20 Little Details Behind The Making Of Gremlins

We all know that searching high and low for that perfect Christmas present is tough. Randall Peltzer thinks he found a great gift for his son Billy. It’s a cute and furry Mogwai. The old peddler selling it gives Randall explicit instructions on how to care for the pet. Don’t expose it to sunlight or bright lights. Don’t get it wet, and never, ever feed it after midnight.

Gremlins wouldn’t have been much of a movie had Billy followed all of the rules instead of he and his friends inadvertently breaking each and every one of them. Gremlins opened in the summer of 1984. It paid homage to a lot of the B-horror movies of yesteryear, while still maintaining the family holiday flair of the time.

The film was a big success and spawned a sequel several years later. Gremlins 2: The New Batch wound up being a divisive sequel. It took all of the lunacy and charm of the first film and turned right on its head; before kicking that head a country yard. The New Batch was a wild cartoon– inspired lunacy that answered a question we didn’t even know we wanted answered. What would happen if you locked a bunch of diminutive mischievous monsters in a giant media communications building? What went on behind the scenes?

Check out 20 Little Details Behind The Making Of Gremlins. 

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20 Responsible For PG-13 Rating

Gremlins was produced by Steven Spielberg. It was this movie and several other of his own flicks that had the MPAA change the way they rate films. Between this one and his Indiana Jones movies – the films were a little darker than the PG rating they were marked at.

Since there were more than a few scenes in the flick that were beyond appropriate for kids, the MPAA looked to give the film an R rating. Spielberg had suggested to the board that they come up with a grade between PG and R. Thanks to that suggestion, PG-13 was born with the film, Red Dawn.

19 Columbus’ Gorier Script

If the original movie was a little too tame for horror fanatics, then perhaps you might have liked the writer’s original take. While he didn’t intend for this script to have been made (he wrote it as a spec-script that Spielberg happened to find, like, and buy), his original ideas skewed a lot more towards tradition horror-fare.

In this early first draft, the Gremlins would eat the family dog, and even try to take out Billy’s mom. Suffice to say, Spielberg, director Joe Dante, and the studio thought the film should be a little more family friendly and removed and/or altered these and other scenes.

18 Inspired By Marching Mice

Writers get inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. It was no different for Chris Columbus, the writer of Gremlins. When he was an aspiring film school student at NYU, he had been living in a fancy Manhattan loft. Perhaps not so fancy, since there were several mice inhabiting the premises at night.

17 Howie Mandel Is Gizmo

Long before he became known for being the fist-bumping host of Deal Or No Deal and America’s Got Talent, Howie Mandel was a great stand-up comedian.

His 1997 HBO special, “Howie Mandel On Ice” had a great bit about his voice-over work as Bobby from the kids' TV show, Bobby’s World. As the crowd ate it up, he elaborated that he also did the voice of Skeeter from Muppet Babies and even the lovable Mogwai, Gizmo. The real trick to Howie voicing all three characters - it was one voice and three paychecks!

16 It Almost Was A Tim Burton Movie

A movie filled with a bunch of sawed-off little monsters wreaking mayhem during one of the world’s most treasured holidays - sounds like something Tim Burton would have adored to direct.

Burton was on Spielberg’s short list to direct this movie after seeing his short, Frankenweenie. However, the prevailing theory was that the guy who becomes Tim Burton was still untested in directing feature films. Spielberg went with Joe Dante, who previously directed The Howling and “Its A Good Life” from The Twilight Zone: The Movie.

15 the casting of Phoebe Cates

Besides Gizmo, the heart of the movies would be Billy’s girlfriend, Kate played by Phoebe Cates. Casting her took some cajoling on her behalf to get her cast. The studio was leery of casting her, considering her biggest film to date was Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which still might contain the most famous nude scene in a high school movie.

However, that scene is what was keeping her from getting the role. What helped get her the role, however, was her chemistry with Zach Galligan, who also had to beat out some tough names, like Emilio Estevez and Judd Nelson.

14 Monkeys Playing Gremlins

It would only be a few more years before CGI was a viable option for creating dozens of grouchy critters monkeying around. The studio and the creative team bantered around different ideas about how to pull off the immense special effects that the film would need, at an efficient cost.

Before it was decided to have very expensive models and puppets, the filmmakers thought it might be a good idea to have trained monkeys in costumes doing the actual monkeying around. Instead of working without a hitch, the monkey got scared of the makeup and ran off.

13 Gremlins Vs. Furbies

Some 14 years after Gizmo became a cuddly sensation, Tiger Electronics released Furbies upon the masses. The toy was one of the most coveted of 1998 and for a few years, these things were everywhere, like Tribbles...or Gremlins. In an AMA on Reddit several years back, Dante addressed the time when Furbies ruled the world and came out with a Gizmo-themed Furby.

“Funny you should ask,” Dante responded. “Producer Mike Finnell and I noticed a certain similarity between Furby and Mogwai, and pointed it out to Warner Bros. Soon there was a Gizmo Furby for sale and, no doubt, some settlement money changed hands.”

12 Sly Approves Of Gizmo

A Mogwai can only be tormented for so long. In The New Batch, Gizmo’s had about all he can stand of his offspring’s nonsense. After watching John Rambo go to war, he straps on his own little red bandanna, fashions a bow and arrow out of a paper clip, rubber bands and a pencil; and sets out to take out some monsters.

While parody laws probably would have allowed the scene, the producers decided to pay homage to the man and just ask him. Stallone gave his blessing to be parodied in the film.

