Gremlins turns 30 years old this Sunday, having come out on June 8th, 1984 (along with Ghostbusters, which I’m sure will have no shortage of tributes this weekend). The movie ingrained the three rules of Mogwai into the public consciousness, cemented Joe Dante as a cult directing legend and made Gizmo America’s alien/monster sweetheart. Check out some trivia about everyone’s favorite darkly comic Christmas creature feature.
Gremlins helped usher in the PG-13 rating
Along with Temple of Doom, which came out about a week earlier in 1984, Gremlins made the MPAA create the PG-13 rating for movies that were not for suitable for younger children but were not graphic or vulgar enough for an R rating. The scene where Mrs. Peltzer fends off a Gremlin attack in the kitchen and explodes one of the creatures in the microwave and the death of Stripe are some of the scenes that put Gremlins out of the realm of PG. The original script had scenes that would have probably guaranteed an R rating including the Gremlins killing Mrs. Peltzer and tossing her head down the stairs and the Gremlins killing Billy’s dog. Science teacher Mr. Hanson’s death was also much more graphic and included him getting dozens of hypodermic needles embedded in his face.
Judd Hirsch and Emilio Estevez were considered for the part of Billy: Relatively unknown Zach Galligan got the part, mostly due to the fact that producer Steven Spielberg saw chemistry between Galligan and his co-star, Phoebe Cates, who had just recently appeared infamously in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Gremlins is also one of the first appearances of Corey Feldman, who would go on to star in another Spielberg produced classic, The Goonies.
Kingston Falls and Hill Valley are twins
Debuting the year after Gremlins, Back to the Future turned Gremlins’ Kingston Falls into Hill Valley, using the same sets on the Universal backlot. The movie theater that Billy and Kate explode while the Gremlins watch Snow White is the same theater that Marty crashes into at the end of the first movie. During Back to the Future II, the entire set burned down when a fire spread across the backlot.
The Gremlins had an all star voice cast
Voice acting gods Frank Welker and Peter Cullen provided the sounds and voices for a number of the Gremlins, with Welker specifically voicing Stripe. Michael Winslow, Michael Sheehan, Fred Newman, Mark Dodson and Bob Holt also provided Gremlin voices. Welker is the person who suggested that Howie Mandell voice Gizmo. There was no actual dialogue for the creatures in the script and most of their outbursts and jokes were ad-libbed. For Gizmo’s singing, Jerry Goldsmith hired a young girl from his church’s choir.
The movie was supposed to debut with a Looney Tunes short
Along with restoring the classic shield Warner Bros logo, Gremlins was supposed to be preceded by the Bugs Bunny cartoon, Falling Hare, a 1943 short where Bugs has to deal with a gremlin on the wing of his WWII fighter plane, in a throwback to the days of multiple shorts and newsreels before movies, but the plan fell through. You can check out the cartoon below.
There are major changes/additions in the novelization and comic
The comic features deleted scenes, like Gizmo trying out the Bathroom Buddy when Rand first comes home with him and, thus, getting his nickname, more emphasis on the subplot of Mrs. Deagle trying to buy up the entire town, Billy learning that only water affects the Gremlins when he tries to throw juice on them and Gizmo smashing Stripe’s skeleton with a baseball bat to finish him for good. The novelization of the movie goes in a completely different direction, featuring Gizmo’s inner thoughts and revealing the creatures are actually aliens created by a benevolent scientist as the ultimate pet, able to adapt and be satisfied in any location or situation.
Tim Burton was originally considered to direct
Spielberg saw some of Burton’s short films and thought his dark sense of humor would be a good fit for the movie but he was eventually passed on because of his lack of feature length filmmaking experience. Spielberg worked with Joe Dante previously on Twilight Zone: The Movie. Writer Chris Colombus was brought on because Spielberg loved The Howling. The original cut of the movie, according to Dante, was almost three hours long.
There are tons of Easter Eggs
When Rand is at the inventor convention, there’s the Time Machine from the 1960 version in the background that mysteriously disappears. Robby the Robot, Spielberg and composer Jerry Goldsmith are also in attendance. There is a poster for Twilight Zone: The Movie in Billy’s room and the billboard for local DJ Rocking Ricky Rialto features him as Indiana Jones. When the Gremlins are watching Snow White, one of them is wearing Mickey Mouse ears. A golf tip book by Joe Dante’s father, Joe Dante Sr, “Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf” is on Billy’s nightstand. The movie also features the recurring Chris Colombus bit of featuring a clip from It’s a Wonderful Life.