been won and the people still hanging around near the finish line are the ones cleaning up the cups and detritus left behind by the people who are now already home or sitting in their nicely heated cars.

What’s left to talk about, though, right?  What could possibly be said that I haven’t already covered over the course of twenty four days of nonstop blabbing about INVADER ZIM?

One of the things that happens when the show gets brought up these days, especially these days as the effect is aided/worsened with time, is that some angry someone or other has to pipe in with how they hate the show, or maybe used to like it but now they hate it because “it’s for emos and goths”.  It’s your usual ‘caring so little that they HAVE to rant and rave about it’ kind of response, and not really the kind of thing to be paid a whole lot of attention to, but the show’s rep , by simple association with my name, gets tainted a bit by it.

No doubt, a large portion of the audience falls into that category of people that are easily stereotyped as lil’ spooky types, but whether they’re that or not, whether they’re as far from that type as you get, the fans, from what I’ve run into in my experiences, are all pretty alright individuals, some a little more so than others.  To hate a thing, to go so far as to shit on someone else’s appreciation of it just because you don’t identify with the more visible portion of its audience is one of the classics of misanthropic fandom.

I hide it well, but even I’ve been known to have a bit of a go at the nastier factor of fandom, but I focus more on the hopeless and the critically lost, the mentally crushed more so than people who like this music or that, people who wear one thing over another.  I could care less if the person standing in line to get a book signed is wearing batwings or looks like a gangsta Parappa.

The idea of the show being made for any one group other than people who like silly science fiction stuff is about as crazy as the people that say that kind of stuff.  I don’t know of anybody on the show who had any kind of agenda other than to make the show as awesome as they could, including the executives who, even if they didn’t have a clue what the show could or should have been, thought they were just trying to work on a goofy cartoon for kids that maybe liked watching kids get their eyes ripped out, or organs harvested.

I’d say at its most insidious, the show was, if anything, horror with training wheels on, science fiction for clowns with head injuries, but sure as hell not ‘emo’ or ‘goth’.  But because of my association with it, and because of the most visible and fun-to-point-out kind of fan of the show, those were the convenient tags to throw out for why the show sucked.  Or why it was ruined for people who apparently choose what to dislike, based on who does like it.

Why Courage the Cowardly Dog didn’t become part of the pantheon of Hot Topic items I can’t say, but that show was insanely scary for what it was, filled with monsters, actual evil monsters, shadows and nightmare stuff!  Was John Dilworth, creator of the show reviled for trying to force his ‘goth’ agenda on the audience?  Maybe…I actually don’t know.  I don’t pay too much attention to this sorta stuff unless I’m trying to think things up for these posts, but still….

THE DARK LORD. KING OF SHADOWS. THE DARK DIL.

Nothing wrong with hating a thing, just do it for good reasons other than the fact that you don’t have an ice-cube’s chance in hell of  banging that hot chick with the pink hair because she thinks you’re an asshole (which you are).

The question I get now and then is “Was it fun working with other spookies like yourself?”, and it assumes already that that’s what we were, instead of just your average horror fans, your average sci-fi nerds.

Despite that, spooky shit did happen, but not because of us, though we still had to deal with it.  I think that’s where some of the troubles come from, where some of the bad talk comes from.

I can’t help but wonder about the reputation we had, even in the studio where a few other shows were in production.  A lot of those other shows, and a lot of people in animation in general, were pretty conservative types.  They probably looked at us as pretty unlikable for what we were doing, making a show that was maybe a bit too aggro for their tastes.

But what they don’t know, what I’m about to tell you, is that we weren’t meaning to come off as brooding, or creepy, or spooky, or any such shit that only unformed people actually TRY to project as their personality.  We were just dealing with some crazy stuff that we didn’t exactly want to be telling anyone.

FACT:

INVADER ZIM’s production was plagued by ghosts.

When I first moved to Los Angeles to work on ZIM, it wasn’t to work in the building that eventually became NICKELODEON’s showpiece animation studio in Burbank.  NICK was stationed in a far more faceless office building off of Vineland Avenue, and that’s where I first set up to begin work on developing the show that would take the world by breeze.  The place has since been replaced with a Starbucks or one of those corporate scars that pop up to make every place look like every place.

An unrestful wanderer on the edge of known nature.

By the time the show had been approved to go to pilot, NICK had just finished construction on the Burbank studio, a whimsical-looking monstrosity in the heart of Burbank California, down the street from NBC, DISNEY, and a Fuddruckers.

One thing that was never quite a part of my Los Angeles experience, brand new in those days, was the starry-eyed excitement over being so close to so many famous faces or places.  NBC studios was just a place where traffic might be a bit more annoying for me on my way to get food, and DISNEY was just a funny hat on top of a building that I’d see while on the freeway.  I’ve been a fanboy in my own way for as long as I’ve been a boy (about three years now), but making a big deal out of just being around the stuff wasn’t part of my program.