11 The Chimney Speech Was Almost Cut

Imagine having to grow up like Kate did - had father passed away trying to come down the chimney. It’s an old urban legend and Phoebe Cates tells the story so deadpan that studio execs and Spielberg weren’t sure if the story was supposed to be tragic or hysterical. Gizmo’s reactions don’t help the viewer decide either way.

Spielberg wanted the scene to be cut. Dante had convinced him that the scene is the perfect metaphor for the film and wanted it to be left in. In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he praised the scene being in the tradition of sick 1950’s jokes.

10 Dante Gets Control

When the first film was so successful, Warner Bros. started clamoring for a sequel. Joe Dante was tapped to come back, but he had one caveat – he wanted full creative control. The result was a completely absurd and ridiculous farce, as if the entire concept of the first film wasn’t completely absurd and ridiculous farce, to begin with.

Depending on your taste buds, you either love or hate the sequel. Blame Dante, wanted to make one of the wildest studio pics ever. Which is something he succeeded at, whether you enjoyed the proceedings or not.

9 Gizmo And Stripe Were The Same

A humongous twist for the first film was that Gizmo was actually supposed to be one and the same Stripe. At some point during the movie, the cute little Mogwai was supposed to transform into the head honcho of the Gremlins.

Thankfully, Spielberg’s whimsical and familial eccentricities came out and he suggested to keep them separate. He thought that audiences would want to see so much of Gizmo as possible and the role grew more and more. Thanks to the suggestion, Gizmo would get to stay and the cute and cuddly guy got to remain a staple of the film.

8 High Security For Puppets

Once it was realized that the monkeys in costume idea wasn’t going to work, the special effects team got to work creating models and puppets of Gizmo and the Gremlins. Each individual one took a good chunk out of the film’s budget.

7 Spielberg Wanted Gizmo To Be The Hero

The film’s use of Gizmo seems so perfectly fit for the film that to have him be anything but the hero doesn’t make any sense. Besides squashing the notion that Gizmo should be a Gremlin, Spielberg also helped with the film’s climax.

At the end of the movie, Gizmo pops the window blind to expose Stripe to the sunlight. The original edit featured Gizmo lifting the shade, then Billy. Again, Spielberg suggested to Dante that the film show Gizmo to be more of the hero of the story than Billy. Dante agreed and the scene was edited to clearly show it was Gizmo that stopped Stripe.

6 Dante Prefers The New Batch

Both Gremlins movies had Joe Dante at the helm, and both flicks are wildly entertaining for many different reasons. The first film skewed more towards horror, while the second was more like a real-life cartoon. Both are completely fun rides that are great ways to spend a few hours.

Every fan has their preference of course. Director Joe Dante is no different - his preference is Gremlins 2: The New Batch. That’s not surprising, Dante was given full creative control. That meant he could put his love of Looney Tunes proudly on display for the masses to see.

5 Unintended Shared Universe

Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, shared movie universes are all the rage these days. Other studios have been trying to merge random franchises together for maximum profits. Perhaps one day we’ll get to see Marty McFly and Doc Brown flicking Gremlins off of the Delorean?

At the time, it was a coincidence that Kingston Falls, where the Gremlins movie takes place and Hill Valley, where the Back To Future films take place are one and the same. Both movies were filmed at the same location. While it wasn’t done on our purpose, someone at Warner Bros. needs to capitalize on this unique idea.

4 John Wayne’s Cameo

As if Gremlins 2: The New Batch didn’t have enough comic bits and lunacy around the movie, how about a secret cameo from the Duke himself? Joe Dante had put all kinds of Easter eggs into the sequel, long before there was such a term, and he put an exclusive one in the Home Video release of the movie.

When the Gremlins run berserk in the Clamp Center, the reel of the home release stops to present the infamously annoying static snow. Don’t adjust your TV set though, it’s just the little critters playing around, flipping the channels. They come across John Wayne who opens fire on the Gremlins in order to restore the original movie.

3 The Rules Need Clarification

Never get a Mogwai wet. Ok, that makes sense. Don’t expose it to the light. Ok, fine people have nocturnal pets. Never feed a Mogwai after midnight...

Right now is after midnight. What about time zones? What about if you’re traveling across time zones? What if it ate before midnight but got some of the food stuck in its little teeth? The rule is meant to be ominous, but if you do question it, it all tumbles like a house of cards.

2 The Boss Is Everywhere

Besides making suggestions all throughout the filming that paid off and helped structure the Gremlins world as we know it, producer Steven Spielberg had Easter eggs everywhere. Firstly, Gremlins is the first Amblin film to use the iconic logo that recreates ET’s famous bicycle ride.

Other bits include a blink and you’ll miss it cameo. Take a close look at the films playing at the multiplex - “A Boy’s Life,” and “Look To The Skies” – those were the working titles of E.T. and Close Encounters respectively.

1 Gremlins 3: Still Gremin’ It

Like so many film properties of the eighties that have been rebooted, rebranded, or just a thirty-year-old sequel, so too has there been a long-gestating Gremlins 3 on the horizon. As late as April of this year, was Chris Columbus speaking to the much darker tone of a third film, which Zach Galligan has been campaigning for on social media.

The film could deal with having Gizmo atone for the many crimes of his nefarious offspring. Perhaps the Mogwai would be taken out for his crimes. One thing is for sure, Columbus has promised that if a new film ever happens, it will be much darker than the first film was.


Do you have any more details about the making of Gremlins? Let us know in the comments!

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