‘Gizmo Caca!’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Gremlins’
Never expose them to light, never give them water and never, ever feed them after midnight. With those three simple rules, one of the most iconic creatures in movies was born. The 1984 film Gremlins, along with its far wackier sequel, Gremlins 2, have found a unique place among audiences, walking multiple tightropes between horror and comedy, kiddie and adult entertainment and sincerity and parody, all while doubling as Christmas films. Such a unique franchise also presents some unique tidbits to dive into. Just don’t get them wet…
It’s Based on a Book by Roald Dahl
While it certainly is a loose interpretation, the 1984 film is named after, and partially based on, a 1943 book by Dahl called The Gremlins.
Gizmo Home Alone
The inspirational spark for the movie came from future Home Alone director Chris Columbus, who was the screenwriter. Columbus described being alone in his loft one night when “what sounded like a platoon of mice would come out, and to hear them skittering around in the blackness was really creepy.” He then began working on Gremlins as a spec script to highlight his writing ability.
Steven Spielberg Fell in Love with ‘Gremlins’
Following the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg read Gremlins, which he called “one of the most original things I’ve come across in many years, which is why I bought it.” Once he signed on as a producer, the wheels really started moving toward making it a real film.
Spielberg Rescued Gizmo
Director Joe Dante revealed that “in the original script, the Gizmo character turned into a bad Gremlin after about half an hour. But Steven Spielberg decided in his wisdom that Gizmo should stick around and be the hero’s pal. If we had made the movie the other way, nobody would remember it. The addition of Gizmo made the difference.”
Another Kind of Monster
Spielberg selected Dante to direct Gremlins because of his success with the werewolf horror-comedy The Howling.
A Not-So-Happy Meal
In an earlier draft of the script, Columbus had a scene where “Billy and Kate go into a McDonald’s, and none of the food is eaten, but all of the people are eaten.”
Gizmo’s Familiar Voice
Howie Mandel, who was the voice of Gizmo, admitted to Jimmy Fallon that he used the exact same voice for Bobby in Bobby’s World and Skeeter in Muppet Babies.
The filmmakers initially considered using monkeys to play the gremlins but quickly changed course. “We got a rhesus monkey and got a gremlin head on him. And he ran all over the editing room and shat all over everything, and we realized that that wasn’t going to work,” said Dante.
A Big Day in Cinema History
Gremlins was released the same day as another timeless horror-comedy classic — Ghostbusters.
The Script Didn’t Consider the Limitations of the Technology
Zach Galligan, who plays Billy, revealed that “the script was written in a way that had no awareness for how difficult the technology was going to be. So there’s all of these scenes of me picking Gizmo up and carrying him around the room and holding him and talking to him, in which case I had to be strapped with dozens of cables taped to my body under my clothes so that Gizmo could work while he was in my hands. And that took an unbelievable amount of time and effort and was just a complete disaster. It worked out well, but it was time-consuming.”
‘Gremlins 2’ Corrected That
In contrast to the first script, Galligan said, “If you look at Gremlins 2, I don’t believe there’s a single time when Gizmo isn’t in some kind of box or cage. And the reason why they did that is because it is exponentially easier. For example, instead of me carrying him around and being wired under my clothes, I’m carrying him in a red toolbox. You don’t see him in the red toolbox, but I put him down on the bathroom counter, and I lift up the lid, and hey, you can now wire him through the bathroom counter. You cut a hole into the bottom of the thing and then stick Gizmo into the toolbox, and then you have all the wiring hidden by the bathroom counter, and none of it is on me.”
Dante Prefers the Sequel
In the Gremlins DVD commentary, Dante said he likes the sequel better because he had a bigger budget, more creative control and leaned more into the comedy. He also intended Gremlins 2 to be a parody of sequels in general in that the movie is so overblown it becomes a disaster. “I made Gremlins 2, which was essentially about how there didn’t need to be a sequel to Gremlins,” Dante has explained.
An Odd Gremlin
Gremlins 2’s talking “Brain Gremlin” was voiced by The Odd Couple’s Tony Randall. Randall’s lines had to be recorded far in advance because the filmmakers “had to actually take the tape and program a computer to make the lip movements that matched the dialogue. So, that was a very complex operation.”
Why Dante Approved of the ‘Gremlins’ Prequel
He signed off on the Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai prequel series in part because he sees Gremlins 2 as “sequel-proof,” thanks to it being a parody of sequels.
Despite the “sequel-proof” claim, a third Gremlins film has been stuck in development since the 1990s. The most recent details included original screenwriter Chris Columbus returning to direct and promising that the film would use practical effects, not CGI, to create the Gremlins and Mogwai.