The only thing on my mind those days was the show I was making, and how surreal it was to think of it actually becoming anything other than one of the millions of ideas I had in my head.  The goofy building, the zany colors and amusement park facade were funny, but nothing that I was crazy over.

Still, it was better than the run down building I was in before, and it was definitely miles better than sitting in a grave, typing on a computer propped up on a casket.

Yep, the land they had built the new studio on had been a cemetery.

No, I didn’t flip out or even think it was that unusual, as that sort of thing is done all the time. Burn the bodies, make more room, I say.  An attachment to empty flesh is unhealthy in times where land is so scarce.

So no, this isn’t going to be one of those stories where the shocking bit comes from my finding out that they only moved the headstones but left the bodies like in Poltergeist.  It takes a lot more than stuff like that to raise my awesome eyebrows.

Pretty much everyone knew what the deal was before moving in, and yeah, there were plenty of jokes, plenty of spooOOooOooOky tales passed around any time a sound was heard, any time something was bumped off a desk or some silly thing like that.

“It’s the ghooOOoOOooosts” being one of the more unimaginative ones.

But it was the ghosts, often enough.

I saw the first one just days into setting up shop in the new building.  From the days of working on the pilot, to the last day of work on the series, I would stay late at the studio, often sleeping there and feeling like death the next day after little to no sleep.  It was actually my first time doing it that I realized my stay in the place would not be an easy one.

Ah shore hope dem ghost-ninjas don't git meh.

I was walking to the lobby area from where the ZIM section was. There were soda machines and various snack-making supplies and it’s where I planned on pouring myself my hundredth cup of coke.  What I had NOT planned on getting was an eyeful of the security guard’s ass.

He was bent over the front desk, his pants shredded and around his knees.  If the man wore underwear I saw no sign of them that terrible night.

“Terry, you asleep?” I called out from a distance, not feeling like getting much closer than I already was.  I had a bag of popcorn, freshly-popped and steaming on one hand, a cup filling up against the soda dispenser in the other as I looked over at Terry.

“BuhhHh!  BUuUUuUHHHHH!” Terry grunted back at me, his head not visible from behind the counter where his body had been folded over.

“I gotta say, I don’t feel too safe with you napping at the desk, man.”

“BUHHH!  Muuhhhh!”

“I know some people dig sleeping out of their clothes, but come on, man, maybe you could find an empty office or at least do it behind the desk where nobody can see.”

“H-H-Huh-HELP ME!” he  stammered out.

I had only spoken to the man for a few nights now, passing friendly chatter back and forth on my visits to the kitchen, but the guy was so genial and relaxed, that to hear him so off-balance tipped me off to something being wrong with the whole situation.  That, and the hellish column of light firing from out of his anus.

“Terry, you being raped by ghosts?” I inquired, popping a lid onto my cup and then a straw.

“G-G-GUH-GUHhhHhh-GHOSTS!  HELP!”

“I’m gonna be honest, man, I don’t know shit about what to do about that.  I’m back there just trying to figure out if ZIM’s gonna have superhuman strength or something.”

“HURTS.  HURRRRRTS.”

“Not that it’d be technically super-HUMAN, though.  I mean, he’s not human, he’s from space, but you know what I mean.”

“KIL…KILLING ME.  Killing…me…UNGH.”

“Hey, did you ever see The Entity?”

“W…wuhh…uuugh.”

“With Barbara Hershey, I think?  She was being raped by ghosts, too.  Well, one ghost, anyhow.”

“Phone…call for help.”

“He’d just go at her, and they’d show her breasts being fondled by invisible hands and it was super violent.  The whole movie she’s just getting attacked by this fucker who just enters the room or shower and they play this awful music, just brutal stuff where it’s all DUNN DUNN DUNN DUNN DUNNN, like it’s the sound of being ghost-raped.”

Terry’s just crying by this point.

“I had heard about it when I was a kid.  I remember my sister had seen it when it came out and she told me about the breast scene, and how it was pretty fucking scary, and then, only recently I rented it! ”

More crying.

“Ugh…you know how sometimes you’re worried that something that shouldn’t even be a worry worries you?  Well, when I popped that movie in, I remember being kind of worried that I’d be turned on by seeing this poor woman being sexually savaged by a ghost with total power over her.”

Terry screams like he’s just been stabbed.

“I know!  I mean, I imagine all sorts of awful scenarios, so this was just one that popped into my head, and it makes sense, right?  Part of what I do, is think up horrific stuff that I’d never wish on anyone, and, I like to think I’m pretty well-adjusted, certainly a lot more so than people assume I am from my work, but…I’m a guy, and it was a movie with an attractive actress, and it’s just a movie, so I know it’s fake but her attractiveness is not, and…you know what I mean?”

“My wife…please call my wife…hungh…hunnnngh.”

“But still, the way it’s being presented, I KNOW it’s not supposed to be sexy.  It’s still rape, man, and I was a lil’ worried at the thought of finding out that I might enjoy watching that poor woman be molested!  So for a while I was on edge, but I was doing fine.  Then there’s this shower scene and I’m all ‘uh oh, shower scene’ and of course the ghost attacks and it’s HORRIBLE!  He’s got her pressed up against the glass and her breasts are all smashed up against it and I’m thinking “DON’T BE TURNED ON!  DON’T BE TURNED ON!” the whole time.

Terry gets flipped over, and now I can see his face, streaming with tears, and miserable, pained.  He spasms and shakes on the table, shakes so much that you’d think he’d fly right off, but each time he is pulled right back with a terrible crack.

“That your pelvis, man?  What’s up with your pelvis?”

“Please…no…no…noo…noooooo.”

“Anyhow, I didn’t have anything to worry about.  It was pretty horrible watching her get messed up like that and it wasn’t a turn on in any way.”

“GUUHHhhHHhh!!!

“‘Case you’re wondering, I’m not turned on by watching you, man.  It’s cool.”

“BahhHAHHHHh!”

“Not cool as in good or anything.  Anyhow, I gotta get back to work.”

Terry quit the next day, and the guy that replaced him wasn’t nearly as nice to chat with, and apparently not nearly as nice to rape, since the ghosts never seemed to bother him at all.

This stuff only happened near the ZIM side of the building, or when it was just ZIM crew in the building. Or if you were Terry.

So, to all the other shows, we were just weirdos telling stories about “crazy stuff” that was going on.  Nobody would believe us, of course, and I think that’s why we got the rep as being “daaaark” or “spoooooky”.

I hear the worst thing the Oddparents guys had to deal with was an infestation of plague rats, and only then because my box of plague rats was shipped to the wrong side of the building.  They never had to deal with the ghost stuff like we did.  I’m not saying I would have anyone else endure the crap we did, but it would have eased up on some of the side effects our image suffered as a result.

My final glimpse of the supernatural oddness occurred while finishing up the Christmas episode of the show.  Albus Hechtledorf, THE big man from NICK in New York, was visiting the studio.

They’d always make such a big deal about the guy’s visits, but to me he was just the weird guy who spoke while eating.  He’d make the rounds, meeting with the various show heads and such, and all I remember of this last visit was that the execs in charge of ZIM told me to make Albus a bit more comfortable about where the show was going.  I was kind of a nasty wildcard in the building in those days, and I think everyone just wanted to know that the show was in good hands.

Hechtledorf sat in my office eating a sandwich and spoke as if he had no clue where he was or why he was there.

“So what’s this cartoons happening y’ got here?” he said, flecks of turkey and wheat bouncing across my desk.

AAAAH! His arm is a ghost!!

This was the part of making teevee shows that always made me unhappy, the dance, the show the time-wasting bits where you explained what you were doing instead of just doing it and seeing if it worked or not.  He didn’t want to be there and I wanted to be elsewhere, like a voice record.

I began to explain where the show was going and blah blah blah and he stood up sharply.

“What the hell?” he said, probing at the chair he just rose from. “I think a ghost just tried to have sex with me.”

Albus was the first non-ZIM person to experience the strangeness since poor Terry, so I explained, happily, and with much relief, everything about the hauntings.

Hechtledorf said that any activity was impossible as he didn’t believe any of that “mumbo-jumbo”.

“And because you removed the bodies and such.” I added.

“Well, no, we just removed the headstones, but removing the bodies woulda been too expensive.”

I grabbed him by the shirt, shaking him and screaming into his face.  ”YOU REMOVED THE HEADSTONES, BUT YOU LEFT THE BODIES, YOU BASTARD!  YOU LEFT THE BODIEEEEEES!”

Albus dropped his sandwich and yelled back “YOU SAID THIS STORY WOULDN’T END LIKE THIS!  YOU LIED!”

“THAT’S BECAUSE I’M A LIAR, YOU BASTARD!  BODIEEEEEEEES!”

I packed my shit and ran from the building, gathering as many of the crew as I could before the spirit vortex sucked the entire place in on itself.

And that is why INVADER ZIM stopped production.

THAT is why.

If you don’t believe me, just visit the site where the studio once stood, that lifeless patch that nobody has dared build on, since that very day.

They say that, on some nights, if you stand on that land, if you hold your breath, if the wind dies down enough, if you stay real quiet…

You get raped by a ghost.

–ZIM FACTS. Here’s why—